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it's odd, it's art

Jim Warren has been dubbed the art world's "King of Horror," and with good reason.

His macabre art appears on the covers of more than 200 science-fiction paperback books and numerous movie posters _ including one for the classic Night of the Living Dead.

His cover for Alien Pregnant by Elvis shows a gargoylishly green alien and a rather startled-looking Presley.

In a painting now on display at Clearwater's Art Lover Gallery, a man screams, his face contorted in terror. Perhaps he has just read Into the Pit, another book with a ghastly Warren cover.

Like your art wallet-size? Check out Warren's collector cards. The More Beyond Bizarre collection has a picture of a woman with three faces on the wrapper. You get the idea.

For all the ghoulishness he creates, Warren is a likable, down-to-earth fellow who looks absolutely normal. He moved to Clearwater from Los Angeles last July for the most wholesome of reasons _ his wife, Cindy, daughter, Drew, and newborn son, Art. (Perfect names for a painter's kids, he points out.)

Clearwater is "a great place to raise kids," Warren said. "Also, I got tired of the dirt, the crime and the noise of Los Angeles."

Warren finds nothing unusual in being a solid family man with a penchant for painting the peculiar.

"People think I'm on drugs or have weird nightmares," he said. "The truth is . . . you have to be very sane to paint this weird stuff."

Warren's paint brush goes beyond the weird, as his show at the Art Lover Gallery demonstrates.

A nationally acclaimed surrealist, Warren won a Grammy Award for the album cover on Bob Seger's Against the Wind album. He also has done celebrity portraits of subjects including rock stars Alice Cooper and the former Prince.

Though he still does horror art on request from publishers, Warren said he became tired of being stereotyped. He has switched to environmental art and more recently to painting "nature, women and kids."

One of his environmental works, Earth, Love It or Lose It, has appeared on billboards around the country and on T-shirts, posters, magazine covers, postcards and buttons. He used his daughter as the model in the painting, which depicts a little girl sitting on a blue-and-green globe.

Warren, 44, began painting while a high school student in Long Beach, Calif. His childhood fantasy was to paint album covers.

After several years of "living out of my van and mooching off my parents, my friends and my girlfriend," Warren hit it big. In 1975, he won the first of three first-place awards he would receive from the prestigious Westwood Art Show in California.

His first commercial work appeared on a jazz album cover. But it was the Against the Wind cover that won him fame and a Grammy.

After his album cover period, Warren began painting horror art for paperback books and movie posters.

More recently, he has collaborated with environmental marine life artist and muralist Wyland on several paintings. Their first collaboration, Mermaid Dreams, shows how the partnership works. Wyland did the bottom half of the painting, showing an underwater scene. Warren did the top half, the above-water portion of the painting, which shows a mermaid clinging to a rock.

Warren said his real interest now is painting the natural, rather than the supernatural.

"Now I'm balanced," he said. "I've found my niche."

IF YOU GO

Jim Warren's art is being shown at the Art Lover Gallery, 625 S. Missouri Ave., Clearwater. Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. An open house to meet the artist will be Nov. 12. For information, call 447-4261.

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