The Egotist Interviews: Peter Max

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Peter Max is a multi-dimensional creative artist. He loves all media, including mass media as a “canvas” for his creative expression. He is both prolific and passionate in his creative input. With paintings on exhibition in hundreds of museums and galleries worldwide, Peter Max and his vibrant colors have become a part of the fabric of contemporary culture.

Often incorporating iconic symbols of America into his work, Max has painted for five U.S. presidents, created the official artwork and poster for the Clinton Inauguration, his “Flag With Heart” impressionistic paintings of the American flag are in permanent installations in the Carter, Reagan and Bush presidential libraries in addition to his statue of Liberty paintings, which have become an annual painting tradition since America’s Bicentennial, in 1976 and led to Max playing a lead role in the renovation of the Statue of Liberty.

Peter Max will be in Denver to display his commemorative compositions featuring portraits of Barack Obama and other classic pieces. He will make two special appearances to sign and dedicate any artwork purchased, as well as gift his “Summer of Love” poster. We asked Peter Max some questions about his past, present and future as a legendary artist.

Q: How does New York, the home of your studio, influence your work?

A: It probably does indirectly. Like living in any big city, with everything a minute away and access to everything. I have a beautiful studio right by Lincoln Center. Every morning, I can’t wait to get there, and at night I don’t want to leave. I have a gigantic painting room, there’s 18 TV monitors, a meeting room… it’s a very pleasant place, inductive to creativity. I go every day. I call up my buddies sometimes to open the studio on a Saturday. It’s like my playground. We have events there at least once a month. I’m very involved with animal protection and the Humane Society.

Q: Most artists would kill to be able to make a living if only for a few years as a fine artist or commercial artist. You’ve been at it for 50 years. To what do you attribute your longevity in this business?

A: I got out of art school in the late 60s and, like most kids, I was nervous and a little scared. Will I ever succeed, will I sell my paintings? Then it just suddenly exploded. My style and look was gravitated to. I never realized that my drawings had such an impact on the country. Suddenly I was on the Ed Sullivan Show, Johnny Carson… I was so young. Of course now, I am very comfortable with it. Sometimes I have to pinch myself.

Q: What role did art play in successfully getting President Obama into office?

A: It definitely had an impact. I painted 44 Obamas for the museum installation (since he’s the 44th president). For me, it was beyond my dreams when he won the election. I have done a few extras for some people who wanted one. It’s a very interesting time in our history for an African American man to become president.

Q: What do you think of the work of Shepard Fairey, specifically his “HOPE” image that was at the forefront of Obama’s campaign and was eventually acquired by The National Portrait Gallery?

A: Shepard’s painting was very nice. The whole creative community in America really opened their hearts to Obama.

Q: In your mind, who are the most inspiring artists alive and working today?

A: All the pop artists, they are all good friends of mine… Andy Warhol, Lichtenstein…. Every few decades there are always a few artists who make the scene, and museums pick them up. Artists get into galleries, and then collectors pick them up, then museums and auction houses. More and more artists are getting recognized in the media.

Q: You love and thrive off painting to music. What’s your favorite music to paint to?

A: I love all music. Led Zeppelin, Chris Cornell, jazz, rock, I like it all. There’s not a genre of music that I don’t love. Music is one of the greatest things on this Earth.

Q: You have 100 workers in the ‘Peter Max Factory.’ What do they do all day?

A: We have about 90 people. I have screen printers, archivers, people who work with signing projects…. There’s always two-three people preparing things for me, and then I go do my work. The Art of Peter Max is my art book, and a lot of my fans pick it up and will come to the gallery shows…. I sign everybody’s book with a little doodle. For people who acquire a piece, I will sign the back with a drawing. I adore the fans.

Q: Do you ever tire of the Peter Max color palette and splashy style that has been prevalent in your work from the beginning? As an artist, do you ever want to work with a somber palette or do something tight and intricate?

A: I’ll sometimes move in that direction. I can go somber, I can go colorful, loud or minimal… extreme in different directions. I love doing drawings in black and white. I like all of these things.

Q: Once you hit on a successful technique do you ever want to try something else to see if it can become popular as well?

A: The techniques and styles evolve on their own. I kind of inherit them. Something new will come about and I will gravitate toward it. I’ll stay with it until something else happens.

Q: You say every painting is your favorite while you’re actually painting it. If all of your works were on a sinking ship and you could only save one, which would it be and why?

A: (Laughs) I don’t know. It would be hard to say. I look at each and I can recognize the moment. If a father had 12 children, which one would he save, right? It’s hard. I have an emotional relationship to all of them. I’d want to save the ship itself!

Q: What will you be up to in Denver while you’re here?

A: There’s always at least 5-7 people, old friends of mine who live in Denver, that I’ll have lunch and dinner with. I’m always filled with meetings of fantastic people. I like Denver, it’s a beautiful environment, a cool place to live. If it wasn’t so far from New York, I’d like to get a studio there and spend the weekends.

Legendary multi-dimensional creative artist Peter Max will be in Denver to display his commemorative compositions featuring portraits of Barack Obama and other classic pieces. He will make two special appearances to sign and dedicate any artwork purchased, as well as gift his “Summer of Love” poster. The Road Show Company is hosting his exhibit, open to the public.

Gallery Information: On display at The Road Show Company, Aug. 22- Aug. 30
Monday-Thursday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Friday: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sunday: Noon to 5 p.m.

Special Meet the Artist Appearances: Saturday, Aug. 29, 2009 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday, Aug. 30, 2009 from noon to 3 p.m.

Road Show Company, 210 St. Paul St. (Cherry Creek North), Denver, CO 80206, 888.513.8385

Attendees must RSVP to attend the Meet the Artist sessions: 888.513.8385.


  1. espi August 21, 2009

    oh wow.. this is gonna be

    oh wow.. this is gonna be dope. we actually did a tribute to him in the PB redesign at spillt…

  2. C13 August 25, 2009

    real nice interview. thanks.

    real nice interview. thanks.

  3. ejane August 27, 2009

    I chuckled when he referred

    I chuckled when he referred to Shepard Fairey’s painting as “nice” and mentioned 2 dead artists in response to the question about inspiration from working/living artists.
    Still, awhile back I saw his show at the Fine Arts Center and found his 9/11 portraits very moving.

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