Bears: Paintings of Large Men
by John Falstaff (Franz Brown)

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This series of paintings of larger gentlemen came to me as a consequence of a internet "conversation" with an art appreciator. The goal is to complete a series of ten 48v x 24h inch paintings of large men in a manner that presents them with dignity, to be displayed in a balanced grouping. Individuals were selected on the basis of their generous efforts on behalf of the community in which they live or have lived. On the left are some of the preliminary paintings, on the right are the finals.

Bear #1: "Dakota Curly" Greg Iverson: Rancher

"Sheriff  'Dakota Curly' "
Acrylic 12x6"


study for 1249
"Sheriff  'Dakota Curly' "
Acrylic 48x24"


I first saw Iverson as he was doing an acting job, playing sheriff while a holdup was staged on a tourist train in Hill City, SD.

Bear #2: James Hansen

Portrait of James Hansen
Acrylic 24x18"

Portrait of James Hansen
Acrylic 48x24""

Jim and Farley
oil 7x5"


Miniature practice work from Bear series.

Bear #3: Dr. Ted Brockett

The Red Rose:
A Portrait of Ted Brockett, M.D.
Acrylic 20x16

A Portrait of Ted Brockett, M.D., Full Figure
Oil 48x24

Ted and Farley
oil 7x5"


Miniature practice work from Bear series.

Bear #4: Franz Brown (John Falstaff)

Self Portrait of the Artist with White Roses
Self Portrait in Tuxedo with White Roses
Study #1
Self Portrait in Tuxedo with White Roses,
Study #2
 "The Untold Story"
"Portrait in Black, White and Green"
"Self Portrait as a Gentleman of Means"
Oil 12x6"

Oil 24x12"

Oil 48x24


Bears #4b: Self Portrait with Sidekick and White Roses
Oil 48x24



This took a long time, started 2009 and finished 2011. The main difference between the two shown was the change in the roses from pink to white. The first self-portrait for this series seemed to stern (fkb1268 above), I wanted something a bit more friendly, especially for the studio.

Bear #5: Ronnie Carnes
Oil Painting

Carnes oil study


Carnes oil study


"Early Morning Hiker: Portrait of Ronnie Carnes"
oil 48x24


Ronnie, Boris and Ollie
oil 7x5"


Miniature practice work from Bear series.

Each large painting is generally preceded by a number of drawings and then small painting studies as I figure out how to paint a particular subject's face. I readily admit the difficulty of doing the human figure and portrait.

Bear #6: Truman Savery: Teacher, Musician
Oil Painting

Below are two miniatures, one might say warm up exercises. On the left three studies 6x12".        On the right the final work in progress.

oil 2x4

oil 2x4

oil 12x6 composition on 12x9 canvas

oil 12x6
on 12x9 panel

oil 12x6
on 12x9 panel

oil 48x24
work in progress

I liked each of these composition. 1292 and 1293 explore the idea of using the subject with a tuba. I like this and do 1294 and 1295. However, 1294 is fun but the bear (Ollie) and tuba draw too much attention away from the figure. I may do this one later but not as part of the series, maybe. The second one is a good pose, dynamic with a subtle s shape in Truman's body. Unfortunately this pose would visually compete with the other paintings; the paintings when shown together should not draw attention to any one in particular. The last painting was the most calm and kept the focus on the individual so that is the one I've chosen. The final result is to the right.

Bear #7: Pastor William Russow

"Bill and Ollie, Study"
Oil and acrylic 5x7"

"Bears: W Russow"
Acrylic 8x12

"William Russow with Saddle"
Oil 12x6

Bill and Roger
Oil 4x3

Study for 1327
Bill and Roger
Oil 24x18

Oil 24x12

"Cowboy Minister: Russow"
Oil 48x24"

How big is it? I'm 68".
I prefer to see the paintings framed.

Self portrait with fkb1335.

Bear #8: Curt, newspaper journalist/photographer

Study for fkb1341

Curt and Ollie
Oil 48x24


Completed November 2013



Bear #9: President William Howard Taft

It was my original plan to do only bears who were not in positions of high visibility. I came across Taft because of the occasional mention in the press, always simply that he was our largest president. Surely there must have been more to the man than his size, after all, he had become president. A wondrous moment of serendipity, just as I was becoming interested I learned of a book, "The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism" by Doris Kearns Goodwin (2013 Blithedale Productions, Simon and Schuster, New York). I had the pleasure of listening to the audio version of this book while working on the various studies shown below. I strongly recommend this book and praise Kearns for this presentation.

After learning about his personality and considerable achievements I thought he deserved better recognition.

His accomplishments. He is the only person, the only one, to serve not only as President, but also as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. As Governor General of the Philippines he overcame racist army policies, began the preparations of the Philippines for self government and brought to an end a costly war with the people of that country. He did the same as governor general of Cuba. He did these things by acknowledging that the people of both nations deserved self rule and instituted those things necessary to help them achieve it. We very likely would have been involved in costly guerrilla wars had it no been for Taft.

As president and later Chief Justice he played a significant role in the efforts to reduce corporate power, especially the power of the large monopolistic trusts.

Taft's wife Nellie was responsible for getting the Washington mall designed. Of special note was the introduction of cherry trees. Initially the trees were from regional nurseries, when the mayor of Tokyo heard of the work he shipped over a couple thousand trees for use in the project. Thus I have added a cherry blossom in honor of Nellie with whom the president was deeply in love. This project was done at the beginning of Taft's presidency, shortly after the work was completed Nellie suffered a sever stroke which left badly speech impaired. When his wife had a stroke at the beginning of his presidency Taft demonstrated his remarkable love for her through his constant care for her despite the considerable distractions of being president.

Study for Presidential Portrait, William Howard Taft
Acrylic 7x5 inch

Acrylic 20x16
Study for full figure portrait

I haven't got everything right yet but we're getting there. Here Taft is as he was, more or less, when he was Governor General of the Philippines. While stationed there he made a trip to Japan with his wife. She took note of the cherry blossoms there and later as wife of the president was instrumental in getting the cherry trees planted in the Washington Mall.

President Taft as Golfer
Study for pose in final. Acrylic 12x6

At this size obviously a small miniature, I really liked it, but didn't choose it in the end.

President Taft with Sampaquilla flower.
Acrylic 24x18

Here is Taft as about he would look when he was President. The flower was the national flower of the Philippines, of which he was the Governor General early in his political career. His administration played an important role in changing United States policy towards the people of the Philippines. The Government had been administered by the United States Army and was very racist, Taft acknowledged the humanity of the people and insisted that they should be allowed to have their own government, he set up a number of programs meant to eventually end in their self rule.
President William Howard Taft and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court
Acrylic 48x24



Bear # 10:  Dr. Larry Agenbroad, Paleontologist
Director and Founder of the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs

During construction on a housing development one of the equipment operators found a bone and brought it to the attention of the land owner. He recognized the significance of the find, stopped the construction and called in Agenbroad from Chadron, Nebraska where he was teaching at Chadron State College. Agenbroad verified the significance of the find started research there and eventually developed the site into the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs. Over fifty mammoths have since been excavated from the site under Agenbroad's direction and the site is recognized as one of the most important in the world.
His work included the development of the Hudson Meng site in Nebraska, digging for pygmy mammoths on the Channel Islands off the coast of California, and digging up a frozen mammoth in Siberia.
Agenbroad died in December, 2014.

Head Study
Acrylic 8x10


Dr Larry Agenbroad
Acrylic 48x24

I did the initial photography for this work some years ago while working on a magazine article. Various problems kept me away from this work. An early portrait was destroyed. Agenbroad died December 2014. A memorial held in Hot Springs revealed the depth of feeling many people held for him and it was their comments that helped inspire the final design for this painting. A number of paleontologists from across the country commented on his influence on them as children when they visited the Mammoth Site as children. I like to add toys to the paintings I do when working with my bears and although I usually add stuffed bears a visit to the mammoth site revealed an appropriate item for Dr. Agenbroad to hold, a toy mammoth to represent the inspired children. In his right hand he holds a femur from a mammoth and a mammoth is represented on his belt buckle. I had long wanted to do a portrait where the underlying coating shown through as done here. The painting thus has a quality of incompleteness which is appropriate to representing the work at the mammoth site where many of the mammoths remain in the earth, the site remains thus "incomplete" as he had wanted.

One of the hardest things for me was to get a very faint smile Agenbroad often had and about which many of his friends commented. It was a familiar expression when, in a playful mood, he might set up a little joke, and friends new they were being "had," as the expression goes, when the smile revealed the game.

Dr Agenbroad in the mammoth site dig area, 2006.

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