In the spirit of our annual Fiction 101 issue, we searched high and low for a cover artist that was not only had a literary theme, but whose art also made a personal statement. The search wasn't going that well until art director Adam Vieyra stumbled upon works from Bryen Beglinger's Pop Culture: Heroes and Icons series at Bluefoot Lounge in North Park.
While most of that series includes painted renderings of iconic musicians (Pete Townsend, Jim Morrison), actors (Peter Sellers, Robert De Niro) and even local characters (pop artist Jamie Roxx), it was the portrait of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson that we found to be the perfect match for this issue.
'Hunter S. Thompson will always have a soft place in my heart,' says Beglinger via e-mail, explaining that all of the people in the Pop Culture series have inspired him in some way. 'I was given my first book to read about him when I was only 15 and thought he was the funniest man alive.' But wait! Isn't Thompson considered nonfiction? Well, sure and we did have paintings by Beglinger of Bukowski and Twain to choose from, but we ultimately settled on 'HST '72' because of its subject's renegade spirit and surreal imagery—something we certainly found a lot of in this year's fiction entries. It should also be said that much of Thompson's work really was fiction.
'I got into reading a lot of the progressive journalists and other interesting characters, too,' says Beglinger, who spent more than 30 hours on the portrait of Thompson. Now 39, the Vegas native says the discovery of Thompson at such a young age led him to discover many of the other greats in modern literature. You can see his work all over town, whether at Bluefoot or The Ruby Room, not only because these venues appreciate the effort that went into them, but also because people relate to Beglinger's choice of heroes. 'People seem to really get it,' he says. 'It surprises me still on some of the more obscure subjects but makes me very happy. The reactions have been very positive.'