It’s possible to go through one’s life and never encounter a velvet painting. If you live in a major city, or just not in the Midwest, it’s doubtful you will ever see one. Until one fateful day, that is, when you go to a garage sale and notice something odd sticking out of the corner of a wooden trunk, which you then open and discover a velvet painting of Ted Nugent with a halo smiling knowingly at the viewer. Not that the author has experience with anything like that, or the screams that reportedly followed.
The most common figure depicted on velvet paintings is Elvis Presley (more specifically, ‘Classic Elvis’, as opposed to ‘Fat Elvis’). You can also find paintings of John Wayne, Dale Earnhardt, Mr. T, and other heroic figures from American history. No matter the person, the presentation is always the same – bright colors on dark velvet, which helps to emphasize the angelic look that each one contains. It’s a testament to our culture – the TV and music icons are like holy figures, and so must be painted as such. That it’s done in such a kitschy and tacky fashion is a simple afterthought.