Ed Kaplan is an artist of many styles. He paints photorealistic movie stills on televisions and landscapes and landmarks around Queens and citywide, as well as motorcycle bodies and surrealist multicolored works.
Kaplan, of Kew Gardens, began drawing with his grandfather in Florida.
“You have to learn to draw first before you can paint,” he said.
Those days by his grandfather’s side paid off. His skills morphed into a career in the arts, wherein Kaplan works as a decorative painter restoring churches such as St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan and giving apartment owners that “exposed brick” look without ever lifting a trowel. He also freelances, airbrushing flames on a fleet of Ozone Park tow trucks and decorating motorcycles.
And he creates decorative paintings in a multitude of styles, works he has shown in galleries in Harlem, Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.
Some of his first paintings were surrealistic works of realistic quaint white houses, musical instruments, pints of Guinness beer and actor and musician Tom Waits floating in swirls of color.
He continued in this vein for awhile. Then about two decades ago, after a brief two-year stint in Portland, Ore., where he airbrushed motorcycle bodies for a living, he moved back to the East Coast and settled in Astoria.
“I started seeing televisions all over the street and I decided why not paint on the TVs” Kaplan said.
Walking into his basement art studio in Kew Gardens, it looks as if about a dozen old televisions are on pause. Arnold Schwarzenegger stares at his target and a gunfight erupts on a screen on the right.
But the televisions aren’t on pause. They aren’t even plugged in.
The photorealistic paintings are created by Kaplan with a fine paintbrush and an airbrush. His TV collection will be on display at Freddy’s Bar at 627 Fifth Ave. in Brooklyn later this month.
But that artist has since moved on.
“I started searching for a new thing,” Kaplan said. “I thought I should be doing paintings of where I live.”
He began from home. Rising out of his backyard is a baby-blue water tank, which he painted in a sunrise-like light. The silo got good reviews from friends and viewers, and convinced him to paint more of the type.
He set off with a camera in hand over the bridges of New York City, capturing images that caught his eye. Then he began to paint.
Again the works are like staring at photos, but they’re not the typical images of skyscrapers and perfectly kept parks. Instead Kaplan liked the places close to home — Dani’s House of Pizza, the Village Diner and John’s Coffee Shop — as well as reflective puddles under the Manhattan bridge.
An art gallery up the block from his house, which has since closed, only accepted Queens-based art, which gave him a further incentive to paint images of locations close to home.
“It’s not stereotypical beauty,” Kaplan said. “But I think it’s pretty. These are places off the beaten path. That’s what I bring to the canvas.”
These landscapes are in a show titled “Urban Landscapes” at LIC Market, which opened on a dreary day in February. Not many people braved the rain for the event.
Lisa DiClerico, the co-owner of the market, and Kaplan — who know each other from about 15 years ago when DiClerico, an artist in her own right, shared a studio with Kaplan’s roommate — hope the spring reception on April 16 will get more play.
Kaplan’s art stays in the 2-foot-by-3-foot range and prices for about $2,500 to $3,500.
When: Tuesday, April 16, 6 to 9 p.m.
Where: LIC Market, 21-52 44 Dr.