"BY THE TIME I WAS 10 YEARS OLD, I knew in my bones that I wanted to be an artist," says Martin Mull, 51, who grew up in North Ridgefield, Ohio, an agrarian community outside Cleveland, where his earliest influences in the visual arts consisted of comic books and Norman Rockwell's Saturday Evening Post covers. Today, Mull, who lives in L.A. with his wife, Wendy Haas, a musician and composer, and their daughter Maggie, 10, is showing his work at the Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art and at Manhattan's David Beitzel Gallery.
You say that art school did not change your life, it created it. How so?
Most of what I do now is influenced by my six years in art school. That's where I learned the world was round, not a flat square in Ohio. It was like The Wizard of Oz when the door of Dorothy's dismal bedroom opens on the emerald-green wonderland.
Why did the painter turn performer?
Ninety percent of it was economic. I didn't have any money, and I was at least able to bluff my way enough as a performer to make some. It sure beats working.
How did cancer affect your work?
I felt an urge to paint as if my life depended upon it. Fortunately, they took a quarter-pounder with cheese out of my back and managed to get it all.
Which medium do you prefer?
Painting is more satisfying. I could ask for nothing better than to work on Roseanne, but that's a team effort. When you're painting, boy, it's just you. It's a little closer to the razor's edge.