Artwork by TANK
Paul Tankersley was born on 30th March 1949, in Old Westbury, on Long Island, New York. His youthful years were spent developing his talent at the Westbury Country Art School. Moving with his family to settle in Texas when he was l6, paved the way for a later college enrollment at North Texas State, Denton. There he pursued a double major in acting and art. Post-college years combined these two talents. In Houston he became one of the founders of Reunion Theater, where he developed a dual role of actor and the creator of the show poster for that company’s repertoire. A gift for scenic painting gained him affiliations with both the Houston Grand Opera and the Dallas Summer Musicals, where praise of his scenic designs for the musical, Camelot, carried these sets to New York City for the Broadway production, starring Richard Burton. In 1975, Paul moved to New York City to pursue advertising illustration, there supplementing his college training by attending the Art Student’s League. Soon his outstanding style combining theatrical experience with art technique drew the attention of Broadway advertising agencies, and his career as creator of many Broadway show posters was launched. Among his most celebrated are On Golden Pond, Peter Pan, and David Merrick’s 42nd Street. 1982 marked a commission by Radio City Music Hall for its Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration poster, Encore. Later that year a second commission produced the Music Halls poster, Christmas Spectacular. Both of these events were highly publicized, Paul’s artwork appearing frequently in the New York Times. For these, the New York Advertising Club presented him with two Andy Awards of Merit. Mendola Artists, Ltd. selected him for its roster, and displayed his work in a gallery exhibit on W. 57th Street. New York critics hailed him for artistic excellence and he was invited by the famed Society of Illustrators to become a member. Membership in the Society is determined by ballot only. This coveted honor being bestowed in the past upon such immortals as N.C. Wyeth and Norman Rockwell.
Paul Tankersley’s popularity was further broadened when ABC Television chose him to do its poster for the 1984 Junior Olympics; and on a lighter note, Christy Brinkley requested him to do the artwork for her video, Uptown Girl. She purchased the original. Numerous book covers for Random House, St. Martin’s Press, Zebra, Dell Publications and Pocket Books are to his credit; illustrations have appeared in Reader’s Digest, American Artist, National Lampoon, The New Yorker and Cosmopolitan; and his Native American and Western oils have been seen in many galleries.
A desire to draw Texas men in action settings was beginning to take form, and in 1986, while maintaining his New York affiliations, Paul moved back to Texas, taking residence in Dallas. A year later, TANK Graphics was born, and art prints were produced under the name TANK. He worked continuously and unrelentingly; achieving international success. In a short period he established for himself a unique and timeless place in the field of art. With friendly sincerity and artistic integrity, he won many friends and followers in the communities of which he was a part. One-man shows featuring his artwork took place in such places as Chicago, Seattle, Long Beach, and Dallas. The Gay Games in Vancouver saw his works, as did many rodeos in the Southwest and on the West Coast. Sales of originals, commissioned portraits, and shops around the country carrying TANK prints evidenced his growing popularity. Tank has been featured in many magazines, including Frontiers, Advocate Men, Stallion and Guide, and his artwork has appeared on the cover of TWT-This Week in Texas, several times.
Through his artistic genius Paul Tankersley reached an impeccable style of photographic realism, with intricate and subtle detail. Whether his medium be one of colored pencil and air brush, black-and-white techniques, or oils, he was a master in the diffused refinement of light and shadow. He possessed a classic anatomical understanding of his subjects, and the intuitive sensitivity to reflect their soul. Achieving a fine sense of multiplicity-in-unity, he had an eye for the aesthetic and an eye for the humerus. He knew both comedy and tragedy.
On 8th March 1992, Tank died of AIDS, without previous warning. An HIV virus had lain dormant for many years. In his honor, an admirer had his SADDLE TRAMP hand-embroidered in India as part of his AIDS quilt panel.
In the 1970s in the middle of Texas, there was “born” a artist of realism who would bear the name TANK. Paul Tankersley’s one aim, by all apparent presentations of his work, seemed to pay homage to the male form with a focus on the American cowboy. His work always had a sense that each man stood alone. TANK had a direct eye for realism, with fine small pencil strokes not unlike Tom of Finland’s style. He tended to use graphite and color pencil, occasionally dancing with oils. He was very fond of the works he created, so it was rare that he would part with an original. Instead, he produced very high quality photo prints that he offered through the mail and at Gay rodeos.
In 1995, after Paul passed away, his body of work was placed in the hands of Tom of Finland Foundation; an institution that would care, exhibit and keep the public's awareness of TANK’s legacy alive. The Foundation is the fortunate holder of 24 TANK originals along with a major selection of photo prints that the artist offered to the public. The Foundation is now committed, through the generosity of TANK’s partner, Stephen Worley, to make sure the public doesn’t forget this wonderful artist.