Producer by Day, Artist by Night

When you spend time with Palisadian David Anson Russo, it’s best just to buckle up and enjoy the ride. You will not be disappointed.

The fine artist never goes anywhere without pen and paper and loves spending hours sitting at restaurants drawing. At Beech Street, the waiter place glasses of ice water on little plates so as not to ruin the paper tablecloth that they know Russo likes to use as a canvas. He carries several pens with ink that lasts for 100 years, and creates three black-and-white pictures a day and one color picture a week.

In the past 18 months, he has made 260 pieces of art, drawing at Beech and other restaurants in Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades and Malibu, including Casa del Mar and Mayberry. The Queens, New York, native likes drawing in public and engaging people in conversation. He even gives his artwork away to people who end up sitting near him when the mood strikes, such as it did when he overheard a couple discussing their upcoming nuptials.

His latest venture is called “What A Great Life,” filled with whimsical characters and vivid colors that look almost like a cross between drawings from the Victorian era, The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine,” and Dr Seuss.

He calls his style, “imperfect perfection.”

“We’re all perfect because we’re imperfect” he tells the Palisadian-Post. “When I do scurly curly lines, the style is very forgiving.  It’s freeing because I can make beautiful long line and actually turn them into things. Most of the time I don’t have any thought in mind regarding the outcome.”

He hopes his latest art becomes a respite for people who are strained by the modern-day world. “It’s a place to go with all of us losing jobs and being laid off and having money trouble and losing our homes.”

“It’s all of the childhood wonders that we love, like picnics on the lawn.”

As a child Russo thrived on popular culture, and it was his love for movies and television the eventually led him into the entertainment industry, in which he has been successful for over a decade.

Along with Mark Burnett, in 2002 he was executive producer of “Combat Missions” sort of a “Survivor” with real military personnel, and later produced “Who’s Got Game” with Magic Johnson, and “Hey Paula” with Paula Abdul.

An artist since he was a child, Russo has always been inspired by Picasso, Dali, Peter Max, Maxfield Parrish,

And Norman Rockwell, “all of these incredible people who were communicating visually,” he says. “They had something profoundly important to say.”

Leaving home at 15 to try to find work as an artist, Russo “went to art school at night and worked during the day. I took the adult courses because I couldn’t afford the credited courses.” He attended the Parson School of Design and the School of Visual Arts, both in New York City.

Among the many successes he has had as an artist was creating 20 different kinds of alphabets, books for children and adults and hundreds of mazes. Russo estimates he has made 2,500 assorted images throughout his life. At eight pages his “Absolut Amazement” was the largest in the company’s history.

Russo is constantly brimming with new creative ideas, and is happy to work in any medium His demeanor is calm and focused, perhaps shaped that way after a lifetime of practicing martial arts. He also teaches jujitsu and has a dojo on Maui, where he lived for 12 years before coming to Los Angeles. He also had an art gallery on the island.

A firm believer in intoku which means “to do good in secret” in Japanese, Russo is always looking for ways to give back. These days he is passionate about helping out various charities. He paints live at auctions, and by the end of the evening, the piece he has created is auctioned off, usually for tens of thousands of dollars. Russo came up with the idea of painting live after being asked a few years ago to donate a piece for an auction. “I love doing these charities. One hundred percent goes to charity. I would like to do one a month.”

For the live events he has no outline, and sometimes doesn’t even know what he is going to do before he begins, although due to time constraints he will think of an idea a day or two before. He loves interacting with people at the fundraisers and is comfortable painting in front of a crowd, which harkens back to the days when he crossed the country to support his books. His publisher “would put me in windows all over the US, including the Children’s Museum at Indianapolis, where he created a 2000sq.ft maze. In front of Doubleday on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, a crowd of 100 people would watch him create magic.

Currently he draws inspiration from Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If,” a dictum for how to behave no matter what is going on in the world around you.

“Make every single day important and perfect” Russo says. “Make every day a masterpiece, every moment a masterpiece. Find the things in your life and introduce them back in if you’ve missed them or lost them.” “What A Great Life” encompasses these principles.

The father of four was married for 20 years, and feels his divorce was a new beginning in which he threw himself into his art, doing television in the mornings, artwork in the afternoons and evenings. Russo loves Los Angeles and believes creatively it is the “Mecca for the world”

Russo is always striving to come up with new and original ideas. “If you create a mountain they have to go over it, around it or through it.” But they have to deal with it. So I created a mountain of hundreds and hundreds of images that became a style and a brand.”

“To be solving the problems of art every day as opposed to war, and all those other things, is an honor, and something to be very grateful for.”

Russo will be painting live at the Art Project Los Angeles charity art auction, a yearly fundraiser for AIDS Project Los Angeles, on Saturday June 29th. For more information, visit

By Laurie Rosenthal
Staff writer
All artwork courtesy