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Waynesboro, Pa. artist illustrates G.I. Joe boxes

February 09, 1998

by Richard T. Meagher / staff photographer

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by RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - G.I. Joe invaded Larry Selman's life when he was a kid. Today, the 12-inch plastic military figures account for a major slice of his income.

A professional free-lance artist, Selman's paintings illustrate the boxes in which the G.I. Joe figures are packaged. He's been painting the scenes for Hasbro, Inc., of Cincinnati, Ohio, since 1995.

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Selman, 39, lives with his wife, Teresa, in a second-floor apartment at 94 W. Main St. in Waynesboro. His studio is a 12-foot-by-12-foot room. His medium is oils.

Originals for the G.I. Joe series average 30-inches-by-40 inches, but some, like a scene depicting D-Day, run nearly twice that.

Selman specializes in Western and military art.

It was his agent who got him together with Hasbro in 1993. He started by painting scenes for packaging for the company's Jurassic Park toy series and moved on to G.I. Joe. So far, he's submitted 15 illustrations for the series.

Now he's trying to paint about one a month.

"It pays very well. I don't know how much longer they'll need me, but I hope it's for a long time, but you never know. That's life as an illustrator. You live paycheck to paycheck and you work long hours," Selman said. James O'Brien, art director for Hasbro's toy group in Cincinnati, said he was impressed immediately with Selman's Western art.

"Larry is probably one of the most talented illustrators working in the country today," said O'Brien.

"He knows how to handle paint. Many illustrators can do elements well, but not people. Larry does both. He creates an environment that creates details. He has a talent that you don't find often. He's a jewel," O'Brien said.

Hasbro displays Selman's original G.I. Joe paintings at the company.

"There has been some talk of doing some limited edition prints," O'Brien said.

Selman said he doesn't have time to turn his work into prints the way many artists do to make money.

He has finished two of four figures in the latest G.I. Joe series. The figures are fashioned after real World War II Medal of Honor winners.

One figure is based on Francis S. Currey, who won his medal for action in Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge. The second in the series is named for Mitchell Paige, a Marine sergeant who saw action on Guadalcanal.

Selman said he has spoken to both men and will do so with the last two in the series, a Navy man and a pilot, when they are named.

Selman, son of a career Army man stationed at Fort Ritchie, grew up in Waynesboro. He graduated from Waynesboro Area Senior High School in 1976 and from York (Pa.) Academy of Art in 1982.

He's worked at his profession ever since, getting his start illustrating paperback book covers.

Many of his models are local people who fit the description he needs for a particular painting.

He spends much of his spare time in World War II re-enactment groups. His collection of uniforms, equipment and weapons show up in a lot of his paintings.

The same is true of his collection of Western items. Saddles, clothing and equipment serve as props in his Western paintings, most of which he sells through a gallery in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Selman said his next effort will be a series of paintings on the Vietnam War. He doesn't know how many he'll do or what he'll do with them. But he knows they won't be for sale.

"I've already started to collect uniforms and equipment from the era. Doing Vietnam is just something I have to get out of my system," he said.

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