Skip to content
Portrait of Bill Jensen by Phong Bui, pencil on paper

Portrait of Bill Jensen. Pencil on paper by Phong Bui.

The Brooklyn Rail’s Chris Martin went to visit Bill Jensen in the Williamsburg studio complex he shares with the painter Margrit Lewczuk, their son Russell, and their dog Lucy. Two old manufacturing buildings are joined in a small courtyard with a big fig tree. The place feels like an old Italian villa in the middle of Brooklyn.

Chris Martin (Rail): Bill, how did you become a painter?

Bill Jensen: I was always drawing. My stepfather worked at a steel pre-fabricating company. He would bring home shoeboxes full of blank paper pads that were about 7 by 9 inches. When I was five I got a hold of these pads and I filled up shoebox after shoebox. I always drew. I would draw still life, landscapes, anything. When I was in junior high, I would draw Frankenstein over and over.

Rail: Do you have any of these drawings? I’d love to see a Bill Jensen Frankenstein. [Laughs.]

Jensen: No, they’re all lost. I had a car magazine with monsters in the hot rods. So I started my own little business in ninth grade. I bought some sweatshirts and I would draw monsters in cars on them. I got an airbrush and I started doing airbrushing. Then I’d go to car shows in Minneapolis and I’d have a little stand.

Rail: I remember monster hot rods. I made plastic models of monster hot rods and painted them.

Jensen: There would be a ’57 Chevy with a Frankenstein monster in it. Later I started doing pin striping and flames on cars. I had this business card with a red palette with blood dripping off of it. It read “Tiny Studios, Bill Jensen, County Road I, Turtle Lake, MN.”