Man Evolves.

Art, artists, prison art

Victor Heady

Victor Heady

     I invite those who have collected works by the artist, whose work is featured on this page, to share pictures of works by the same artist, and as much detail such as title and dimensions that you can.    If for no other reason, putting images of collected works out on the Internet makes them accessible to art students who want to know what it is that collectors care about.  Many artists’ work seems to become invisible once they move out of the area in which they have sold their art, move on to other interests, or, sadly grow old, stop painting and/or die.  If collected art is to have any real meaning, the images of it must transcend the time in which it is created and sold.  There is a further reason, and that is that, should the paintings be stolen, anyone who is contacted by the thieves would be able to determine that the works had been stolen.

I welcome any images sent to me for purposes of being included in these pages.  Call me at (916) 383-5341.  (We answer with a business name (Forensics Lab Supply), but it is still us.

So far, the largest number of images that I have of the works of Victor Heady are ones that we own, and which had previously been shown on the Edwards/Pedersen Collection page.  Rather than split the images up across two pages, they will be presented here.  In his later years, Victor had a studio in San Miguel, Mexico.  His works were brightly colored with good quality of line.  An example is a painting of the Telemex building in Veracruz.


Soon, there will be presented here, the most iconic of all of Victor Heady’e paintings.  It represents his soul, as an artist.  It is quite a simple tableau … a wooden stool upon which rests a trumpet.  The details in the background reveal that this resting place is not of particular opulence.  There is a grimy wash basin, and some expose water pipes with a dirty rag draped over them.  One cannot help but think that, had this been where Frank Sinatra had taken an intermission, there would be Champagne on ice,   bottles of Scotch, a bartender, and at least two chorus girls to debauch.  Not so for the best proponents of the Jazz medium.  Exposed plumbing, a dirty wash and a grimy sink.  Yet, here it is.

                            Telemex building in Veracruz

Telemex in Veracruz by Heady

Another such work is Restaurant Ray El Inferno.

                                         Restaurant Ray El Inferno

Restaurant Ray El Infierno by Victor Heady

Sometime around 1970, Victor earned a degree in Fine Arts from the University of California at Davis.   With advanced education, he began to approach new subject matter.  Earlier works revolved around “happenings”.  Often, what was happening was seen at a distance or behind the walls of mysterious old houses from the Victorian Era.

                                Street Lamp Near Victorian House

Street Lamp near Victorian House by Heady

Vic was not much at giving titles to his work.  I’ll call that one “Street Lamp Near Victorian House.   This oil painting on tempered Masonite is floated on backing covered with burlap, and then framed in walnut.  The image is a bit washed out by glare off of the varnish.   Another painting with a similar theme will be called Wash Hung In Moonlight.  Edwards/Pedersen Collection.

                                Wash Hung In Moonlight

Wash Hung in Moonlight by Heady

The blue in this image is actually in the paint, not merely northern light.  This seems to have been painted around 1970 or 1971, probably as a part of his work toward a degree in Fine Arts.  Edwards/Pedersen Collection.

Two paintings with similar ideas are already shown below.  This work with similar complexity

                              Cityscape with Victorian Houses

Victorian Cityscape by Heady

and this on which seems oddly austere.

                                Victorian House on a Hill

Isolated Squarish Victorian by Heady

In the first of these last three, there is a complex of city on all sides.   With this one, there are no other houses obvious.  It is signed “Heady”, which is all he ever used as a signature, and dated ’64.  Just to the right of the signature there is a little something.  It is a gable.  The main subject is on a hill and there is at least one building below it.  Storm clouds fill the sky and the sun is setting behind the house as lights are beginning to come on inside.  It is painted on a tightly stretched canvas measuring 9″ x 9″.  The canvas floats on a piece of plywood covered in jute.  On the back of the plywood is a cryptic inscription, “Dina” San Diego Raymond Rowley King April 1963.  Vic got out on parole late in 1963.  He had learned to paint from Ray.  They would trade and borrow materials from each other.  Apparently, Ray had finished a piece and mounted it on the plywood, signing it on the back of the wood, as well as on the canvas.   For what ever reason, he removed the painting from the plywood.  Or, he didn’t like what he had painted and traded it to Vic, who painted over the first painting.  In any case, the stretched canvas was not on the jute backing when the painting was finished.

I saw a painting attributed to Ray at the Barrios Gallery in Sacramento.  It was about the same size, but framed in some ornate trim, taken from a remodeling job, I suppose.   The paint on the trim was cracked and chipped.  The painting was a head and a rather ugly one at that.  When I ask Vic about it, he knew the piece.  It had been painted over a painting that Vic had done, but did not like.  Ray worked the portrait up quickly with a palette knife.  When done, Ray said that it was the way that he would like to paint all the time.  As he started to leave Vic’s cell, Vic said, “Where you going with that canvas?”  Ray said it was his painting.  Vic replied that it was his canvas.  Ray left it in Vic’s cell, but later traded to get it back.  I suppose Benny Barrios still has it.  I should have asked Benny last time I saw him.  Edwards/Pedersen Collection.

From 1969, a painting of a torn poster with a head staring out.  The head seems to have clown’s putty nose.  The face seems both sad and feminine.

                                Torn Poster with Female Face

Torn Poster Fragment by Heady

The theme echoes one used by Ray King in “The Sweetest Thing in Town!”  Poster, pasted or stapled on bare exterior walls, weathered and torn by rain and wind, imply the existence of a potential audience.  They often speak to baser interests.  Not so much an appeal to the artistic mind, the torn poster stands in contrast to the art that portrays it.  Edwards/Pedersen Collection.

The Elkhorn Ferry was rendered obsolete around 1972 when the bridge for I-5 opened connecting the Natomas area of Sacramento County with Yolo County near Woodland and a bit north of Davis.

                                Elkhorn Ferry

Elkhorn Ferry by Heady

It would represent a reasonable challenge for an art student from U. C. Davis.  It may have been rendered from a photograph, but I had not known Vic to do that.  The details of the ferry seem consistent with its function in its last years of service.  There is an enclosed control office for operating the mechanism that pulled the ferry back and forth across the river along a submerged cable.  There are railings on upstream and downstream sides of the craft.  Overhead lamps are there to illuminate the deck for night use.  A sturdy chain runs across the river end to prevent cars from “going into the drink”.  Signs on either side caution drivers to drive on the ferry as “slow” as possible.  Another sign says that the ferry is closed for the day, and it is up high so that drivers on the levy can see from the road that it is closed.  The sign permit one viewing the painting to understand what they say without being fussy about the lettering.  Across the river there is a Texaco sign.  It may have been a part of a Yacht Club that has since disappeared.  Trees on the far bank are rendered in a wet in wet method that would have used turpentine with Damar varnish.  Edwards/Pedersen Collection.

In a painting that I call Landscape with Trees and Stream, Heady must rely on skills other than those used to show structural works of man.

                                                        Landscape with Trees and Stream

Landscape with Trees and Stream by Heady

Here everything is natural with little in the way of straight lines.  The wet in wet technique is used for trees and shrubbery.  Thin, dark, crooked lines appear as trunks and branches.  When the paint was not quite dry, varnish was applied with a stiff bristle brush.  On the surface of rocks dark paint along the edges are picked up by the bristle and streaked across creating a planar surface.  Edwards/Pedersen Collection.

In a piece that seems to be transitional the palette brightens, while the subject remains that of quaint houses, this on is back-lit by a dazzling sun.

Sun Back-lit House by Heady

In the background there is  another structure.  It is similar to the water tank towers that are often next to farm houses in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.  Water was pumped from a well up in to the tanks by Aeromotor wind-driven pumps.

In a still life, the great out-of-doors is abandoned.  It is an organic thing, but growing inside a building.  Vic retains his earlier dark palette for interiors using thinned out umber and cobalt.  Straight thin black lines suggest a carpentered wall.  The pot is abrupt and solid.  From it grows brightly colored flowers on exquisite branches.  This is a lively advance of his skills with still life subjects.  Edwards/Pedersen Collection.

Finally his still lifes are reduced to simpler forms … onions.

Two Onions Horizontal by Heady

Not the mundane apples and pears.  Onions – two of them.  The dimensions of this work are 24″ by 6″.  It is painted on 1/8″ tempered Masonite.  Edwards/Pedersen Collection.

Four Onions Vertical by Heady

And then there were four onions.  This painting is 20″ by 9-1/2 ” and is also on 1/8″ tempered Masonite.  Edwards/Pedersen Collection.

In what must have been a struggle to expand his technical abilities while earning his Fine Arts degree, Vic worked in the color ranges that he knew best.  He did eventually render apples and pears in colors other than burnt umber and yellow ocher.  I have seen them.  Compared to these onions, they were more, shall we say, pedestrian.

On its way, even as we speak, is a harbor scene with fishing boats, a dock and some wharf buildings.  I will have a better description once it arrives.

Fishing Boat Harbor by Victor Heady
Fishing Boat Harbor by Victor Heady

It is said to be painted with a heavy impasto.


A small oil on board is being offered for sale by its owner, in San Francisco.   It is a forest scene, possibly in the Sierras.  I am afraid that the image is not as good as it could be.   The dimensions of the painting itself are roughly 4 foot x 4 foot.

Forest Scene by Victor Heady

4″ x 5-3/8″, if I remember correctly.  If you have any interest, leave me a note with with contact information, or email; me at collectedartworks (at)

Images of two paintings that were sold at an East Bay auction in 2004 have surfaced.  The first is titled Victorian in Winter.

Victorian in Winter by Victor Heady

The second is titled Fisherman’s Shack.  This painting has been offered for sale on eBay for several months.

Fishermans Shack by Victor Heady

Both paintings were done in 1967.  The Victorian image differs from most in that the landscape is mute by snow.  Victor did not live where there was much snow.  A though just occurred to me that his fascination with Victorian houses may have had some relationship to his own name, Victor.  When I knew him, in the early 1960s, he called them “old houses”.  By 1967, he was putting the word “Victorian” into the titles.  The notion of something Victorian being surrounded by now may have been a deliberate expression of his feeling at the time.  The detail in the Fisherman’s Shack is much greater than in many previous works.  This detail is to be found later in the study titled Elkhorn Ferry.

Vic had a way about him.  He was instantly likable, articulate. soft spoken and very open about his life.  He had been born in Chicago at the height of the Depression in 1933.  At around the age of 16, he became addicted to heroin.  As a young adult, he served in the Korean Conflict as an M. P.   There was some medical problem that bothered him – apparently “flat feet”.   He saw an Army physician about it and was told that he really should take a medical discharge.  Vic said that the problem did not bother him that much, that the food (K-rations) was better than he was used to back in Chicago, he had clean clothes, a warm place to sleep and that Korea was an interesting place he had never been to.  He told me that he liked K-rations and when he heard someone complain about them, he would say, “You don’t want that?  I’ll eat it.”  The doctor told him that, if the problem bothered him too much, he would arrange for an immediate discharge.   He than told me about an incident, subsequent to the doctors visit, in which he received orders to escort a G. I. from one remote brig to another closer to where he would be sent back to the States to do time for some illegal activity.  Vic checked out a Colt .45 automatic from the armory, drove a jeep from the motor pool to the place of detention and took custody of the prisoner.  On the way back, the guy said that he was being shipped back to do time in the States, and that he had a Korean wife he would like to say goodbye to … and that his wife had a good looking sister.  Vic agreed to let him “say goodbye” to his wife and drove to their living quarters.  Heroin was cheap in Korea, as Vic had found out previously.  The “last goodbye” became a “party”.   The sister was congenial.   When Vic awoke the next morning, the sister was no longer in bed with him.  In fact, all three had vanished.  Fortunately, they had not taken the weapon, nor his keys nor the jeep.  He drove back to the armory and checked the .45 back in, returned the jeep to the motor pool and paid a visit to the “croaker”.   The problem, he said, had become quite painful and he would like that medical discharge thingy.

On the way back to the States, he had a layover in Okinawa.  The island is long and thin with several trails cut through the jungle from one shore to the other.  Vic, curious to explore the jungle between the trails began walking the length of the island from trail to trail.  Once he entered the unfrequented zone between trails, he discovered military vehicles dating from World War II, stacked four and five and six high, rotting away in the jungle, never to return to the U. S. shores.  That was the deal that the automobile and steel manufacturers had.  During the war, they would stop making cars and start making jeeps and tanks and half-tracks and ambulances … whatever the war required … but, they were not to come back to the States to compete with vehicles that would be made after the end of the war, or be a source of steel to compete with iron mines and steel mills back home.

Vic got back home and never had anyone from the Army contact him and ask what he had done with that prisoner.  Once back in Chicago, Vic discovered that men who had been M.P.s in the Army were in demand at the Chicago Police Department.  He joined the force and, as reported in Jet Magazine of January 20, 1955, he was shot in the leg by a fellow officer while trying to extort $50 from a couple of pushers.   He resigned from the force after admitting that he was strung out like a dog on heroin.

If Vic ever told me why he came to California or what he did to get in Vacaville, I don’t remember.  Probably pharmacy burglary.  The climate in California has some good points over that in Chicago.  I believe he did a seven year stretch.   That would mean that he entered Vacaville around 1956, not long after the bungled extortion attempt in Chicago.  By 1964, he had switched to cocaine.  It was easier to come by outside of prison.

Vic favored long-sleeved, cable-knit sweaters … even in summer.  The long sleeves covered up the needle tracks.  The portion of the sweater near the belt line allowed for plunder to be concealed.  In those days, I drove a route picking up film to be processed and the finished prints to various drug stores and markets.  I ran into Vic somewhere in Sacramento on one of those runs.  He asked where I was going.  On learning that it was Stockton, he said he had never been there and asked to come along.  There was a county hospital south and west of Stockton on my way to Antioch,  He asked if we could pull in there.  I dropped him off on one end of the building and drove around the other side to meet him.  As we drove away, he produced, from the folds of his sweater, some syringes, a bottle labelled “Cocaine 5%”, one labelled “Cocaine 8%”, and a quarter pound bottle of  “Mallinckrodt Cocaine USP Flaky Crystals”.   He said he knew some guys in The City who might pay $300 for the crystals.  I’m thinking that Vic was not really good at math.

During the time that Victor Heady was incarcerated at Vacaville, as substantial change took place that woulf greatly affect his life.  This medical facility was different from other state run penal institutions.  In charge of the facility was a physician, not a “warden” in the usual sense, but rather someone sympathetic to the “underlying causes” of bad behavior.  Those, whose crime were so outre as to not fit the usual pattern, would end up at Vacaville.  Among those who were held at Vacaville, was the rather nasty Dr. Geza de Kaplany.  He had, with nitric acid and sulfuric acid, tortured his wife to death (over alleged infidelity) by applying the acids to her pubic area.   His crime was held to be of the “mental” variety, thus he was sent to Vacaville.

In Vacaville, Victor had a cellmate who did the photography for the prison on an as-needed basis.  Vic told me that he was awakened one night as the cellmate returned, but rolled over to go back to sleep.  The guy said, “No, don’t go back to sleep.  I got to talk to someone.”  The story he told was about a crime scene … a murder …  for which he had had to take pictures.  A homosexual was a cellmate with a guy who didn’t like homosexuals. In prison, homosexuals were often referred to as “punks”.   The punk had been pestering the other guy for days about fellatio … It was unclear as to whether it was to give or to receive.  The cellmate finally said something like, “Alright, I’ll do it but I don’t want your hands all over me.”   So, the punk agreed to be tied up with whatever was available for tying.  Once the punk was rendered helpless, the cellmate produced a sharp object of some sort and, cutting through the abdominal wall, proceeded to remove the intestines and string them around the cell.  The punk must have been dead by the time the scene was discovered by guards.  Vic’s cellmate had to record it all with a camera.

Vic explained the origins of the use of the term “punk” to refer to homosexuals.  In the early days of the British Admiralty, the captain of a ship had a cabin boy for whom the various duties included the sexual pleasure of the captain.  Women were considered bad luck at sea and were therefor banned from being on board when a ship was under way.  The cabin boy did have a battle service to perform when the cannons were to be fired.  The cannons, once they were loaded with powder, wadding and shot, were lit by a fuse.  The long stick with a smoldering tip was known as a punk.  A smaller version is commonly used to touch off fireworks.  When, during battle, a fuse needed to be lit, the cannon crew would call out, “punk”, and the cabin boy would run the that crew carrying the lit punk.  Therefore, the young boy whose main purpose was to give sexual release to the captain, was called a punk.

One day, I noticed that several of the tubes of oil paint in Vic’s box of painting supplies were in old toothpaste tubes.  At vacaville, used tubes of toothpaste had value, he explained.  They could be traded for cigarettes (the common currency in prisons), and anyone who wanted to paint would eventually have to trade some cigarettes for some empty toothpaste tubes to accommodate several colors.   The whole “prisoner art show phenomenon began at Vacaville Medical Facility with Raymond Rowley King.  Ray was a uniquely talented artist who had taught two other prisoners something about painting techniques.  The two were Victor Heady and Joe Ullery.  The notion that painting could be a form of therapy for prisoners had gained some traction in the California State Legislature, and $50,000 was voted to fund the materials such as canvas, brushes, turpentine and oil paint, which was purchases mainly in one pound cans. A few tubes of various colors were distributed to the interested few.  From that initial supply of paint, the three began to create some interesting works and to attract the notice of other prisoners.  Though King gave lessons to those two alone, they, in turn, showed others some of the rudiments of painting.  Soon the demands for paint outstripped the availability of tubes.  What tubes and cans of paint were left were inventoried.  The prisoner in charge of the supply room had been given instruction to not give out any more of those supplies.  The administration had spent a few hundred dollars on the initial supplies and were able to use the balance of the money for other projects.  If anyone asked how the supply of paint was holding up, they could point to the inventory list and aver that the initial supply had not yet been used up.

What did not show up on the inventory sheets was that the paint inside the cans was diminishing.  The supply room manager would take in an empty toothpaste tube, fill it with Burnt Umber or Cadmium Red or whatever was asked for, and give the tube back in trade for the common currency … cigarettes.

At some point the facility administrator,  a psychiatrist named Dr. William Keating, was talking to King about the popularity of painting among the prisoners and said “we should have a prison art show, or words to that effect.  Shortly, King had organized an art exhibit and was ready to go with it.  When Keating found out about it, he could hardly say “no”.  The show, in which many of King’s paintings sold, proved to be an immense success and led to other shows.  That meant that more prisoners were attracted to the arts.  Many of them also suddenly developed a keen interest in oral hygiene.

Another painting has emerged from some hiding place and shown up on the Internet.  Its title is Ship at Sea.

Ship at Sea by Victor Heady

It appears to have been sold at auction somewhere in the San Francisco Bay area.

Yet another painting has emerged from the shadows.

Moonlight on a San Francisco Street by Victor Heady Oil on Masonite 24 by 36 inches

It is titled Moonlight on a San Francisco Street.  The dimensions of this oil on board are 24 inches high by 36 inches wide.  Note the signature in the lower right-hand corner.  The shapes in this are rather whimsical.  Buildings and the moon are outlined in black cartoon style.  Elements of Raymond Rowley King may be found, such as the light from inside of stores illuminating the sidewalks.  It may have been inspired by King’s Six P. M., Post Street.  The hammer price for this painting was $325 on March 16, 2012.

I have had recent contact with one of Victor’s sons, Sani Heady, who was able to fill me in on some details about his father’s life since the late 1960s. After Vic graduated from U.C. Davis, he found employment through Dr. Keating.  He was employed in a position of teaching art to troubled youths.

New works have come to my attention as of June 14, 2012.  An individual has been gracious enough to send me pictures of works from his collection.  The first piece depicts a storefront (perhaps in San Francisco) with an awning deployed over the sidewalk. light is coming through the window an fairlky floods out of the open door.  Night Scene by Victor Heady 1966

The signature indicates that it was done in 1966, a year in which Vic often spent time in San Francisco.  The work titled “Peaked-roof Houses” also pays honor to the architecture to be found throughout the San Francisco Bay area.

Peak Roofed Houses by Victor Heady
Peak Roofed Houses by Victor Heady

I think of them as being “high-water houses”.  It is common, in areas prone to flooding, to build houses with an above-ground basement, the first floor being six to ten feet (or more) off of the ground level.

Pond Flowers represents an odd positioning of a floral arrangement with the addion of some aquatic life.

Pond Flowers by Victor Heady
Pond Flowers by Victor Heady

Victor knew a painter named Warren Parker.  Warren signed his paintings, “VAPI”.  Translation: Variegated And Pointillistic Impressionism.  One painting that VAPI offered through the VIDO Gallery was a work that seemed to depict an aquatic scene that was similar to this in presentation.

Red Flowers is another floral still life.

Red Flowers by Victor Heady
Red Flowers by Victor Heady

In this, Victor has gone beyond the cliche using ugly vases filled with beautiful red flowers, and includes a dead bud that has fallen below his signature.

Roses shows the extreme from Red Flowers in that these roses seem almost moribund.

Roses by Victor Heady
Roses by Victor Heady

Here the grass seems to compete with the rosebush for the air, which seems almost to be smog.

Rolling Hills is of a scene common in central California.  Foothills have commonly been grazing area for cattle.  An occasional farm structure can be seen on broad expanses of grasslands.

Rolling Hills by Victor Heady
Rolling Hills by Victor Heady

Here, a town seems to be featured in the middle foreground.  Power lines stretch across the scene to bring needed electricity.  On the left may be the edges of a band of oak trees.  A storm approaches.