Rick Fortson lives a long way from Hollywood, but he still gets the opportunity to hobnob with some of his favorite TV stars. Fortson has spent hours crafting lifelike pencil drawings of his favorite celebrities, including a number stars of AMC’s Breaking Bad.
“I’m not looking for fame or money,” Fortson tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Since Breaking Bad is one of my all-time favorite shows, it’s fun to pay tribute.”
The stirring drawings have become fan letters of sorts, with Fortson contacting actors through Twitter as well as their representatives to get the artwork in their hands.
“I drew my first Breaking Bad right after season three or so,” says Fortson, who works as a real estate agent in the Chicago area. Not long after, he ran into Aaron Paul at a small concert Fortson’s son was playing at the Hard Rock Cafe.
“My daughter said, ‘Hey there’s that Jesse Pinkman guy sitting over there.' ” Fortson introduced himself and got to talk to Paul for a bit. Fortson eventually got Paul his portrait through the mail, and was rewarded with a picture of the actor holding it up. He's kept in touch, and was contacted by Paul's sister before Christmas with a request for a portrait to give to their parents, which he obliged.
Dean Norris, who plays DEA agent Hank Schrader, uses Fortson’s portrait of him as his Twitter profile picture, and recently tweeted a photo of himself holding the drawing.
Fortson's portraits take him about 15 hours to complete, and have given him some notoriety online. But since it’s not possible to profit from the likeness of a celebrity without their permission, he’s mostly sticking to drawing for fun and to honor his favorite stars.
“If I ever see an ad on Monster.com for a job drawing celebrities with a salary and a pension, I’ll take that,” he jokes. Mostly, he enjoys being “paid” by having Breaking Bad stars follow him on Twitter.
He counts among his followers Paul, Max Arciniega (Krazy 8), Charles Baker (Skinny Pete) and Giancarlo Esposito (Gus Fring). He also received a note and gift bag from creator Vince Gilligan, who wrote he was “blown away” by Fortson’s talent.
In addition to the Twitter love, Fortson's drawings have led to a teaching gig at a local college and some freelance work.
What's next? Fortson is still hoping for a Twitter follow back from Norris, and would love to draw Gilligan on set.