Radio Favorites – Art Bell and his Many Shows

Often when I draw, I’m also talking with the family, listening to my oldest make up stories, or absorbing the kids’ show-of-the-moment in the background. When those things aren’t happening, especially weekends after everyone has gone to bed, I find one of my favorite “old” radio shows to listen to as I sketch. I’ve got two in the rotation, both of which unfortunately no longer broadcast new shows. I decided to dedicate a post to each show, along with a drawing of the host(s).

From the high desert in the great American Southwest, I bid you all good evening or good morning, wherever you may be across this great land of ours and beyond...”

My first radio favorite, and subject of this post, is Art Bell. Art has had several shows over the course of a couple decades, including Coast to Coast AM, Dreamland, Dark Matter, and Midnight in the Desert. All of the shows from the mid-90s until his retirement in 2016 had a common theme; discussion of the paranormal, UFOs, and other off-beat or bizarre topics. Art wasn’t afraid to have some of the most off-the-wall theories, guests, and callers on the air, which made for some incredibly entertaining radio. Some of my personal favorites were shows about “shadow people”, lizard men, and time travelers.

I first listened to Art Bell when I was in high school; I tuned in occasionally when I was playing video games or drawing. I have fond memories of listening, even though a few of the shows freaked me out a bit when my young imagination got carried away. Fast forward to the present, and I still get a kick out of sitting back and sketching away while listening to Art field calls or interview someone. For the record, I am a skeptic regarding pretty much everything on the show…but it’s fun to imagine if these things were true. Also, I didn’t really like when guests were too obvious, and clearly there to sell something (hint: it’s okay to say “I’m not sure” sometimes…you shouldn’t have 100% certainty no matter the question).

I’ve included a couple samples below. One was from a show about shadow people, which was among the creepiest I ever heard, and another is an example of his interview style.

Art’s shows became very popular in large part (in my opinion) because of his demeanor and approach. He’s said that he didn’t always necessarily accept every guest’s claim, but that he wanted to offer a forum where they weren’t automatically ridiculed. He had a very calm and patient approach to hosting, and combined with his recognizable voice, gave the show a grounded feeling, despite the often wild topics. From my perspective, another important aspect was that Art didn’t make his show about politics; talk radio has long been over-saturated with political talk, but his shows kept that to a minimum.

So, on to the sketch. Here’s my portrait of Art Bell:

This is based on one of the covers of his autobiography called The Art of Talk (1996). I think it turned out pretty well overall; this definitely looks like Art from those earlier Coast to Coast days. I really like how the face, arms, and hands turned out. The shirt is another story though. I almost feel like I should have left it white, even though Art was often wearing black in photos I’ve seen. The dark shirt may be a little distracting from the main focus of the face. Unfortunately, I didn’t take enough photos to do a progression .gif this time.

Well, that’s all for my little tribute to Art Bell and his paranormal, supernatural shows. I wish he was still on the air, but I’m glad I was able to enjoy it while he was in his radio prime. If you want to know more about Art, you can check out his most recent show’s website or His original show, Coast to Coast AM, is still on…but it’s hosted by the incredibly boring and highly political George Noory. I think they do, however, sometimes play old Art Bell shows on the weekends (I think they call it Somewhere in Time with Art Bell).

Update #1

13 days after I posted this tribute to Art Bell, the legendary broadcaster passed away at his home in Nevada. Although he wasn’t doing new shows anymore, a part of me always hoped for another return to radio, even if it only lasted briefly. Sadly, Friday the 13th marked the end of his journey. Condolences to Art’s family, and a final posthumous thank you to him for all the great entertainment he provided over the years.

To the high desert and the great American Southwest, good night to you Art Bell.

Update #2

Three years after Art Bell’s passing, I’ve been thinking a lot about his legacy and the state of the topics he popularized, particularly when it comes to the conspiracy theory type content in light of everything that’s going on the U.S. lately. It seems the fringe topics Art used to cover have morphed into something heavily integrated with politics, which is exactly what I didn’t want to see. The partisan issues and guests were by far my least favorite when Art Bell was broadcasting; I preferred the shows that covered things in the paranormal and sci-fi realms. These fantastical, imagination-driven topics were great in isolation, but now it’s almost impossible to separate them from politicsโ€ฆwhich is incredibly sad to me. The next evolution from Coast to Coast AM apparently became groups and people more than happy to take you partisan political roads with dangerous, inflammatory rhetoric. At least, if you want to hear wild stories that Art used to cover, those are the paths you have to take.

Unfortunately, the current state of things has made it hard to listen to old Art Bell shows for entertainment anymore. It just makes me think about how dangerous conspiracy theories can become. In my off time, I want escapism. I don’t want to listen or watch things designed to agitate me. I hope someday, this changes and becomes something silly and entertaining again. More X-Files and Stargate, rather than whatever this current situation is. Obviously, I didn’t know Art Bell and only listened to his shows, but he was always a critical thinker and willing to call anything into question. I’m not sure he would have been comfortable with the way this has all evolved.


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  • Sad to see that Art Bell passed away yesterday (Friday the 13th, strangely enough). Rest in peace Art, and condolences to his family. The radio world certainly lost one of the greats.

  • Oops, sorry. Posted from phone resulted in double!

  • I don’t think we have. Then again, I have not been following the scene for a few years on that. Some are far too, is the English word, monotone? I need a little passion to get hooked on listening. It’s contagious ๐Ÿ™‚

    I think the expression in yours is amazing, and could easily be on a cover.

  • Thanks for the response, it reminded me to check back here ๐Ÿ™‚ I had the chance to look up the cover you mentioned. He should have bought this drawing of yours instead ๐Ÿ™‚ I guess I missed out on alot, not being an American, living in Denmark under my own little rock! Thank you for widening the horison a tad ๐Ÿ™‚

    • I’m glad you found it interesting! Do you have any similar shows in Denmark? I’ve come across a couple aside from Art Bell here, but none as entertaining as his.

      Also, thank you for saying so about the cover – I mean, mine isn’t amazing, but that cover with him standing outside, wearing a suit, and smoking? I do think I’ve got that one beat

      • I don’t think we have. Then again, I have not been following the scene for a few years on that. Some are far too, is the English word, monotone? I need a little passion to get hooked on listening. It’s contagious ๐Ÿ™‚

        I think the expression in yours is amazing, and could easily be on a cover.

      • Oops, sorry about that Alunaria – I thought I already responded to this one. It sure doesn’t look like I did!

        Yes, that’s true about some radio shows. They get a little bit monotonous, and it can probably lose people’s attention. I guess that’s why radio as a whole isn’t exactly a booming business nowadays? Sadly, even the good shows like the two I used to enjoy aren’t even on anymore.

  • Oh, my. Very nice and alive sketch there ๐Ÿ™‚

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  • That was interesting, I’m not really familiar with Art Bell although I’ve heard him mentioned from time to time. I listened to the excerpts you uploaded and I can see why he was popular. Anyway, nice sketch – I like your idea of animating your progress.

    • It’s definitely an interesting show! And I get the feeling that Art Bell had many types of listeners. I’m sure that a lot were true believers in the paranormal, supernatural, and conspiracy theories. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were quite a few listeners who tuned in for entertainment purposes like I did. The same reasons people watched the X-Files back in the day; to imagine “what if” for a couple hours, be a little spooked by strange stories, and be entertained by something wild that you don’t normally hear about.

      If you’re ever interested in listening to full shows, I know they’re all over YouTube and various fan sites. Since Art was on the air for like 15 years, there’s also a wide range of topics to choose from. Even some from mainstream people! George Carlin was on once, and he’s had legit scientists like Michio Kaku and Neil Degrasse Tyson.

  • Interesting post and great portrait – yes, the foreshortening and arms/hands are good! I’m wondering if you’d enjoy using another medium to colour larger areas like clothes. I sometimes use pan pastels with a small sponge to add colour – it goes on fast and smooth – then I just shade in the creases/folds with a pencil.

    • Thank you! You know, I really should try that sometime. When I get into adding color to something dark like a shirt, I think it takes away from the drawing a bit. Plus, shirts are huge and they eat up a ton of pencil! I would probably really like something smoother and easier to apply. So, pastels are your medium of choice when you’re going for large areas? Do you find the look is pretty compatible with the rest of your pieces?

      • The pastel sticks aren’t really compatible, but the pans might be. I’ve been finding they’re pretty subtle and versatile. (I just bought a single colour about a year ago and have been experimenting with using it to colour backgrounds):

      • Just so I can get a feel for how it looks, have you used either the sticks or pans in any of the recent art on your site? The post “The Parts I Like” says it has some, but I have an untrained eye for mediums other than pencil. Does “Impolite Society” use pastels on the clothing?

      • For some reason, I can’t find the end of this thread so hope this reply finds its way to the right place! So as far as using pan pastels – yes, I used them for the backgrounds in some of the “Parts I like” paintings (then added paint and drew over or shaded the images with pencil and charcoal… probably too mixed media to be helpful as an example …since I can’t send attachments, I just did a quick pencil/pan pastel sketch and posted it to my blog so you see what I mean (keeping in mind that my technique is pretty basic – I just dab in the pastel pot and wipe on). I also erased part of the pan pastel for highlights … just fyi.

      • Yep, it landed in the right place!

        Wow, I’m always really impressed when people can successfully mix mediums like that. Paint + Pastel + Pencil + Charcoal, that’s a ton of different nuances to account for, but it worked out well. I saw the demo you posted – thank you for that! I replied to it on your site.

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