The One Ad Guy Fit For A King

Not every adman has a royal patron.

Joe Petruccio counts Elvis Presley as his chief muse and benefactor. The group ecd at Avrett Free Ginsberg in New York has painted more than 200 portraits of the King and last year was named the only officially licensed artist to Graceland. Petruccio, 45, who in the ’70s donned a black leather suit as an Elvis impersonator, got the gig after he posted some of his work to an Elvis-memorabilia collector’s Web site and fans contacted Graceland wanting to buy it.

“I try to give some vitality and breathe new life into Elvis, because we see the same pictures of him over and over again,” Petruccio says. One such portrait, titled U.S. Male, shows a young Elvis dressed as a cowboy and leaning on a Cadillac. In general, Petruccio finds rock stars—he also loves Jim Morrison of the Doors and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin—a bit more exciting that still lifes or landscapes. “I don’t like painting pictures of flowers or houses near lakes,” he says bluntly.

Petruccio is about to get a much bigger audience. His painting Memphis Son—which depicts Elvis’ first session at Sun Studios in Memphis, Tenn., 50 years ago this month—appears on the hood of an Elvis-themed car of Nascar driver Bill Elliott. (Elliott will compete in the special Sam’s Town “He Dared to Rock” 250 in Memphis on Oct. 23.)

Petruccio’s medium of choice? Acrylic. He has yet to dabble in Elvis’ unofficial signature medium, velvet.