WPA History




The first idea of a Whiskey Painting came into existence during the late 1950’s in a New York bar. It all began on a whimsical note by artist Joe Ferriot, a successful businessman from Akron, Ohio. Ferriot was the owner and president of a local plastics manufacturing company, the same company that created the John Pike palette. Having to travel extensively, he always managed to mix business with pleasure. In order to accommodate his yearning desire to paint, he always carried a number of 4 x 5 inch sheets of watercolor paper with him during his business trips. These small sheets of paper were specifically designed to fit easily within his coat or shirt pocket. Being very innovative, he also carried a miniature palette that he constructed from a tin Anacin box, fashioned with small strips of plastic to help separate his different watercolor paints. He also fashioned a small folding brush that created a final touch to his painting paraphernalia. Interestingly, it was in that New York bar that Ferriot met with John Pike and eventually proceeded to dip his brush into his martini to create one of his infamous whiskey paintings. Taking note of Pike’s fascination, Ferriot invited him to also pursue a miniature whiskey painting. Before parting, the two of them exchanged paintings and thus the idea of “Whiskey Painting” was born.


During this same time frame, the Akron Society of Artists was recognized as one of the oldest and most active art societies in America. Each year they would host an elaborate dinner banquet at the famous Tangiers Restaurant featuring a demonstration presented by a nationally recognized artist. It was during one of these coat and tie banquets in 1962 that the original 14 Charter Members of the WPA met and developed their bylaws and officially elected Ferriot to serve as their first president. Ferriot felt it was only fitting to design and create a small palette for his fellow WPA members. Even today, all accepted members receive a similar WPA palette and brush in addition to an official membership certificate and booklet that outlines the bylaws and governing rules. Since 1962, the WPA has had seven presiding presidents: Joe Ferriot (1962 –1972), A.H. Don Settle (1972 –1980), Louie Mong (1980 – 1988), Leroy “Tony” Cross (1988 – 2003), Jack Mulhollen (2003 – 2016), Ron Beahn (2016 – 2022), Terry Milk (2022-  ).


In regards to becoming a member, it is an understood rule that all applicants must be personally invited by an active, bona-fide WPA member to apply for membership. In recent years, it has been highly encouraged by the review committee that all WPA members try to maintain a limit of only two different sponsorships. Each applicant must submit a membership fee, a biography, and two miniature paintings that are no larger than 4 x 5 inches. If accepted, one of the two paintings is placed in the permanent collection of the WPA and the other is given to the sponsoring member. It is an unwritten rule yet a customary practice that the sponsoring member will then create a WPA painting for the newly accepted member. The membership committee continues to change but always remains anonymous.


The WPA has maintained a limited membership of 150 members, although throughout the history of the WPA, there have been over 240 members inducted into the organization. Interestingly, this elite group of artists represents 32 different states as well as Canada and Mexico. Some of the late, recognized WPA members include: Rex Brandt, Franklin Jones, Marc Moon, Robert Eric Moore, John Pellew, John Pike, Paul Strisik, Valfred Thelin, Edgar Whitney in addition to many other past, noteworthy artists from across the nation.


Graff received his WPA membership status in 1978.