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TODAY   |  June 17, 2013

The Peanuts gang become high art in Louvre exhibit

After befriending Peanuts creator Charles Schulz in 1980, Calif. artist Tom Everhart, with Schulz’s encouragement, began to explore the comic strip on canvas. The Louvre took notice and his work can now be seen in the iconic museum. NBC’s Jamie Gangel reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> back at 8:45, charlie brown , snoopy and the rest of the peanuts gang made us laugh for more than 50 years and now one artist took the characters to a whole new place, including the louvre. jamie has that story. jamie, good morning.

>> good morning, art snobs get ready for the peanuts characters as you have never seen them before.

>> reporter: meet california painter tom everhart who has taken the peanuts comic strip and transformed it into this. pop culture has become pop art . colorful, vibrant, unexpected. the paintings are so popular they have been shown in exhibits around the world, even in paris at the louvre and recently in new york city . but everhart admits he never imagined his career would be linked to snoopy and friends.

>> it was the last thing i expected.

>> because.

>> i had no education in cartooning. even as a child i wasn't interested in cartoons. i was interested in coloring books .

>> reporter: in 1980 he met the peanut's creator charles schulz and the two became fast friends .

>> we did nothing but drawing lines for hours. thin lines, fat lines.

>> is he a good artist?

>> phenomenal.

>> he became so adept at drawing the characters he did commercial projects for schulz and schulz kept encouraging the artist to explore the comic strip in his own work but the painter wasn't ready.

>> you were scared.

>> yes. absolutely scared.

>> then in 1988 everhart was diagnosed with stage four colon and liver county and he had an aidea.

>> i realized what does it matter if the art world excepts what i'm doing. this is for me.

>> reporter: he was intimidated. he would only incorporate iconic things from the strip. first the piano and then woodstocks nest and then lucy's hair do.

>> maybe this is the start of something big.

>> reporter: one day it happened, a character pigpen, finally slipped on to the canvas.

>> what got you over that.

>> him.

>> he pushed you.

>> he kept pushing and pushing. he said come on.

>> what are you scared of?

>> yes, exactly.

>> hundred of paintings later the art still celebrates peanuts but as charles schulz demanded, everhart made the work his own.

>> mr. schulz wanted me to create something in his language but with my own thinking and things from my own life.

>> some are inspired by rap.

>> o.g. dog stands for original gangster dog.

>> reporter: and others inspired by artists like monet. and just as schulz 's writing and humor were critical, everhart 's titles add his unique twist.

>> does this make me look fat. if you look, probably 4 to 500 woodstocks in black and white .

>> do you ever worry anymore about what people think?

>> no, i don't. i actually enjoy it.

>> reporter: and while charles schulz died in 2000 , everhart says he is always looking over his shoulder.

>> what do you think he would say if he was here?

>> he would be smiling. when he came to our studio several times he would say these look like my children. i can't believe i didn't draw these.

>> how much do you miss him?

>> i miss him every day.

>> reporter: and the price tag, not peanuts guys. some of these paintings go for $150,000. it is a real testament to tom that schulz gave him his blessing to use the characters and if you hurry you can still see the paintings for a couple of more days in soho at the gallery in new york but they are gorgeous.

>> you just made one guy very happy. tell them what happened.

>> a few years ago there was an auction at our kid's school and i got one for like $500.

>> and it's in the landing going up to the kid's room.

>> and the code on the alarm at al's house is --

>> wow, good for use.

>> put museum glass on it.

>> what is in yours?

>> it's snoopy but it's very close up and all kinds of geometric shapes around him.

>> so cool.

>> hey guys, that is why al is this morning doing the snoopy dance.