He was a well-known cartoonist, writer, songwriter, musician and entrepreneur.
His restless artistic endeavors seemed to extend beyond the limits of a lifetime. With respect to the early days of surf culture, Dormer was considered a pioneer of the surf lifestyle and the king of surf cartoons. His 1960s Surfer magazine character “Hot Curl” remains the mascot of the La Jolla High School surf team today.
Dormer is survived by his wife, Florence “Flicka,” and son Zachary Dormer. He also leaves behind a grandson, Nicholas; and granddaughter, Jennifer Dormer.
Dormer was born in Hollywood in 1935 into a family of writers and musicians.
Recognizing his talent at an early age, he was enrolled in a ceramics and sculpture school at the age of five. At age 12, Dormer won the first of many national art awards. At 15, Dormer expanded his artistic talents by playing the guitar in a jazz quintet while writing and arranging music on the side.
Dormer continued his young life as a freelance illustrator and cartoonist for a number of national men’s magazines. He expanded his artistic talent into political cartoons for a number of San Diego newspapers and magazines. At age 20, Dormer went on the road, financing his expeditions by painting barroom murals and playing the piano in saloons.
After spending several years exploring various areas of the country that were considered to be more artistically enlightened, Dormer settled in Ocean Beach. At one point, his writing and drawing talents became known in Hollywood. Dormer was soon commuting to Los Angeles to work in the motion picture, radio, and television industries.
In 1963, Dormer and close friend Lee Teacher sculpted a large, concrete statue that suddenly appeared one morning on the rocks overlooking Windansea beach in La Jolla. The statue was given the name “Hot Curl” because it gazed over the water, looking for the perfect wave while holding a can of beer.
“Hot Curl” soon became a star, appearing in several Hollywood surf movies. The mop-haired, pot-bellied, cartoon character quickly became a nationwide sensation, appearing in comics and surf magazines all over the country.
Dormer and Teacher also created a famous TV character in the 1960s named “Shrimpenstein” that aired in a children’s daily television show. “Shrimpenstein” was a weird and wacky miniature of a Frankenstein monster that had a huge following among young and old.
Dormer and his second wife, Flicka, moved to Venice, Italy in the early 1970s. Flicka Dormer was a historical researcher who had contracted with Italian scientists to work on an early storm-warning system for the country. While living in Italy, Mike Dormer became involved with early experiments in holographic photography that would assist in restoring famous Italian art.
In the end, Dormer began to concentrate less on commercial art and more on fine art. In the last years of his life, he spent the majority of his time working with aluminum and creating sculptural paintings.
Dormer was an extremely talented, but restless artist. He was constantly being pulled in different directions to satisfy his thirst for expression. His energy and creativity as a professional artist will doubtless be noted by future historians.