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Trump commissioned a graphite pencil portrait from a Navy vet that took 200 hours - then claimed he didn’t order it. “It was devastating,” said artist John D. Herz. HOW his work later appeared on “Celebrity Apprentice”

There have been articles about the pain felt by small businesses and craftsmen because Donald Trump’s Organization was slow to pay and at times refused to ante up full price for products and services already delivered – apparently a part of his famously hard nosed approach to business.

Artist John D. Herz’s story is a little different. He did the commissioned work but at the last minute Trump refused to accept delivery, claiming he never ordered it.

So Herz still owns the 32-inch by 40-inch portrait done in black and white with a graphite pencil over a period of more than 200 hours of intense work (seen above with the artist).

in another twist in this tale, in 2015 Herz loaned it out at the request of actor Ian Ziering to decorate the set on the Trump-hosted NBC show, Celebrity Apprentice. It was seen on air without credit to the artist because that would be considered promotional.

Trump refused to give any reason for his dismissal of the picture he had ordered. It was a stunning reversal for the Navy veteran, New York artist and photographer, who saw a sale to Trump as a career move.

Herz said: “At the time I’d been into the art world for a few years and was trying to make it. I thought this was my big break, because once you get into the collection of one big businessman, he tells his friends. Or they see it and the next thing you know, you’re doing art work for these wealthy people.”

This happened in 2012. “I couldn’t afford to sue him,” said Herz. “I dropped it and said, ‘that’s a lesson I learned. From now on even if my best friend asked me to do a commission, I am getting half upfront.’”

Why didn’t Herz get a signed contract and half the commission upfront, which is his usual policy? “I didn’t ask him for a deposit because he is Donald Trump,” said Herz.

So why come forward now? “I’m getting nervous this guy could actually be President,” said Herz. “He’s scaring the crap out of me. He has screwed so many businessmen, so I thought let’s see what the public thinks after hearing how he screwed an artist.

“This is not about trying to sell art,” added Herz. “In my mind, this is about stopping him from being the president.”


Even after Trump entered the primary races, Herz sat on his anger.

The trigger to go public came in early September. A story broke in the Washington Post about a six-foot-tall portrait of Trump that the billionaire and his wife had purchased for $20,000 in 2007 at a charity event held at his Mar A Lago property in Florida.

It has become controversial because the bill for that artwork was paid by Trump’s charitable foundation, which is improper under IRS rules unless he donated it to another non-profit. He apparently did not. It was discovered still hanging in Mar a Lago recently.

“After seeing what they bought,” said Herz, “and hearing all these other things that he was doing, I said I have to tell my story.”

So here is John Herz’s story.


Now 68, Herz was born in Trenton, New Jersey, and after two years of college joined the U.S. Navy for four years.

Starting in 1968, Herz served two years as a third class petty officer on the huge carrier the USS John F. Kennedy, carrying 110 aircraft on its maiden voyage. It sailed all over the Mediterranean, stopping in ports like Cannes, Naples, Barcelona and Athens.

“In every port it was a celebration,” recalled Herz, “because it was the John F. Kennedy. Everybody in Europe loved it.”

He returned home and pursued various entrepreneurial endeavors including a business selling tickets to live cultural and sporting events. But that hit a wall around 2007 with the global recession when his trade dried up.

Later that year, on his 58th birthday, his longtime lady friend took him to an art store to remind Herz of his childhood love of art.

“’You haven’t drawn since you’ve lived in New York with me,’” she told him. “’Why don’t you start to draw again?’ And I did. I started to draw and it was like nothing I had ever done in my life.”

To make it even more challenging to succeed, Herz chose to do his works in black and white using what is essentially a number two pencil. He photographs his subject and then does the intricate hand drawing, which takes him many hours of careful labor.

He has done portraits for individuals and commercial work for companies. One of his drawings of a school bus was used with prints made for holiday gifts. He created works for Johnny Rockets restaurants to put on t-shirts, and did an original piece for the Mohegan Sun casino in Connecticut that was a scene out of the tribe’s history.

John D. Herz with one of his works on display at the Trenton City Museum, Summer 2016

More info on his website


In early 2012, Herz was invited by a potential agent to go with him and show his work to the pro at the Trump 36-hole National Golf Course in Bedminster, New Jersey. Trump has a home there, and it was the site of the 2009 wedding of his daughter Ivanka Trump and real estate developer and publisher Jared Kushner.

“The golf pro saw my work and decided to bring Trump in when he got there,” recalled Herz. “He was there to play golf.”

Trump arrived and was immediately impressed. “He said, ‘I’d like to commission you,” said Herz. “And my response was, ‘Who would you like me to draw? Your wife? Your new child?’ And he went, ‘No, no, no! I want you to draw me.’ So I said great and left,” not thinking I would ever hear from him again.”

“His assistant called a few days later,” said Herz, “saying Mr. Trump wants to commission you.”

She asked what he charged. Herz told her the portrait would cost $7,000, but he would cut his price in half to $3,500 if he was allowed to personally present it to Trump in front of a video camera for his promotional use. The assistant checked and said that would be fine.

The assistant provided two photos Trump liked, and told Herz to chose the one he wanted as his model.

When he was finished, Herz again contacted Trump’s assistant and an appointment was set up for the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend of 2012. Herz and his agent had arranged for a camera crew to meet them at the Trump Organization offices on Fifth Avenue in what else, the Trump Tower.


Herz was about halfway to New York City, with the finished portrait in his car, traveling from his home in Woodbury, New York (Long Island) when the cell phone rang. “His assistant said Mr. Trump did not get back from Florida,” said Herz, “and he would like to reschedule. I was a little disappointed but didn’t think too much about it.”

At one point a Trump accountant called him to ask how to make out the check for the artwork. However, over the next few weeks when Herz and his agent tried to reset the appointment there was never a time.

“Finally the answer was Mr. Trump never commissioned it,” recalled Herz, “and if you don’t like it, sue.”

About a year later Herz’s next door neighbor brought over a friend of his who was visiting, Larry Glick, who is a top executive at The Trump Organization.

“He looked at it and said, ‘this is the best piece of art I’ve ever seen of him,” remembered Herz. “’I will tell Donald tomorrow.’”

After Glick sent a message that there was nothing he could do, Herz called him: “He said, ‘I can’t do anything. Trump said he didn’t commission you and doesn’t want to see it. So I dropped it again.”

“Here I am out in the cold because Donald has screwed me like everybody else,” said Herz, adding: “It really was devastating.”

One of Herz's portraits of a homeless person, the works for which is best known


Herz has filled some of his time as a passionate advocate for veterans, especially the many homeless in New York City. He does photographic character studies of homeless vets and then turns them into graphite works of art.

“My passion is to help those less fortunate,” said Herz.

The Trenton City Museum in his hometown, however, has been enthused about Herz’s work. This summer as part of an exhibit built around Paul Robson, the actor, athlete, singer and civil rights advocate, three of his works were accepted and displayed. “One was in a place of honor in the museum when you walk in,” said Herz, “ my piece just hits you in the face.”

Herz portrait of Trump is displayed on The Celebrity Apprentice in January 2015



Ian Ziering, who came to fame on the TV show Beverly Hills 90210, was a friend of Herz’s girlfriend. In January 2015, he appeared on The Celebrity Apprentice.

Ziering’s group of Apprentices was tasked to re-design the lobby of Trump’s Doral hotel in Florida. “Ian thought it would be great to have Trump’s image in there,” said Herz, “and he loved my drawing enough that he called me up and asked for a digital copy so they could make a print and put it up in the show and that’s what they did.”

If Ziering had said on air Herz was the artist, NBC was going to charge him thousands of dollars in promotional fees. So the four or five times it appeared, there was no mention of the artist. Zierling did post that Herz was the artist on an NBC blog during that time.

Efforts to get a comment from Trump were unsuccessful and Larry Glick did not return calls seeking comment.

“If he had seen my work and said, ‘I hate it! Get out of my office,’ I would have said O.K., at least he got to see it. That’s what I kept saying to his assistant: ‘Just ask him to take two minutes out of his time to look at it and if he doesn’t like it, he can tell me to leave and I’ll leave.’ But he never would even look at it.”

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