Where I Came From and How I Got Here
I grew up in Michigan in the 50s. A car town where a good many of its people worked for General Motors in some capacity, the city of Pontiac had little to offer a kid who wanted to be an artist. Heading out to California in the early 60s to attend art school was the most frightening adventure I’d ever undertaken, but being among other talented would-be artists from around the world was like finding “my people”. I loved my years in LA at what was then called Art Center School. I spent many an hour sweeping floors after classes, minding the telephone switchboard in the evenings, and eventually doing work for an instructor on commercial assignments as a means of supplementing my meager resources and realizing my ambition.
I was delayed for a couple of years by the draft and arrived in New York with an outdated portfolio of samples. The New York market had moved away from my style of painting – the now defunct Eastern Airlines was the only one interested – so I had to come up with another illustrative style. During the six months I spent building a new portfolio, I survived by doing “comps” or sketches for ad agencies. With the new portfolio came the hiring of an agent, and before long, a flourishing career in illustration. It would be twenty years before I would return to the more traditional painting style that was my first love.
An RCA record album cover featuring the conductor Seiji Ozawa. Done in 1971, the challenge was in determining Ozawa’s current hair length. There was no internet with Google images back then, so it was based on the last known sighting.
One of several covers that I did for TV Guide, this one from October 1975, for The Family Holvak with Glenn Ford and Julie Harris.
Cover art for The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler, 1973,1977. One of my most enduring book covers. Generations of 4th graders had it on their required reading lists. And to my great delight, I was often invited into the classroom to speak about illustration to these young readers, bringing the original artwork with me as well as originals from others areas of illustration. Illustration was a mysterious process for them: they loved touching the finished paintings. Hard to believe that the children I used as models are now nearing 50 and that I used a Polaroid camera to take truly awful reference photos of the armor room at the Metropolitan Museum. Some things have improved.
A pen and ink drawing done for the cover of a New York friend’s collection of poems, The Disappearance of Gargoyles, 1988, by Mary Makofske. Over my years of illustrating, black and white illustration has gone in and out of fashion, but I think black and white can still be a very effective art form.
An early advertising illustration, one of a series introducing a new candy bar called No Jelly. One of the few occasions where I also did all the lettering in the ad. The candy bar was not a success but I enjoyed doing the series.
One of a half dozen bronzes that came out of two classes I took on the lost-wax process of bronze casting. Pouring molten bronze outdoors in the heat of a Texas summer was not my idea of fun, but the process gave me a new appreciation for those who do bronze casting. Certainly a nice change from two-dimensional art where you only create the illusion of a third dimension.
Leaving New York for Austin was intended to be an interim stay. I’d tired of the pressure of meeting deadlines and was looking for change. Teaching seemed like a good alternative and I was soon hired to teach illustration at the University of Texas and painting at Austin Community College. For a few years teaching did indeed keep me busy if not totally satisfied, but it wasn’t long before I returned to painting and exhibiting my work. It was through my Texas friend Byron Fullerton that I discovered New Mexico, and it became a frequent event for the two of us to travel to New Mexico, especially Taos, to paint and photograph the area.
How quickly time passes. It would be twenty four years before we left Texas, mainly due to having a daughter in the school system, a wife as director of an Austin sculpture museum, and easy access to the southwest to paint my pictures. We began revisiting Maine after our daughter left for college and made the move back to the East coast in 2012.