Growth and Development

When I began my career as a graphic designer and an art director I had very little education as to processes, procedures, skills or ultimate objectives of either field. Except for a skill in drawing and drafting, the use of a straightedge and minimum skills with an airbrush, I was completely ignorant of the basic tools, materials and abilities used by designers and art directors in performing their tasks.
So as I began working on brochures and pamphlets, I had to learn many of terms and skills from those around me. Since I worked as the ONLY artist in the marketing firm for a while, I made many mistakes and took many missteps. My main instructor or advisor was the in-house person in charge of printing the books and documents of the researchers along with information from design magazines and people I met from other companies.

The one tool that I used well was a recently developed pen, the Rapidograph, developed in 1953, that had replaced the ruling pen in both the graphic and engineering industries. My mother had been using a Rapidograph for many years, so I was familiar with the tool when I began using it for technical drawings at Clifton Precision.

Rapidographs are made with a wire inserted in a small tube that uses India ink or other coloring fluid to create perfectly even lines without blobbing. They may be used with a straightedge, triangle, compass or template to create straight lines, circles, ellipses or curves. Manufactured in varying widths, a set of pens can produce lines of varying widths. Fortunately for me, the tool was primary to both my job as a draftsman and that of designer.

My knowledge of my mother's illustrative work for the department stores also made me aware of the Rapidograph as a neat and responsive tool for illustration.

As I began on my new career, I gravitated mostly to an illustrative style that segued my abilities for engineering drawings into the design of logos and graphic visuals. My job permitted me to purchase any art supplies and manuals I needed for my job, including design and illustration publications. Within the context of my job, I experimented with various medium, blending skills yet perfected with those already in my repertoire.

A few of my favorite illustrators of the time were Alan Cober, Saul Bass and Jim Spanfeller who worked primarily in black and white, and used the Rapidograph pen as their tool of choice. I also admired the etchings and engravings of artists and illustrators past and present, including the talented men I had watched work at the American Bank Note Company.

I was not yet a professional in my trade, even after working in it for some time, but I experimented with various methods of cross hatching and stippling until I came upon what I considered a style. Having a style or styles is essential to an artist or illustrator. It is how people identify your work and remember it. A style can vary, and it can evolve, but to become successful, and artist must hone down the skills and approaches to his or her work so that it is set apart from the masses. A style may be reminiscent of another artist's style, but contain signature elements that place an artists in a genre or category, but are specific to the individual.

While on the job, I had opportunities to experiment and finally came up with a pen & ink drawing that would set my artistic course for several years, and be included in my artistic repertoire for nearly two decades.

Album Leaves - pen & ink on Strathmore board – 23" x 29"
One such drawing, Album Leaves, was my most ambitious work. It was based on Victorian subjects and brought together aspects of rural life. During this period, people performed unusual stunts such as going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. The cyclist was placed for both fun and a way of connecting together the two sides of the drawing.

Another piece, Time Was, depicted Hollywood, the movies of the thirties. It played California architecture and stage sets and featured celebrities of the period including Shirley Temple and Bill "Bo Jangles" Robinson, Edward G. Robinson, the Tommy Dorsey Band, and a cartoon couple of the famous comic illustrator John Held.

Family Portrait - pen & ink on Strathmore board -19" x 30"
 Other works took on the art world, religion, science and World War II. Family Portrait includes my aunt, grandmother, mother, and father on the stage of a World War II fantasy. My mother, seated, understood little of what was really going on overseas. My father is pictured twice (he's the one with the girl as well as center top). My grandmother worked in a war factory. The contrasts of war fascinated me, as did the photos from my parents albums.

In Counterpoint I added a story to my art about the mysterious death of a wealthy woman in the 1920s, and what happened to her own daughter following her death.  F. Scott Fitzgerald and Beatrice Lilly are featured along with the art of Georgio de Chirico. What happens in the story is never fully explained. I intended the viewer to add to the  underlying theme which complemented the pictures; thus, the name “Counterpoint”.

Black Nativity - pen & ink
on Strathmore board -
18 x 14"
Counterpoint -
pen & ink and Letraset type on board - 24" x 36"
Black Nativity is set in the depression era in the south. This drawing was inspired by a Christmas creche complete with pealing sign, the bride Mary, husband Joseph, a shepherd boy, and a star promoting the inn where they were staying. The Ben Shahn painting of the famous Sacco-Vanzetti trial appears above the doorway.

 Religion Freedom depicts religion as  a circus. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s religious zealots roamed the country spreading their own forms of Christianity. In this work, I paralleled religion with vaudeville. Al Jolson, Ed Wynn, and P.T. Barnum appear on stage with the likes of Amy Semple McPherson and Father Divine.

Religious Freedom 19"x 28"
Looking back 40 years on many of these drawings, I see themes that I've repeated in recent times. The Movies and Music of Hollywood, a series of 12 paintings completed in 2015 explored movies and composers of the 20th century, and Social Conflicts in America, a series of 6 paintings finished the same year titled Religious Freedom includes a panel featuring the Bill of Rights, God and Adam, the Koran and Buddha along with James Madison (composer of the Bill). In 2013, in a series titled New York in the 1930s, I repeated another element from my  Religious Freedom drawing from the '70s in bringing back Father Divine in the backseat of his car overprinted with words from an article about the sexual restrictions he placed on his followers in the 1930s.

I also see in these drawings and many of my paintings since, the ties I have to my father's art that blended stories and art and common themes of characters and situations.

Click to Chapter 7: Transition