Perhaps I was 12 in the photo shown here? I look thrilled.
How did my dad acquire that shirt for me?
This art aspect of me, where did it begin?
Way back, my ordinary actions of childhood drawing led my parents to a conclusion: Their boy was set to be an artist in life.
Early, from Brooklyn to Jersey, my family and relatives perceived me as a budding “commercial artist.” Case-closed.
I was left to myself most of the time. I attended only standard art classes in public school after arriving in NJ via Brooklyn, New York — I had no extracurricular training.
Drawing was practically the only creative avenue readily available to me. I could do it quietly. It was the activity that best suited my irrepresible energy. Most often it wouldn’t get me in “trouble” My childhood was situated chaotic family home environment.
Looking back, I recognize: all the art I produced when I was younger (after earliest baby/toddler scribbling ) progressively became corrupted, in both spirit and execution owing to my environments. Art became first a personal and spiritual survival and later on a social adaptation mechanism. This was the reality, compared to my family’s wide-arcing, long ball mythos.
“You are going to be a commercial artist when you grow up.”
I found few people who shared an interest in continuing creativity.
A significant person for me of that time was Paul Komoda, who lived a few miles away. I met him in grade school, some time after I arrived in NJ from Brooklyn. He was and continues today to be a particular talent.
My family relocated at several key periods in the 70s and 80s.
Every move I experienced the uncomfortable reset: new school/social situation. Each place it became evident, my interests and disposition. I was the “artistic” type. Sure enough the compromised practices, such as drawing pictures for people and crap like that would inevitably be employed and this behavior would grip me (through public school, summer camp and high school years ) for an embarrassingly long period of time.
The “Commercial Artist” tag/mythology? That would remain active until 1984. At 17 I entered college, studying at the School of Visual Arts in New York. After that, life changed and my unique path in life would be embarked upon.
Aside from social pressures or other external influences, I had powerful fascinations and personal favorites that entertained me. MAD magazine, especially Don Martin, Al Jaffe and Sergio Aragones had quite an impact on me.
The business card pictured was given to my father after MAD’s Dick DeBartolo visited my father’s workplace in 1970s NYC. My Dad had Mr. DeBartolo autograph it for me with a personal message on the back saying he would send me something soon. I do not recall getting anything.
I was also crazy over Trosley’s style, an artist from CARtoons magazine.
I had a subscription to Omni magazine and liked a lot of the “futuristic” styles of the illustration. I liked Heavy Metal magazine.
I accrued a small library of books that people had given me because I was — of course — an artist.
I still have most of those books. Al Hirschfeld, Sidney Smith’s “The Gumps” and a book on Escher were my go-to favorites. Books on Moiré patterns, all kinds of Dover clip art books. I became really fascinated with Tintin.
Toward the end of high school I became interested in fine art. In 1983 I saw the Cubist retrospective at the Tate Gallery in London and that was a mind-blowing experience.
2. SVA • NYC
In 1984 I was accepted into the School of Visual Arts in New York City.
I was encouraged to go there, influenced by the choice of a school mate and artist who’d graduated high school the year before me — Florian Bachleda. Note: Florian has gone on, after various esteemed positions. He stepped down as Creative Director at Fast Company and currently works at Apple.
Many college freshmen attend universities and reside in dorms, immersed in a totally new experience far from their homes and state. This was not my reality.
I did not leave home. I took the bus to school, the commuter bus. Large drawings on Canson paper, paintings, what have you: I had to schlep everything on the bus.
My remaining at home was regrettable, for all along it really was an environment that never quite facilitated my level of…intensity. The blaring TV and chaos levels, the family arguments, the local friend groups. No major paradigm shift was happening for me. Foundation year was a enormous reality check and for me it was marked by bus rides, R train downtown and the walk down 23rd to the school. It is now all a fantastic blur.
For my second year, I pursued a range of courses in the field of comic art, cartooning. SVA was founded as a cartooning school. In 1947 Silas H. Rhodes and illustrator (Tarzan) Burne Hogarth co-founded the Cartoonists and Illustrators School. In 1956 it became SVA.
My main take-away from the college years was experiencing the cartooning program. I studied with masters in the field ( Harvey Kurtzman, Will Eisner, Gary Panter ) as well as met certain people who would become life long acquaintances and remain creative collaborators in the future.
** – I go into detail about what I recall at my cartooning history page.
3. POST COLLEGE:
My post college experience found me immersed in the thought that I was part of some radical new cartooning “movement”. Sounds crazy right? Well, at the time of my writing this, it does seem preposterous. I continued cartooning and keeping sketchbooks but did not pursue a career in art. I was clueless really. Also, I began to satisfy a deep energetic push toward my becoming a musician. This would split my life in two noticeably.
Convinced of the validity and necessity of an artists requirement for “struggle”, I justified lousy jobs (the ones I kept for any bit of time) as part of the classic artist experience. I did not know then just what I was … or where I was going. It was the first major fissure in my blind allegiance to the mythos I’d been fed all my life.
Taking one’s bar mitzvah money (frozen in old Bank Leumi savings bonds) to purchase a drum set had nothing to do with my path to being “a commercial artist.”
In short, my artistic experience would involve few professional interactions. I sold a few illustrations and had a few placed in minor publications for “exposure” but that was it.
My passion for comic art did not die. It continued to grow and mature. In the days just after I left SVA, I collaborated with a group of artists and the result was the unique Funny Garbage magazine. On my Youtube I am going to do a page turn video, highlighting this little known publication.
I immersed myself in sketchbooks, particularly obsessing over them from 1987 to 2003. I had numerous low-level projects continuously in the works. I was published in obscure magazines. I made little to no money.
That was all then. Life would throw many challenges, situations and struggles my way, yet art is still and always will be a major part of my life, “commercial artist” or not.
Check out these sections for examples of my artistic experiences.
- Coming very soon.
- Links to Sections
- I mentioned.
- Sept. 2019.