Perhaps I was 12 in the photo shown here? I look thrilled.
How did my dad acquire that shirt for me?
The art side of me, how did it begin?
Way back Brooklyn, my drawings led my parents to a spectacular conclusion: Their boy was set to be an artist in life. But not just any ol’ arteest.
My family, relatives etc. pegged me as destined to become “commercial artist.” Case-closed! That was it.
Aside from the official line, I was left to myself most of the time. I had no extracurricular training.
My childhood evolved within a 24-7 chaotic environment. My Dad ever at work and my Mom was quite a different volatile being in the 1970s and 80s. After we moved to New Jersey my grandparents lived with us, the TV blaring from early morning to late at night.
Art I could immerse myself in. It was the activity that best suited my irrepressible energy. It wouldn’t get me in “trouble”.
Looking back though?
I recognize now excluding my earliest baby/toddler scribblings: all the art I produced as a kid and young adult, progressively became corrupted, in both spirit and execution owing to my environments. Art was first a personal game, then spiritual survival aid, but crested as a social adaptation tool. This was my reality until college. Compared to my family’s wide-arcing, long ball prediction, the day to day was quite pedestrian.
I was no Leonardo, I know this. I was just a very creative being in a decidedly un-creative home.
We’d move to New Jersey in 1975. It was a radical shift for me. Coming out of Flatbush, an insular apartment centered life, my school a deplorably backward yeshiva and I was simply the artistic kid. A hyper ball of energy who did not want to leave. I can recall missing Brooklyn.
I met Paul Komoda some time after I arrived in NJ. I was fascinated. He possessed such incredible gifts. My point? Meeting him influenced me. You see everyone wanted a piece of him, a drawing, something. Me — I think my young mind knew his creative “source energy” was equivalent to mine. That was a epic subconscious boost. I keep in touch with Paul. He continues to craft amazing images and sculptures, now out in LA.
My family relocated twice in the 70s and 80s.
Every move meant I’d experience that uncomfortable reset: new school/social situation. Each place — I entered — the “artistic” type. My compromising practices, drawing pictures for people and crap like that would inevitably be employed. This behavior would grip me through public school, summer camp and high school years — an embarrassingly long period of time.
1. YOUTH, SPECIFICALLY.
I had powerful fascinations and personal favorites that captivated me. MAD magazine, especially. Don Martin, Al Jaffe and Sergio Aragones had quite an impact
Actually MAD’s Dick DeBartolo visited my father’s workplace in 1970s NYC. My Dad had Mr. DeBartolo autograph the pictured business card for me. It had a personal message on the back saying he would send me something soon. I do not recall getting anything.
I was crazy over Trosley’s style, an artist from CARtoons magazine.
I loved Omni magazine and liked a lot of the “futuristic” styles of the illustration. I liked Heavy Metal magazine. I got lost in Herge’s Tintin.
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.
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 to SVA, influenced by a high school acquaintance — Florian Bachleda. Florian has gone on, after various esteemed positions to work at Apple.
Many college freshmen attend universities, living in dorms, immersed in a totally new experience far from their homes and state. This was not my reality.
I didn’t leave home. I took the bus to school, the commuter bus. Large drawings on Canson paper, paintings, supplies: I had to schlep everything on the bus.
Remaining at home was regrettable. The blaring TV and chaos levels, the family arguments, incessant partying with the local friend groups. Foundation year was a enormous reality check marked by those crowded commuter bus rides, the subterranean trek to the R train platform, finally that walk down 23rd to the school. Staying up all night working on assignments. It is now all a distant blur.
In my second year, I pursued a range of courses in the field of comic art, cartooning. SVA was founded as a cartooning school.
I studied with masters in the comic art field: Harvey Kurtzman, Will Eisner, Gary Panter and others. I met certain people who would become life long acquaintances and remain creative collaborators in the future.
3. POST COLLEGE:
I continued cartooning and keeping sketchbooks but amazingly did not pursue a career in art. I was clueless.
My post college The key achievements of this manic period were when I collaborated with a group of artists, resulting in the unique Funny Garbage magazine, Nirvana Now and my own Les Gobes Mouches. 19 years old, immersed in the thought that I was part of some radical new cartooning “movement”. Truly, I was a mess.
Convinced of the validity, the necessity of the artist’s “struggle”, I justified lousy jobs (the ones I kept for any bit of time) as part of the classic artist experience. In reality, I did not know what I was … or where I was going. This was the first major challenge to the mythos I’d been fed, and believed all my life. Where was their son, the commercial artist?
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.” My creativity led me to become involved as a musician.
My artistic experience would involve few professional interactions. selling few illustrations. I also had some work placed in obscure publications and that was it.
I immersed myself in sketchbooks, particularly obsessing over them from 1987 to 2003. I always had low-level projects continuously in the works. I became lost in my own labyrinths.
Yet, incredibly, I found ways to have my talents pay off for me. I went on to work on winning local political campaigns, was hired by various businesses for graphic art work.
Life would throw many challenges my way, situations, struggles and dangers, yet art was still and always shall be a major part of my life, “commercial artist” or not.
I will add specific sections for notable art-life moments.