Perhaps I was 12 in the photo shown here? How did my dad get that shirt for me? When I was a child, my pure undisciplined, improperly channeled creative energy coupled with ordinary actions of drawing, led to my parents conclusion: I was set out to be an artist in life. From early days in Brooklyn to young days in Jersey, my family and relatives perceived me as a budding “commercial artist.” And that was that, case-closed.
I was enrolled in no special courses, received no extracurricular formal instruction and I was pretty much left to myself most of the time — other than being repeatedly told I was somehow going to transform into a commercial artist as an adult.
There was however no question or alternative: I had to draw. Drawing was the only creative avenue readily available to me, could do quietly — an activity that would best suit my energy in the chaotic, sensitive family home. Looking back? All the “art” I produced when I was younger (beyond earliest baby/toddler scribbling ) was so awfully flawed, in both spirit and execution owing to that environment. Art for a time became part of the tween/teen public school/summer camp social survival mechanism. This aspect was the other end of the spectrum compared to my family’s understanding of my interests/abilities.
“You are going to be a commercial artist when you grow up.”
As time marched on I would find only a few people who shared an interest in continuing creativity. An important early childhood inspiration and friend was Paul Komoda, who lived a few miles away. He was then and continues to be a particular talent.
Also, my family relocated at several key periods in the 70s and 80s. Each time I experienced the uncomfortable reset amidst a new location/school/social situation. In each new place, eventually it became apparent I was the “artistic” type. The old stale practices, such as drawing pictures for people and crap like that would inevitably be employed and this behavior would grip me until the last of my public school, summer camp and high school years.
The “Commercial Artist” tag/mythology? That would remain active until I entered university, studying at the School of Visual Arts in New York.
Aside from said social pressures and external influences, let me add I had powerful elements and personal favorites that entertained me such as Mad magazine ( crazy for Don Martin ) and Heavy Metal; I was 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 had a 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 by the way that was a mind-blowing experience.
I attended the School of Visual Arts in New York City. I was encouraged to go there, influenced by Florian Bachleda, who’d graduated from my high school the year before and had been accepted to SVA. Florian has gone on the be the Creative Director at Fast Company.
Let me begin with this: College, for me, was not entirely the liberating period of growth experienced by some who attend institutions far from their homes, residing in dorms, immersed in a totally new experience.
I took the bus to school, the commuter bus. Large drawings on Canson paper, painting, what have you, I had to schlep it on the bus. I still resided at home, an environment that never quite facilitated my level of…intensity. The same blaring TV and chaos levels. I look back and wince. I will leave it at that.
The main take-away from the college years was my experiencing the cartooning program, studying with masters in the field and meeting those certain people who would become friends and remain creative associates well into the future.
And this was all at the beginning of my life’s Part 1. The rest of the “story” can be witnessed via various examples I will post.