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 received no extracurricular formal instruction and was left to myself most of the time. I attended only standard art classes in public school after arriving in NJ — I had no extracurricular training.
Drawing was practically the only creative avenue readily available to me. I could do it quietly — THE activity that would best suit my energy, wouldn’t get me in “trouble” in what was a chaotic family home environment.
Now, 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 life environments. Art became part of the tween/teen — public school — summer camp — social survival mechanism. This was the reality, the other end of the spectrum compared to my family’s wide-arcing, general long ball perceptions.
“You are going to be a commercial artist when you grow up.”
I would find 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 school, some time after I arrived in NJ from Brooklyn. He was and continues today to be a particular talent. I recall vividly one time I was able to see Paul’s mother Beverly’s drawings on their dining room table ( she is an illustrator ) and it was as if I was viewing magic incarnate.
My family relocated at several key periods in the 70s and 80s.
Each time I experienced the uncomfortable reset via a new school/social situation. In each new place, eventually I was understood to be 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, at 17 I entered college, studying at the School of Visual Arts in New York.
So, aside from said social pressures and external influences, I had powerful elements and personal favorites that entertained me such as MAD magazine, especially Don Martin, Al Jaffe and Sergio Aragones.
The business card pictured was given to me by my father after Mr. DeBartolo came into my father’s workplace in NYC. It is autographed with 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 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 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, after various esteemed positions, to 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.
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.