Remember when....
posted: February 11, 2006
OK - so I'm gonna try to get this articles thing happenin right here and now. A number of us have been in the illo biz long enough to remember pre tech times...and then came the Faxeolithic and Macolithic eras, respectively. I've got plenty o' spunk left in me, so the last thing I wanna start is a thread of "the good ol' days". I am thinking, however, that it would be interestin for those artists who have started up their careers in the age of communication, to hear just a little about how dramatically the illo world changed in terms of locations, deadlines, workloads, portfolios etc. with the advent of technology. Like everything else, this change brought some pros and cons. One big result is that it scattered us out from NYC like a tear in the bottom of a big bag of marbles. all rollin in different directions. Which is why we are using this current form to connect. Before fax made it possible to exist outside NYC's boundaries, there was an even bigger concentration of artists living and working in the one community. Freindships were formed amomg artists and between artist and client. There were a few spots that served as a kind of social club for artists. I'm thinkin of the NYTimes bullpen. I met a few of you "drawgers" there. Now, of course, if you tried to hang there you'd be hauled off fer loitterin, but there was a time (if you care to remember).
David Gothard February 12, 2006
Thanks fer the good story and that tip, pal. From now on I'm gonna take up joggin with drawing in hand so's I can dry my ink and get some exercise too! You shoulda jummped on your horse. Might've cut your delivery time in half. What comes faster for me with time is the concepting stage. I've had instances where the art director gives me a verbal synopsis and before they complete the first sentence, I'm offering ideas. Wasn't always like that, though. In the beginning there was some head banging. Stayin up all night, the solution evading me the whole time. Now it's become reflexive. But again, I think that comes with time, learning about yourself and your personal arsenal of metaphors and imagery. When I've taught, I tell my students to approach assignments emotionally first and then intellectually. My best drawings are the ones that effect people on a visceral level with room left to ponder it intellectually. Not many jobs allow for such a treatment (how many articles on business jibberish have we illustrated?) but it is very satisfying to have people react to the work on a gut level.
Robert Zimmerman February 13, 2006
Them days hanging out in the cafeteria of the New York Times, doing sketches, looking at everybodies stuff - the newcomers will never know the pure hillarity and joy that is lost. A load of good times and good people came from joints like that. I remember the very first time I met Mr. Enos up there at the NYT. He was sitting at a cafeteria table over looking the blinking red live sex sign below. He said, "So how does it feel to be Robert Zimmerman?". I had been there for maybe two weeks, and with those few words, the great Enos made me feel like I was part of the club. Drawger certainly pales in comparison, but it may be the only type of club left these days.... sigh.
David Gothard February 14, 2006
Randy- LOL - been there, said that. Well, someone's got to break the bad news to the emperor about his clothes - or lack thereof. Sometimes that fresh, objective eye is what we can lose in the process, and what we begrudgingly value from the other occupants of the household. We become too intimate with the work and "can no longer see the forrest for the trees". No time for a consensus anymore. Just runnin on adrenalin now. The non illustration, non deadline work is a very different process. It allows me to explore some elements not possible under time constraints. I think it's important to generate more personal work like this. It's taken me many moons to find the discipline to always have a project to turn to when the deadlines are met. I called a good writer friend today, to say I was sad to learn that his friend, writer Peter Benchley, passed away. He said the loss was great and that he was not replaceable, and to illustrate his uniqueness he said "Peter often began a conversation by saying 'You know, when I used to be Peter Benchley......." It has the same ring as your question to Zimm.
Robert Saunders February 16, 2006
David, I'm envious of you early NYT illustrators. What a club that place must have been. I'm a transplant from Seattle, Italy, finally to Boston, and have always been peripheral to the New York scene, the sine qua non (pronounced see-nay kwah nawn) of creative ferment. Edgy, bad, beautiful, the works. But enough gushing about the bloody big Apple. What I posted for was to say how much of a pleasure it is to browse through your work. Zimm be praised for having started this blog and brought your stuff to my attention. What a privilege.
David Gothard February 16, 2006
Rob- We are probably over romanticizin the NYTimes days. It's also where my first gray hair made an appearance (a rebel in the ranks - plucked - only to be replaced by fresh recruits). And i was just a kid! Annuduh words, it could be stressful at times because sometimes you had to produce on the spot, under pressure, divorced from the familiar surroundings of home, studio & materials. Was great training though - like Marine boot camp for illustrators. I remember one of the great ad's up there walking over to the bullpen where 6 or 7 of us freelancers (ie; loitterin pests) were working (on multiple revisions probably.... something I'm almost never asked to do now), shaking his head with mild comtempt, saying "look at's not a newspaper, it's a #!*@ing classroom." Sadly, there's no trace of a bullpen now, not even a cheap memorial to it. Took a sroll down Saunder's Street and was impressed with the sights. Very nice work, and versatile...can see you working in all arenas easily. Thanks mucho for your kind words. It means a great deal when coming from such talent. Dave
Steve Wacksman February 16, 2006
When I set off for college, I brought a turntable and an enormous crate of12" records. Probably the last class to do that; the next brought their CD players. I graduated and went to work for a design firm of some renown; they'd done hip logos and record covers. We'd spec our type, wait for the galleys and the mechanical artist would rev up the waxer and non-repro pens. They tanked within a year or so of my joining the team- everyone else had gone digital. I got my start doing illos mostly for MTV nets; I would do my sketches, pedal up there on my bike and hang out with the AD and designers ( almost all have split the biz, BTW). We'd go over the sketches over lunch and toss ideas back and forth, then I'd pedal on home and revise, rinse, repeat. Invariably, while we were going over sketches in the MTV offices, someone would come into the room and see what I was doing and ask if I was interested in some other project. And I invariably was. And I got paid...*sniff*...ON TIME and WELL. So I might be a tadpole to you fellers, but I, too, remeber the days gone by. I haven't met a client face-to-face in probably 7 or 8 years.And I'm dirty and I don't care.
David Gothard February 17, 2006
Clean or dirty, it's great to have ya here. DG
David Gothard February 17, 2006
Randy- Yer flip floppin here! The lines are drawn. Clean or dirty? DG
Randall Enos February 17, 2006
Ya can't muck 4 horses and 4 ducks and stay matter how many great ideas you need. By the way...I just this minute finished another one of those 3 hour rush jobs for the New York Times...11" X 7" color. Got the job at 1:00. AND...I didn't have to take a shower to get an idea.
Robert Saunders February 17, 2006
Oy...a 3-hour rush job. You Randy, and god knows how many others do this on a regular basis. I'm at sea when it comes to quick turnaroundsócause I wouldn't be able to stomach what I'd produced. Should someone start an article thread about rush jobs? Because I'd sure like to know what's going through illustrators' minds as they're cranking those babies out.
David Gothard February 19, 2006
Now when I find myself at Times Square, caught in a crossfire of talking buildings and excessive glitzy commercials, I wax nostalgic for the seedier days with all the lost sights and smells. That's what I love about "Blade Runner" - R.S. merged the old and new to create a visually rich environment. The only place that still retains the "old" is Coney Island (they still have a "freak show"!). It's like I tell my kids (yeah Dad, we know)...I am glad to have lived through a major transition period in human existence - I'm generally talkin about the pre pc and current computer dependent times. This because I know it's perfectly possible to live a full and functioning life with out the hum and blinking lights of technology all about us. That's not a complaint, just an observation I'm happy to be able to make. Certainly the computer has opened up infinite possibilities for artists. Fer instance...with the web came the extinction of the physical portfolio. And this...was a good thing. I used to hate constatly updating, re-arranging, packaging & shipping, portfolios. Used to keep multiple duplicates so's I could cover more ground. Does anyone out there still keep one? Not a "best of" scrapbbook, but an active leather bound portfolio? DG
David Gothard February 21, 2006
Yessir - academia is a very insular environment, slow to adjust to the real world, at the student's expense. Sometimes it works in reverse. I've been told that many Illo curriculums have abandoned drawing & painting, replacing the studio spaces with top dollar computer labs. I think the investment is great but the sacrifice of fundamental skills... too great! I taught two senior classes in Illo concepting up at Syracuse and was pos shocked at how well they could draw from the model. That's one school that still values good drawing and so was a real honor to watch them deftly (and beautifully) put their ideas on paper. DG
Nancy Stahl February 23, 2006
Just catching up on this thread, which is now kind of unraveling into a couple of different plies... NYT: I used to go in with my final art in my hot sweaty hands, hoping the paper would still lie flat by the time it was plunked on the AD's desk and silently beg not to be thrown into the bullpen. You guys intimidated me. Jerelle Kraus knew that and one time spent twenty precious minutes setting me up in a corner of a Xerox room or something only to have me run out as soon as she left, grab a subway up to the sanctuary of my apartment, finish the change and dash back. Academia: At a recent college visit, I witnessed a circle of computers around a model stand... they were doing life drawing directly into Photoshop..! Yikes. Clean or dirty: It's after 10am and I'm still in my pj's. By no means a record.
David Gothard February 24, 2006
Nancy- Rewind....sincerely wish I had met you in the bullpen... but am glad to make your acquaitance (and enjoy your fabulous work) forward. I'd move to make you an honorary member but am certain that's one title you cn do without. Truth is, I also fled back to Brooklyn to work in the familiar surroundings of my studio, but was often sent to the bullpen like a sulking child to "correct" the finished work. In those days my work really did need a fair amount of "correcting". Nothing like the earlier days proceeding those, directly after graduating, when I became a muppet factory, churning out big birds, etc. for CTW and Henson (still freelance). Every sketch had to be "approved" before going to finish. Understandbly in the name of consistency, there were two lieutenants that blue pencilled for Henson. This was done on a tissue overlay. The whole process was very tedious - blue lines ordering me to move Ernie's nose 1/32 to the left, or cookie's pupil's enlarged, etc. Jumped ship quite suddenly after a wave of tormenting dreams involving the cast of Ses. St. - perpetrating criminal acts on yours truly. After that, it was hard to find the charm that had attracted me to the work in the first place. A nice by-product of those years is that my kids grew up with the muppet products, books, etc. that I'd illustrated during my 5 year sentence. Yeah - this thread has scattered along a few lines but seem to still relate to it's title ( a little stretch required). DG