Sesame Street at 40
Upon graduating Pratt, I was introduced to the legendary artist rep, Ted Riley, by my mentor, James Grashow. Riley had an impressive stable of talent with the likes of Robert Andrew Parker, Pierre Le-Tan, Sempé, etc. He also had developed a working relationship with Children's TV Workshop, the creators of Sesame Street. He asked a simple question: "do you like the muppets?". When I replied that it is impossible not to like the charming puppets, he asked me if I could stand drawing them repeatedly, and so I became his fledgling in a group of giants with the understanding that I would become a muppet factory and he would also present my editorial work to publishers. I was sent to Muppets HQ where they pulled Bert & Ernie from their morgue like drawers for me to sketch. I was given my first test to do a spread of Oscar the Grouch in a junkyard. It was received so well that I quickly became busy illustrating toys and books and clothing. There were few items that I did not put a muppet on. My favorite projects were the 3D ones, such as music boxes, shoelaces, busy box and life vests. The 3D projects I sculpted in clay and were sent to Taiwan for mass reproduction. It was a prosperous way to begin a career, but ultimately left me feeling bereft of any real creativity. After Ted Riley passed, I ended my relationship with the muppets and instantly took a financial nosedive. In a year or two afterwards, I had enough magazines and newspapers supplying me with regular work that I declared career recovery. At the time, I remember always plotting my escape from muppetland. But now I look back fondly and with no apologies. My skills for drawing the muppets remain, but only come into play when a tantrum throwing child needs to be soothed on the subway.