many illustrators I’ve read about, I wasn’t raised by wolves.
I spent my entire school career drawing pictures when I should have been
studying. I had no choice but to become an illustrator, because it’s
the only thing I was prepared to do.
When my parents and grandparents would read to me from children’s
picture books, I wasn’t listening to the stories; I was studying the
illustrations. I’ve been aware of illustration as a powerful force
from a very young age, and remember being awestruck by the N.C. Wyeth paintings
in the Treasure Island books, and by the Rockwell’s that would turn
up occasionally in magazines in the late 50’s and into the 60’s.
It was the artwork that held the magic for me, not the words.
So, I spent a good deal of my younger years trying to copy that wonderful
art, and became familiar with lots of names and lots of styles. I was never
a big comic book fan and I didn’t gravitate toward the more simplistic
children’s books, either (I hated Dr. Seuss). I was fascinated by
the classically trained illustrators whose work glowed with color and warmth
and captured the mood of the day; Haddon Sundblom’s Santa Claus Coke
ads, J.C. Leyendecker’s Arrow Collar paintings, Maxfield Parrish’s
work (my grandmother had a Parrish calendar that I completely destroyed,
simply from turning the pages over and over again). Of course, Norman Rockwell,
Frederick Remington, and the Pin-Up art by Vargas and others from WWII that
my dad showed me was not only great figure painting and wonderful illustration,
it was very racy for a young kid to see, and that made it even better!
When I was in high school I got very lucky and landed a job in a small but
very good design and illustration studio in my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama
called GraphicSouth. Of course, at first I did gopher work and swept the
floors, but I got to look over the artist’s shoulders and learned
everything I could about illustration, design and (old school) production
techniques. There was an artist there named LouAnn Mount who was working
on an illustration for an outdoor board for a local radio station. She was
painting their call letters in 3-D with an explosion behind the letters;
she was using a Paasche AB Turbo, and I was mesmerized for hours. It was
just about the coolest thing I’d ever seen, and from that moment on,
I was hooked. I asked for an AB for Christmas and Santa delivered. That
was over 35 years ago. I still have it, and it still works like new.
I graduated from Auburn’s School of Architecture and Fine Arts (after
a three year “haitus” in the military), and managed to land
a job at Whole Hog Studios in Atlanta even before I graduated. What a fabulous
learning experience that was for a kid right out of school. Don Trousdell
and Ron Mabey were design demi-gods in Atlanta and ran the place about as
loosely as you could and still get work done. Bill Mayer and Paul Blakey
were two of the best illustrators in the region and they mentored me every
day, whether they knew it or not. Nancy Hoefig was a first-rate designer,
fresh out of school, and was doing fantastic work. There were many other
designers and illustrators as well, each contributing to the creative electricity
that buzzed constantly at Whole Hog. Too bad those great little shops are
so few and far between these days.
After my short time at Whole Hog, my wife, Bonnie, and I tried our luck
in Houston, but for various reasons we decided to return to Atlanta after
only a year. That was in 1981, and I’ve been freelancing here ever
since. I’ve had a great career with lots of terrific clients, large
and small. Some of the biggies are Anhueser Busch, AT&T, Avon Books,
Bantam Books, Business Week, CNN, Coors, Disney, Kellogg’s, Macy’s,
Nestle Foods, Nike Design, Orkin, Pocket Books, Prentice Hall, Showtime,
Simon & Schuster, and the United States Postal Service.
In 2002 I happily accepted a position on the fulltime faculty at Atlanta
College of Art; I served as the Illustration Chair in the Communication
Design Department for four years. In 2006 ACA merged with Savannah College
of Art and Design and I am now teaching at the SCAD-Atlanta campus. After
over 20 years of doing freelance illustration, I was beginning to lose that
creative spark that keeps us artists going, and this move to the teaching
arena has rekindled that flame. I still enjoy doing freelance work when
interesting jobs come my way, but what I now look forward to every morning
is the challenge of bringing a love of art and illustration to my students,
and watching them develop as young adults with the knowledge and the skill
to make their own way in the world as artists who document and reflect the
world today, and their place in it, through their art.