My Life in Pictures Part Eleven : Education and First Jobs

Early Influences

Durand High School 1976-1980

In high school, I was one of two or three of the “school artists”, and was frequently singled out to contribute cartoons to the school newspaper, or drawings for the yearbook, or extra-curricular posters for certain teachers, or program covers for special events or posters for dances. I, however, had more of an interest in music at that age, and never got around to actually taking an ‘Art Class’ until my senior year. It was in this class that I first tried my hand at oil painting. This painting was sold after the spring art show, but through a twist of fate, it ended up in the hands of the mother of a close friend sometime in the late 90s, and I was able to take a photo of it for my records. It was based off of a photograph that I had found on ‘pit bull fighting’ in an old issue of National Geographic. This is the oldest surviving sample of my artwork in my possession.

dogpit

 

Counter Printers and Graphics – Summer 1979

My first job, was in a small print shop in Flint, Michigan. I was hired on to do paste-ups and learned to use the stat camera and to make metal printing plates. I was also doing runs to a typesetting shop to pick up ‘chunk type’ and picking up lunch for the office workers. On the rare occasion, they put me to work drawing pictures. After only working a couple months there, the place had a robbery/arson over the weekend and the shop was burnt out. I was out of a job after a couple weeks of salvage/clean up.

Kendall College of Art and Design 1980-1982

I applied to, and was accepted to the Kendall College of Art and Design in the fall term of 1980. I wasn’t prepared for searching for colleges and only applied to the one school (because I knew a friend who had went, was the extent of my research). I did quite well in the first year, throwing myself into the role of ‘art student’ with a zeal that was quite unlike the lazy scholar who had coasted through high school only a year prior. I probably enjoyed the ‘Life Drawing’ class the most, and learned the most from it, from drawing techniques to anatomy and body structure (things which were only a mystery to me previously). My instructors tried to purge me of all the bad habits and shortcuts I had learned from my cartooning heroes, but some of them have still survived.

Unfortunately, no artwork has survived my college years (surprising, considering how much money I was spending on art materials, and time spent on classroom assignments), and by the time the second year rolled around, I was started to get disenchanted with the whole ‘artist’ scene. I was running low on funds, taking odd jobs to make ends meet, and letting my school work slide. I barely passed the final semesters, and when it came time to plan for a third year of college I threw in the towel, deciding that I was going to ‘try something else’ (what that would be, I had no idea).

Graphic Arts Workshop 1982-1989

It wasn’t long beforeĀ I was working as a graphic designer at a local print franchise, and would spend most of the decade there.

One of my biggest regrets of my life, is that I didn’t either stick to school and get a degree, or at the very least, start freelance illustrating right then and there in 1982. I could have made all the horrible misteps and false starts with regard to drawing a decade earlier, and enjoyed a 40 year career at this point, instead of 30. (writing this in 2018) — However, I did learn some valuable lessons in the graphic arts workplace in the eighties. I learned to work with customers, I learned a lot about pre-press work, design and typography, I learned discipline and speed, and most of all, I learned not to run away from your talents, but to put them to work.

I started as the first employee for this graphic arts shop, which eventually grew to three locations, and I became a manager and eventually art director. I was being offered a partnership in a new ‘advertising agency’ venture, when I made the decision to drop it all and start freelancing in 1989.