I live 60 miles east of New York City in a little town on the northern shore of Long Island called Mt. Sinai. I’ve been a visual artist for 30 years. I'm married to the lovely and talented Amber Freda.
After graduating from Pratt Institute, I wandered into the real world not fully prepared for what awaited me. I decided to take a job in an advertising art bullpen to have some stability, get professional experience and because I was tired of being broke. It was like boot camp for a commercial artist, and I quickly learned the discipline and diplomacy required to be a successful working artist.
I started my own advertising art studio with Doug Miller after learning the industry ropes, and our clientele soon included icons of corporate America such as Anheuser Bush and Philip Morris. I am not proud to admit that I worked on the infamous Joe Camel ad campaign that ended due to allegations the cartoon ads targeted children. I started to question my life choices at that moment, and determined that my skills might be put to better use in a different arena of the applied arts. Editorial illustration might not pay as well, but my conscience would be clear. I may have started my career pimping alcohol and cigarettes, but I have repented and now use my visual communication skills to sell ideas.
I started teaching illustration at FIT this semester and I love the job. I was warned I might encounter “The Age of Entitlement” but find the students to be dedicated and enthusiastic.
Our house served as a convent at one time, and there is a peace to the place that fosters contemplation. When the peace is in need of disturbance, my 10-year-old son is eager to disturb the force.
HOW I MAKE MY ILLUSTRATIONS:
I repurpose ephemera and draw on found surfaces, scan and continue working digitally.
MY FIRST BIG BREAK:
I sent an image to David Carson at the avant garde magazine Raygun in 1994, and he published it. The illustration also was selected to be part of the American Illustration annual that year and helped launch my editorial career.
I saw an illustration of a dinosaur by Alan Cober in Boys' Lifemagazine when I was about 10 years old. At that moment I realized illustration was in my future.
MY MOST ADMIRED CREATIVE PERSON:
I obsessed with artists who are obsessed. Currently, Kris Kuksi comes to mind.
THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE OF WORKING ALONE:
A MEMORABLE ASSIGNMENT FROM THE PAST YEAR:
It’s a tie! Working for WW3 Magazine with Peter Kuper and working for Adbusters magazine.
I’ve been submitting New Yorker cover ideas and have come close a couple of times, but it remains my elusive white whale.
MY FAVORITE ART DIRECTOR:
I worked with Minh Uong at The Village Voice and now The New York Times. He is an illustrator, so he is the perfect liaison between the artist and editorial staff. He is also a sweet guy.
Minh hired me to illustrate a story in 2006 about people who challenged the official 9/11 narrative. The piece I created for The Voice is currently part of the permanent collection of the National September 11th Museum in New York. A mini-doc was made featuring my interview by the museum curators.
SOME OF MY FAVORITE ILLUSTRATORS:
Brian Stauffer might be the greatest living conceptual illustrator. He always cuts right to the heart of the problem with a devilishly clever solution. Christian Northeast and Jason Holley never disappoint their audience. Sam Weber always stuns me. I remember working for him when he was an assistant art director at The New York Times. I had no idea the guy was a genius. His technical virtuosity is obvious, but the unexpected way he uses realism is exciting. I love Steven Tabbutt for the same reasons. I mentored Steven at SVA and now I am learning from him.
I like the idea of seeing my two-dimensional concepts fleshed out in 3-D. I collaborate with sculptors and artisans to create these works.
I use art as a tool of political activism and volunteer my services to filmmakers and activists. I have organized a contest in reaction to the Dick Cheney memorial recently unveiled in the Capitol Building. An all-star panel of jurors will pick a fitting alternative tribute to Mr. Cheney. My hope is to draw attention to his criminal legacy of failure and to pose this question to artists: “Is it incumbent upon the artists to dedicate themselves and their work to causes greater than their own ambition, or is it ethical for an artist to be complicit in the creation of works of propaganda?”
I’m sure no one is surprised that my view is that artists should always challenge official narratives and not literally carve them into stone.
HOW I STAY CURRENT:
Many of my clients are unconventional. I have become a go-to artist for several alternative news sites and publications. My visual thought crimes find a home outside the mainstream at places like Code Pink, Activist Post, Washington’s Blog, Global Research and Cindy Sheehan’s The Soapbox. [Editor's note: These are all great websites to check out if you’re looking for news, information, and political analysis and advocacy from a progressive perspective.]
It is a great way to channel the passion I feel about issues of social justice and at the same time have my work seen by large audiences. The downside, and paradox of our time is that there is more demand for visual content than ever before, but there is little financial compensation for work in many of these venues.
HOW I PROMOTE MYSELF:
My rep Gerald and Cullen Rapp uses tried-and-true means of promotion, and I am always experimenting with alternative methods. For example, I give myself assignments to illustrate current events that pique my curiosity and send the art to potential venues instead of waiting for the phone to ring. I try to anticipate the needs of a potential client ahead of the news cycle. This two-pronged attack seems to work.
ADVICE FOR SOMEONE STARTING OUT:
Send your work out into Cyberia like virtual notes in bottles. Someone who can help you will eventually discover it. I tell my students that illustrators should honor the fact that we are fortunate enough to make pictures for a living by putting everything we have into our work.
Be bold and mighty jobs will come to you.
No comments yet.