• Famous illustrator Will Eisner remembers the day that he became a professional. He dressed professionally and took his portfolio to a buyer of illustrations. The buyer looked at his illustrated story and said, “This is an awful story! Bah! Stupid faces! Worse drawing! Ugh!” His final comment was, “We don’t publish junk.” Head hanging down, Mr. Eisner left the buyer’s office, and an older man sitting outside the office told him, “So … your first rejection, eh? There’s an old Talmudic saying: ‘If you can’t sell your wares in this city, go ye to another.’” Then the older man introduced himself to Mr. Eisner and said, “Good luck!” before entering the buyer’s office. The man was Ludwig Bemelmans, creator and illustrator of a famous series of children’s books starring the character Madeline. Of course, as the world knows, Mr. Eisner persevered and became a renowned illustrator like Mr. Bemelmans.
• While working as an artist at a syndicate called NEA Service, Chic Young received a telephone call that requested that he go to New York and work for King Features Syndicate — with a big raise. He assumed that it was a joke phone call from one of the other employees at NEA Service, and so he replied, “Sorry, but I’m satisfied right here.” A few months later, he was fired, and so he went to New York and applied for a job as an artist at King Features Syndicate. One of the first questions that the head of the comic art department, J.D. Gortatowski, asked him was this: “What was the big idea of refusing to come here a couple of months ago when I called you?” United King Syndicate knew a good man when it saw him; Mr. Young created Blondiefor the syndicate.
• Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway, learned from his father, who loved his work as an artist and who would sit in front of his drawing board for 12 hours daily. Dean once complained, “Gee, Dad, all the other fathers have time after they come home to play ball or sit around. At the end of the day, you’re working.” His father replied, “Those fathers are doctors, lawyers and bankers. When they come home, all they want to do is their hobby. My work and my hobby are the same. Find work in something you love and it won’t feel like work.” The grown-up Dean says, “I listened to him. And I have been fortunate enough to work at something that I love.”
• I.T. Frary used to handle publicity for the Cleveland Museum of Art. As a young man new to the staff, he was once hushed in the museum library because he was speaking above a whisper. At night, when the museum was closed and no one was around, Mr. Frary let out a series of loud whoops in the library and felt much better. Other people felt the same way as Mr. Frary about museums — despite being museums, they need not be stuffy. Late at night, when no one else was around, Mr. Frary and a clergyman friend once straddled the museum’s marble balustrades and slid down.
• Russ Westover, the cartoonist of the long-ago comic strip Tillie the Toiler, got his first drawing job at the San Francisco Bulletin. In those days, newspapers used drawings instead of photographs, and one of his first assignments was to go to the mortuary and draw a portrait of a recently drowned person. However, the mortuary was so dark and eerie that Russ left quickly and handed in a drawing of an imaginary recently drowned person.
• Children’s book illustrator and author Margot Zemach worked as a movie usherette at the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theater when she was young. Unfortunately, she could not see well in the dark and so she was a horrible usherette, often stepping on people’s feet and often seating people on top of other people. Fortunately, she got married, started to raise a family, and became a book illustrator — a job she could work at while using one foot to rock a baby bed.
• Some female artists remain creative well into their old age. For example, in 2008 at age 73 Paula Rego was still active and still creating art, pointing out that being creative creates energy: “Even if I’m tired when I start working, by the end I have a lot of energy.”She will never willingly retire, saying, “Hopefully [my life] will end at my easel — I’ll just fall down sideways. Either that or in a drunken stupor.”
• Sculptor Louise Bourgeois worked hard. While on vacation in 1983, without supplies such as clay or wax or Plasticine, she asked her assistant, Jerry Gorovoy, for the shirt he was wearing. She shaped it, sewed it into position, and applied gesso to it. Then she created a marble version of the work of art. The shirt off Mr. Gorovoy’s back became the work of art titled Femme Maison.
• Thomas Eakins was an instructor at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in the 19thcentury. He believed that artists ought to have a thorough knowledge of human anatomy, and he was fired after someone walked into his studio and discovered cadavers — which Mr. Eakins had been dissecting.
• American landscape artist George Inness was a perfectionist. Often, he would walk into his studio, look at a painting he had finished the previous day, shake his head, and then paint a new picture on top of the old one.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
THE COOLEST PEOPLE IN ART
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