Thumbnails '81

It's been 40 years – time for me to fly!



It's been quite an adventure – 2021, marking 4 decades in the world of commercial art. I don't think any of us at Graphic Careers, Inc. would have guessed the amount of change our beloved art careers would have undergone once the computer hit the scene just a few years after we graduated.


We were about 25 in number, a mix of gender, age, and talent, each set up in our own little tricked-out cubbies in a gorgeous old gothic 3-story building on Prince Street in Rochester, NY. One giant room encompassing the entire bottom floor, save for a bathroom and stairwell on each end... and up on the second floor a few rooms, one of which was our meeting/critique room. The space was laid out to replicate an ad agency and the school itself was owned and operated by a real live ad agency on the top floor, Ron Ketchum Associates. We were instructed by Ron Ketchum and other working professionals from "Upstairs" along with a select group of prominent area freelancers, printers, typesetters, etc... Our main instructor was the colorful, Jerry Kilborn, a retired, chain-smoking, well connected creative of the Rochester agency scene. Jerry had previously partnered with Ron Ketchum and Dick Lubey giving artful life and recognition to the famous Kilborn Studios. He knew just about anyone who was anyone at Kodak, Xerox, IBM, R.T. French, Bauch & Lomb, Eastman Savings & Loan, and The Rochester Red Wings... just to drop a few. And, for me, that was the fun of it.


We learned the ins and outs of graphic art & design from the creative stage through final production. And, we worked on REAL jobs! Jerry's connections came out of the woodwork... his buddies from above mentioned corporations would throw us little bones to work on – and sometimes they were BIG bones! We would meet the client on the 2nd floor to find out what our assignment would be, what problem we were all to solve creatively and then we would descend to our cubbies and start in with our ideas – our "thumbnails". All the while, Jerry would roam from cubbie to cubbie giving us pointers and blowing smoke in our faces... (I feel bad because this really bothered some people and I was a smoker then and hell, it was 1981, there were ashtrays everywhere and little smoke stacks rising up over the cubbies and it was quite "normal". *cough*) When we felt we had a great idea worthy of moving on, we would mock them up into layouts to present to the client. *Kids, no computers here.* Everything was drawn out, with pencils and markers into either loose or tight layouts mounted on black presentation board. We sat on high stools at our giant drawing boards with clamped on florescent lighting and T-squares and triangles and plastic circle templates. And if you could afford the ellipse templates you were one of the lucky ones. We learned how to count the characters in type-written copy and draw out, in pencil or pen lines, blocks of type, "type indication." Photos and illustrations were "indicated" by drawing what the illustrator might produce or the photographer was to shoot for the piece. The layout stage was all done on the drawing board and presented to the client for approval. There was a lot of cutting and pasting going on! Once our layouts were approved, it was time to learn some final production. Another process that was essentially hand-done with the exception of some camera work. Photo shoots were lined up where photographers used our marker "photo indications" from our layouts to set up their shots and get as close as possible to the artist's vision. Typesetter's typed up and spat out camera-ready galley's for the mechanical artist to "paste" or wax down to boards... omg, I will put ya'll to sleep with this stuff! I have to stop here... too much technical BS. I guess where I'm going with this is, things were sure done differently back then.




I can't believe I lived through all of the changes. From all of what we learned in 1981 to the new age of the computer. I made it through. Some of the best Art Directors I knew and worked with couldn't do it. It was THAT different. I have to admit... I ate it up. I loved it. I loved everything APPLE! How the hell it got to where it is today... I could sit here and write a book about it but it would take me 40 years to do it.


Well, I loved it to a point and I think it's been the last 5 years or so. I have to sum it up as burn-out. My body, my eyes, my BRAIN! Too much trouble-shooting, not enough creating. The pace. I know now that this is the perfect time to move on.


I will be continuing commissions for some illustration, portraits and live event painting. Those projects feed me and the live paint thing is so flipping fun! But I want to get serious... it's time to go back to basics and re-learn how to paint. To artfully express what needs to come through me with no problems to solve for someone else. It's funny... after I graduated from Graphic Careers, the now late Ron Ketchum hired me. And, I remember when he retired, he did the same thing. He became a fine artist. We had a lot in common... it's no wonder I want to follow the same path.



I thought I would share this story as and exit and an entry onto my new path. I invite my friends to follow me (as I intend to share my journey on the social merry-go-round) and please, throw tomatoes when I deserve them and support me when I deserve that! It's so exciting and it's also quite terrifying.




The 1981 Rochester Red Wings Press Guide

The then new Red Wings logo was designed by my fellow student Brad Pettingill and incorporated on all of the materials that season and later. I designed the 1981 Press Guide Cover for the Rochester Red Wings... the pen and ink face belonged to Bob Bonner who was the team's expected dream player that year... who would have known that this was the year that The Iron Man, Cal Ripkin, Jr. would be sent up to start his 20 year career with the Baltimore Orioles. Check out the sig! Also that year, I designed the cover of the Program which depicts a very stereo-typical (they called it diverse) full-color cartoon rendering of fans having a shitload of fun... "Summer Fun in '81"! Google it! Yes, I'm going to make you Google it! It will show up in images... Ebay has one for sale for $29.99. "Vintage"... ouch!






"Shar-Bear" in her cubby at Ron Ketchum Assoc., summer 1981

Note* swing arm lighting! I found one on Ebay a few years ago – a must have! And, if you look close you can see I inserted myself as Scrooge's niece... very Hitchcock or Michelangelo or whoever does that kind of narcissistic thing!










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