Friday, May 7, 2010

When Studio Art Was KING!

Since my Dad was a cartoonist and commercial artist growing up, I was exposed to a lot of different kinds of creative mediums in the world of art. My father would always have interesting equipment in his studio along with a project or two I could mess with or see in action. Of course like any kid, I particularly liked the little mannequin you could bend in any direction to simulate movement, and hence draw that posture. I loved the wonders of tracing over a light table and from an opaque projector. I could stick any little object under that lamp and project a 5 foot image of it on the wall.

My Dad spent a lot of time showing me how to rule lines and practice straight lettering. At a fairly early age, I could do paste-up copy for my own school projects and make a decent masthead for any kind of poster. It always seemed that we were messing with something new. I remember buying and mixing resins, hardeners, and dyes to cast small sculptures out of rubber molds. For awhile we got on the kick of carving linoleum blocks with sharp tools to make book plates, or just little prints for fun. I was the only kid in school to have a rubber stamp with my name on it to identify my papers. I liked that.

Some of my fondest memories of the world of art revolved around printing and the graphic arts. My parents fed my interest by purchasing me my own hand operated letterpress. I would eventually print stationary on that press and sell it as a small entrepreneurial enterprise. Later even though I did not have any other industrial art experience, in High school, I had the run of the print shop. I was in heaven with a full photo lab for offset plate processing, a giant letterpress, and a huge Heidelberg web press for the school newspaper. Eventually the school sold off its older Multilith 1000 in favor of a new AB Dick 360. I bought that machine and it was my first offset press inside my parent’s garage.

I dabbled in screen printing after that and always maintained an interest in art and publishing, however life’s demanding needs started to catch up with having fun by college. Before I had graduated, the personal computer revolution started to take hold. I mastered Xerox’s Ventura Publisher software, and though as flawed as it was, I suddenly had no need for typesetters, artists, masthead men, paste-up pros or messy ink. I could do all that stuff for myself in just hours (now just seconds). I could write, edit, and print my own company publications at will so who needed studio graphics skills anymore? I appreciate the flexibility, reduction in equipment to buy and maintain, and the speed of today’s computers. I like getting a job done professionally by myself and on my own timetable. But I have to admit, when the work is done and there’s time to reflect – I do miss those very special days when Studio Art was KING!

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