APRIL 13, 1981 was my first day in my new job as a Senior Artist at the Channing L. Bete Company in South Deerfield, Massachusetts. I started out in Promotion Art (what would become their advertising department). We designed "junk mail" to promote their main product, booklets. They published 8 and 16 page two-color booklets and pamphlets. The kind you could find in the "Take One" racks at the doctor's office or school guidance counselor's office. The subjects were "What You Should Know" about most any health, safety or education topic. As I said, they were two-color and written in a very conversational style and illustrated with cartoony stick-man character all the artists at my new job called "The Dude."
I spent almost four years in this department. My main responsibility was to create art mechanicals—a dinosaur term in the publishing field that equates to an art work that could be reproduced to film so it could be burned to a plate and printed on a web or off-set press.
But during these four years, the company had a desire to create an "alternative product." They asked the artists to take part in a sort of "contest." My submission was a cartoon-illustrated product where the characters were a little more realistically rendered. Maybe something inspired by my years of MAD magazine worship or in a style similar to that I had used on a big freelance project I had worked on in the Boston area just prior to my accepting my new job here. Anyhow, the art director in Product Design decided this cartoon style might work well for an activity book line aimed at 3rd and 4th graders, so, production began in rolling out this new product. I was "borrowed" from the Promotion Department for use in the Product Design department until a job opened in AUGUST of 1984.
I transferred to PRODUCT DESIGN.
The desire to find a "realistic alternative product" to the two-color product illustrated by "the dude" did not end. I was then asked to submit designs and illustrations for this realistically illustrated product. Once approved, a whole line of illustrated products for all reading levels was rolled out. I had the unique role of being a designer in the Product Design group who also worked as an illustrator in the Product Art group (I began this role when I first worked on the activity books as the illustration style was really "mine" and needed to be taught to the illustrators of that department). I was also still designing booklets for the 'dude-booklets,' too. I would eventually be trained in how to illustrate that style so I could assist the illustrators there as well. In the future, all artists would eventually be required to have design and illustration skills—in fact, when Product Design and Product Art merged, all the illustrators magically became designers and all artists going forward worked for Product would be called designer-illustrators—but back in the late eighties and early nineties, I was only artist doing this at this small publisher.
As we entered the nineties and headed towards the 21st century, the computer would become a new art tool. We were introduced and trained to use design applications like PageMaker. It would eventually be replaced by Quark X-Press which would be replaced after a very long run by inDesign (which reminds me a lot of PageMaker). And FreeHand would become the vector art application we would all use until it was replaced by the (cumbersome, IMHO) application, Illustrator. And all through this, the one constant application (and my favorite) was Photoshop. Yes, computers made art mechanicals history and the job of art in publishing a whole new world.
That world would see all our line art illustrations become four-color illustrations. But the outside world and our customers would come to see illustration as dated and demand that we design with photographs. We complied and our illustration work would only appear in workbooks and such targeted for children.
By the 2000's, the company I started working for in 1981—with only three product formats, then—now had tons of different products! All age groups, all ethnicities, all socio-economic groups, all—and I mean EVERYBODY! had products targeted for each of their needs.
And all through this, I loved my job!
Yes, I consider myself a very lucky person. I have no art degree. After graduating from high school, I attended an unaccredited three-year art school. I received a diploma in Fine Arts upon graduation. As a Fine Artist with a diploma, I worked as a janitor and a dishwasher. After a few lucky breaks working for awhile in two different art departments, I got enough on-the-job training that would allow me to pursue freelance work. Another lucky break landed me a big freelance job that lasted over two years. I was able to take all this post-school training and use it to land a full-time with benefits job that lasted more than three decades!
APRIL 13, 2013 I celebrated my 32nd year at that job. By this time, a lot had changed in my job. An art department that once had nearly 15 artists was now down to five. Times were tough. But they were tough everywhere. We discontinued many of the products over the years and were now working on the handful of product formats that seemed to still have a buying audience. And a few new prototypes had been introduced which seemed promising (and were also fun to work on). I had my sights set on retirement—or at least, I was making plans for that direction—but at 58, it still seemed like a long way off.
JUNE 5, 2013 I turned in my SOP for web design of the company's intra-net web site that contained all our company-owned photographs. As the company was preparing for a huge computer and application upgrade, this standard operating procedure document was one of the last loose-ends that needed to be updated. Upon turning it in, I headed off for a short vacation. Little did I know, I would never return to this job except to clean my desk out.
JULY 1, 2013 after a two week stay in the hospital, I was diagnosed with cancer. Four days later, I would meet my oncologist and begin chemotherapy.
DECEMBER 6, 2013 my short-term disability became long-term and my job officially ended.
APRIL 13, 2014 I woke up and set about creating this post about a day-job that I loved. One that lasted a little over 32 years. One where I was trained in everything that was 'industry standard' in publishing. One where I would meet and work with some of the most talented people I have ever known. And many of these people have become life-long friends. And this job would afford me a life-style where I could pursue with little concern my many artistic releases in art and music. And this day-job would also introduce me to me to many talented people would become part of these creative side ventures of mine—especially, in music.
Yes, April 13th will no longer be the anniversary date I tick off as I make my way to retirement day. No, in a way, that day is already here. But I suspect on April 13th, I will always look at what that day-job was all about and how it brought me here.