Marc Ericksen’s First San Francisco Freelance Interview: A Day at the Races.
As a young illustrator, I found myself working at Artworks at 50 Gold Street in North Beach. I had graduated from Art Center in 1975, worked a year as a staff illustrator in Chicago at O’Grady Graphics at 333 Michigan Avenue. While it was a great shop, and I had appreciated all I had learned there, the weather was brutal.
After some degree of deliberation, part of which involved my working late on a deadline during a blizzard, walking at 9 PM to the Northwest Station to catch the last train to Arlington Heights Station, only to arrive to find all the locks on my ancient Alpha Romeo 4 door frozen solid. By the time I had walked a mile or two to our apartment in my street shoes, Levis, shirt, and light jacket – – my face was also frozen solid.
I terrified my wife by tapping on the back patio sliding glass door, because I was pretty sure I wouldn’t survive walking the rest of the way to the front door.
So I moved with my wife Dianne and our two sons, to the Golden West: San Francisco.
Artworks was a wonderful shop. Don McKee had a great cast of talent there, and I learned from folks like the great Stan Fleming, another Chicago transplant, who gave me an appreciation for the myriad aspects of preliminary art as well as tips for dealing with clients, art directors and designers. I met my future studio mate of 35 years, Robert Evans there who showed up one day in a work-study capacity from The Academy of Art. Dennis Ziemienski was another major talent at the shop. I was about ready to launch out on my own after 3 terrific years at Artworks when I was approached by Dennis about sharing rent on a studio he had located just up Sansome Street and right around the corner on Broadway. It was a 2nd floor walkup above a little Chinese restaurant, overlooking the hustle and bustle of North Beach. It was a little tight for the two of us, but Dennis wanted to use it as a satellite site, while he worked out of his Palo Alto studio.
I found the place to be perfect for the work I was doing, a mix of finished illustrations for smaller tech clients and startup gaming companies, as well as a fair amount of preliminary art for all the local agencies: Storyboards and comprehensive sketches. I was very comfortable with the mix, given that I had paid half my way through Art center doing similar work for agencies in LA while a student. I had my drafting table, lights and a chair. The traffic outside helped me to feel a part of the local art scene, and the redolent aroma of Chinese cooking right beneath me. What could be more San Francisco? I would even duck below into the eatery a couple of times a week for a quick lunch. It was always busy.
One of the groups I had not worked with was D’Arcy-MacManus, so, as was the custom, I called and asked whether I could show my portfolio. I had only been on my own at this point for a week or so, so this would mark my emergence as a true free lancer, my dream come true! My first on-my-own appearance before a creative!
I took my portfolio case containing samples of my professional work, and walked down Sansome to the neighborhood for D’Arcy and entered the lobby. The receptionist made a call to find out who might be available to review my work. An Art Director named Chris Short agreed and an intern led me through the pristine walls and hip architecture of the agency to Chris’s office. I entered into the stylish bright white high rise office, Chris was nattily dressed, in a white shirt, stylish tie, and pressed slacks, and stood to reach across his long white desk to welcome me with a handshake and a smile. I thanked him for his willingness to review my work, and he was a perfect gentleman, as he replied “no problem at all, welcome to my office, and please, let’s take a look at your work“.
I lifted my portfolio, and with a quick glance for his permission placed the 20”x30” folio on the end of his spotless long white desk which was nearest him as he sat in his beautiful articulated leather executive office chair.
As I drew open the zipper of the folio, I began telling him a bit about my background and the nature of the illustration samples I was preparing to show, and he assumed a more comfortable position, and leaned forward for a better look as I lifted the unzipped cover. Upon the final opening, and as I was in mid sentence, a very large and gorgeously shining mahogany insect with swept back antennae and I suspect, smelling of Chinese cuisine, leapt from the center of my portfolio with the fervor of a stallion at the dropping of the gates at Churchill Downs. Racing the length of my open portfolio, he leaped off the zippered edge onto Chris’s pristine bright white tabletop, and ran in a perfectly straight line the entire length of the table and sailed off, disappearing from sight.
I was aghast, …and petrified.
Like an idiot I continued to stare at the point of last view of the roach. I’m actually laughing to myself now, 40 years later, at how I must have looked to Chris.
For his own part, the man was a saint. When I regained my senses, and looked back to his face, he sat looking at me with a twinkle in his eye, with a very slight smile. Raising his eyebrows, and much to my eternal gratitude, he then said, “So, Marc, tell me about this first piece.”
We spoke together that day for about 20 minutes of his valuable schedule. He was kind in his appraisal of my work, and I thanked him for his time.
A week later Chris called with a job, and we commenced fifteen years or more of working together, and he never mentioned our day at the races.
A talented Art Director. And, a more perfect gentleman.
(Note: Marc sent us this story above, but I must add a short bio.:
1966 – 1972: Age 18, Paratrooper, U.S. Army. 1966 – 1972: Age 18, 2 tours in Vietnam, Left active duty age 24 with the rank of Captain in May 1972.
1972 – 1975: Age 25. Attended Art Center College of Design, Los Angeles. Graduated with a scholarship, and Bachelor of Fine Art with honors.
1975 – 1978: Illustrator, O’Grady Graphics, Artworks,S.F.
1982 to 1987: Chairperson, Chairman, and President, San Francisco Society of Illustrators, (2 years.)
1986 to 1995: Chairman of the SFSI Air Force Art Program, (9 years.)
1978 – 2015: Marc Ericksen Illustration.
Crystal Cruise Lines Watercolors:
2015 – Watercolor illustrations for Crystal Cruise Lines, Agency: DDB West — Creative Director: Joe Kayser.
Shown are 15 of 19 pieces (20” x 30” each) required to be created within 14 days without fail.
Publication Illustrations above: Ancient Football-PC Magazine, Ballantine Publishing-Case of Curiosities, Baltimore Sun-Catch 22, Communication World-Russian Bear, Sharks-Bernie Nichols-Goal 1000, USAF Collection P‑51D – – Drop Tanks and Engage, Varian Silicon Chip Disc Autoclave
Product Illustrations above:
Anheuser-Busch Shock Top — Belgian-style wheat ale,
Video Games: Chex Quest- Galaga-Atari, MegaMan-Cannon Arm PRGE 2018
See also, this 2012 video: Game Box Art:
and, at the right – – Artist’s Sites:
Marc Ericksen’s link shows his many styles of finished art and preliminary art – – from 1978 to the present day.