Painter to Graphics to Painter

Ward Schumaker’s Bio: Painter to Graphics to Painter

By the time I was six I knew I would become a painter. But in 1965, at the age of 22, I entered a compe­ti­tion put on by the governor of Nebraska (my home state) and after judges awarded me first place, the governor went crazy, called my entry “filthy and disgusting” and threat­ened me with pros­e­cu­tion for creating pornog­raphy. I quit painting, moved to Cali­fornia, and became a paper salesman.

And I might have remained a paper salesman my whole long life except that I also became a father. How could I tell my son I was a paper salesman? Not that there’s anything wrong with that — unless you real­ized you’d been created to paint. So, without knowing anything about design, I started doing paste-ups for designers (Fetzer-Conover) and ended up working for Snoopy at Deter­mined Produc­tions.

In 1978, 35 years old, I quit. I rented a desk from Corpo­rate Graphics and began illus­trating.

Rapi­do­graph dots was my specialty and on my first day out, I got my first edito­rial work: Rich Silver­stein at San Fran­cisco Maga­zine: 40 hours, $40; as well as the cover of Coppo­la’s City maga­zine: same price. The next week Mik Kiti­gawa gave me my first commer­cial job (a jug of milk): 40 hours, $1000. This seemed pretty good! It was not quite what I wanted to do, not my taste, but it sure beat paper sales.

Seven years later Linda Hinrichs asked me to do draw­ings for Dole Mush­rooms; she wanted them done in pencil and done loosely, like a sketch book: right up my alley! From then on I kept getting work closer and closer to my desires. FedEx­press arrived, enabling me to work on the East Coast; then emails opened up Europe and Japan. I began creating illus­tra­tions for the NYTimes, Gourmet, the Boston Globe; as well as Le Figaro, Hermès and Playboy Japan.

Note: Above is *my personal collec­tion of Ward Schumaker’s early art styles (which I gath­ered and saved as I followed Ward’s successful entry into San Francisco’s graphic commu­nity. Some of these show their age and I have noted the years that they appeared in publi­ca­tions here in the San Fran­cisco Bay region. The years show at the bottom of each image when they were published. (Self-promotions of the1970s and assign­ments from 1982 to 2008.)

Ward has said that he is surprised that I have this small collec­tion (of his exten­sive early work). I met Ward as he called on our art studio, repre­senting Carpenter-Offutt Paper and as he started creating commer­cial art, I became a fan of his unlim­ited orig­inal styles.

Ann Thompson


Ward Schu­maker:
Illus­tra­tions

1‑adam.eve.snake: illus­tra­tion for book, God’s Femur. Client: S F Center for the Book
2‑asleep: illus­tra­tion for book, The Art of Being a Woman. Client: Potter
3‑au.chat.agile: illus­tra­tion for book Two Kitchens in Provence. Client: Yolla Bolly Press
4‑Bark.Magazine: illus­tra­tion for article on dogs. Client: Bark Maga­zine
5‑black.dance: cover illus­tra­tion for Date­book. Client: San Fran­cisco Chron­icle
6‑charitybiz: cover of book, Charity Biz. Client: Payot
7‑circus: cover of book, Sing a Song of Circus. Client: Chron­icle Books
8‑columbus.bakery: logo for bakery café. Client: Columbus Bakery
9‑Dix.Jours: cover for book, Dix Jours dans Les Collines. Client: Rivages
10-esquire.japan: cover for maga­zine featuring Northern Cali­fornia. Client: Esquire Japan
11-hemispheres.cover: cover for inflight maga­zine. Client: United Airlines
12-hermes: catalog for the press. Client: Hermès
13​-in​.my​.garden: cover of Japanese chil­dren’s book, In My Garden. Client: Chron­icle Books
14-Japanese.Cultural: illus­tra­tion for brochure. Client: S F Japanese Cultural Center
15-lagom: card­board callig­raphy. Client: Afar Maga­zine
16-mooses_cups: logo for San Fran­cisco restau­rant. Client: Moose’s restau­rant
17-paris.bouge: callig­raphy for maga­zine cover. Client: Le Figaro
18-reading_cat: illus­tra­tion for book­mark. Client: S F Center for the Book
19-sfchronicle_anniv: calli­graphic illus­tra­tion for cover of the Date­book. Client: S F Chron­icle
20-shrek: calli­graphic illus­tra­tion for Broadway play. Client: Spotco
21-wash.post.nixon: illus­tra­tion for maga­zine. Client: Wash­ington Post

Around year 2000 my then new wife suggested I return to painting and now that’s all I do.

You’re invited to visit my current show at Jack Fischer Gallery in San Fran­cisco at 16th and Potrero (until 11 May): Spyder Gears + Iden­tity Maps. Link to: Jack Fischer Gallery Exhi­bi­tion

Much of my fine art consists of large hand-painted books with hand-cut sten­ciled typog­raphy and recently a trade version of one – – an anti-Trump book called Hate Is What We Need – – was published by Chron­icle Books. Buy it on Amazon or Chron­i­cle’s website.

My wife, Vivi­enne Flesher, will be showing at Jack Fischer Gallery’s Minnesota Street Project venue, with an opening 01 June. I’d love to see you there! And my son is now a Martin Luther King, Jr., Visiting Scholar at M.I.T. He creates extra­or­di­nary, amazing computer music. I’m so proud of both of them. And at 76 years old, they make me realize what a fortu­nate guy I’ve been.

Ward Schu­maker

Come Visit my website and see what’s new.