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.
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.