Working Toward a Career

If you know of students in high school, who are wondering which path to take, tell them that there are many choices that can lead to their final desti­na­tion.

An Art Student’s Port­folio (Early 60’s) In today’s art scene, my port­folio would be laughed at. The art tools changed through the years and now I know the beauty of the digital advan­tages. There is today, no need for that huge black port­folio – just a small thumb‐drive would do the job. But the generosity of time that was given to students in the past seems to have disap­peared. Resumes are required and pre‐interview selec­tions are made before personal meet­ings. It is not now, as friendly as it was.

FAMOUS ARTISTS SCHOOL My first art samples for my port­folio came from what I had learned from the “Famous Artists Schools” corre­spon­dence art course that I started while in my senior year of high school.

My family’s move from Santa Rosa to West­lake, Daly City, before my last year in high schooI, left me with no connec­tions with my previous five years of classes or friends. I created “my art studio” in our family’s garage and I put all my spare time and efforts in drawing and completing the FA lessons, which were mailed to West­port, Connecticut. The lessons empha­sized illus­tra­tion. These correc­tions to my endeavors, shown below, were an obvious “eye‐opener” for my growth toward commer­cial art. The “Simple Simon” lesson gave me a lot of notes to follow when I later re‐drew to subject in line only. In the “circus” assign­ment, I was taught that a painting is not an illus­tra­tion.

PACIFIC TELEPHONE When I grad­u­ated from high school, at age 17, I was still mailing my FA lessons but I was far from able to find employ­ment as an artist. My mother suggested that I pay rent – “Rent?” “But I live here!”

Soon, with a personal connec­tion from my aunt from her WWII long‐distance oper­ator job – I found a job at 3rd & Channel (San Francisco’s longest building) where Pacific Tele­phone Co.’s direc­tory was produced. In those days, banana boats came through the (lifted) Lefty O’Doul Draw Bridge. Work friends and I would sit along the building’s south side eating our lunches, watching the bananas being loaded ashore.

The direc­tory job taught me proof­reading marks. I knew at the time, that the “yellow pages” were produced on the next floor above and small spots of artwork went into some list­ings. But I never took the elevator up to see what might be possible for my level of art training. Thinking, now, of the whole different direc­tion that my life would have taken, I am glad that my inse­cu­rity, held me back.

CITY COLLEGE of SAN FRANCISCO After eleven months at Pac Bell, my mother found a 3 line announce­ment in one of San Francisco’s news­pa­pers offering a “night, adver­tising class” at Lincoln High. There, I met William Davis who was about to join the faculty at City College of San Francisco’s adver­tising curriculum. He convinced me to quit my job and sign‐up at CCSF. The wages that I had saved covered the amount that I owed to my parents for the FA lessons, my on‐going rent, and the art supplies and books that were needed.

CCSF offered lessons in figure drawing, lettering and type design, graphic design, pack­aging, art history, slide and film presen­ta­tion and finally, an intro­duc­tion to art produc­tion and guid­ance in creating a port­folio to show my work. One of my final art assign­ments was a pack­aging concept. Mine was one of three designs that were reported in the college’s news­paper.

(Note: Only as I was scan­ning this college paper did I, for the first time, read this other story in the paper. Never following sports in those days, I found this, an insight into the early life of Mohammad Ali. Appar­ently he took in laundry.)

I had a class assign­ment where the students were to mimic a famous painter to adver­tise a product. I chose Henri Rousseau. I lost my painted rendering of the product that was placed at the bottom‐left of a 2” white panel with just a few copy lines and the Weil logo.

The college had events and art students could donate their art and get a printed sample.

Another lesson learned was that printing on a colored stock, required that the paper had to be lighter than the inks – unless there was the budget to print, in this case, many passes of white and yellow. The impact of my orig­inal sketch was lost, but I did get a printed sample for my port­folio. The lettering class taught all aspects of type and how to “comp it” in a layout.

The figure drawing class was my favorite. Besides drawing with char­coal, conté crayon and pencil this was my first time using a Flo‐master pen. The trick was to keep the nib fairly dry.

ACADEMY OF ART In 1961, CCSF awarded me a (June‐July) summer schol­ar­ship at the Academy of Art on Sutter Street (then, its only loca­tion) with classes in fashion, oil painting, figure drawing and on‐location sketching. One loca­tion was Tele­graph Hill and the instructor was Richard “Pappy” Stevens, the school’s “founding father”. The three sketches below are from one morning’s class. Then, near noon, our class would retire to a coffee shop (where Scoma’s now stands) and “Pappy” would “hold court”. I have no other samples from the summer classes. The value then, of the summer schol­ar­ship, was $150.

IMAGINATION, INC. Several of Mr. Davis’s students and I had a chance to work part‐time as an cell‐painters for Imag­i­na­tion, Inc.’s animated commer­cial for Chevron. The loca­tion was on Kearney Street and it was exciting to have an art job and arrive early to work. Also there was a tempo­rary job with an animator, Milt Kerr, who had rented space in Gabriel Moulin Studio on Second Street.

FIRST INTERVIEWS I had grad­u­ated from CCSF. This was when I began looking for work in adver­tising art. It was June of 1963 and I was twenty‐one. Was I an illus­trator, a graphic designer? Did I have a creative talent in adver­tising for an ad agency – to create slogans, create layouts? Should I inter­view with ad agen­cies or art studios? I tried both.

The large black port­folio that I carried as I searched for work consisted of samples of my efforts rendered in oil paint, water­color and gouache, ink, graphite pencil and pastels (chalks). It was diffi­cult rendering sharp edges with pastels. At that time, felt‐tip color markers did not exist in a large range of colors. The first Magic Markers were uncom­fort­able – a small bottle with a felt‐tip and metal cap.

(In the column at the left, is a “favorite site”: Lou Brooks Museum of Forgotten Art Supplies.)

The collec­tion below shows the usual black port­folio, a story­board and three ad concept samples. There were also 17 addi­tional subjects from which I would choose a small selec­tion that would be of certain interest to an ad agency – concepts, copy, and layout styles for an ad agency­ – or items that were more illus­tra­tive directed toward an art studio job.

I made very many appoint­ments. The top art direc­tors and artists, in those days, would give a personal inter­view and offer a critique of a student’s port­folio. A few that viewed my port­folio were: Herb Briggs, Sam Hollis, Tom Gleason (ad agen­cies)– and Richard Evans and Lowell Herrero (art studios). Given allowance for being young and a student, everyone was very kind, but I didn’t find employ­ment.

WELLS FARGO BANK Then in September of 1963, with a refer­ence from my sister and her friends, I became first a clerk and then a stop‐payment clerk for Wells Fargo Bank on Grant and Market Streets. In my off hours, I kept clip­ping refer­ence and styles for the “morgue” (a scrap file) that was suggested in the FA instructions­ – and I kept prac­ticing art styles. I wasn’t very disap­pointed being at the bank, because I was improving my skills at home and I still made contacts with profes­sionals.

LAST INTERVIEW After four months at the bank, again Bill Davis nudged me into a step that put me on the best path for my future. Butte, Herrero & Hyde at 722 Mont­gomery Street (where I had inter­viewed previ­ously) had employed two artists, Chuck Wertman and Mike Bull, who had decided to free‐lance. I showed my port­folio, but BH&H needed studio skills from me – which was all that I needed to learn to run a successful studio. (I never presented my port­folio again.) A year later when I was 22, BH&H dissolved their part­ner­ship and I started my self‐employment at 728 Mont­gomery Street, renting space from Bill Hyde. I was able to be an illus­trator and an art director, both!

GOOD TIMING AND BAD In my search for employ­ment there was one big lesson: timing.
When I had to step off‐track from my ambi­tious goal, taking other employ­ment–

I kept growing by improving my skills and most impor­tantly, I stayed open to the sugges­tions from others; my aunt (Pac Tel), my mother (the Lincoln High night class), Bill Davis (CCSF), my sister and friends (WFB), Bill Davis, again (BH&H) and Butte, Herrero & Hyde supporting me into self‐employment.

Each choice I made took me in a new direc­tion. Whether it is a “fork in the road” or the “up‐ button in an elevator”, a person’s life will change. If you know a young student in need of a sugges­tion, if you see or know some­thing, say some­thing.

Like my mother, I still clip oppor­tu­ni­ties from the news­paper and now, also, from the web.

Ann Thompson