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