Monday, January 14, 2008

"I Yam What I Yam!"--but it took a while.


It's story time...

At the time this drawing was made I was twenty-six years old and already a washed up has-been. After wasting my young adult life in pursuit of a musical career I'd finally given up on the idea of becoming "the next big thing" and fearfully looked into the future.

I was doing production work for a few local newspapers and creating billboards for the Seaboard Company, as well as designing packaging art for a few Brooklyn-based companies. Luckily, in the last half of '79 I scored a position in NYC at Gem Studio, producing art for ad agencies, but at the time I made this drawing things things looked bleak, to say the least. I'd gone on countless interviews to various ad agencies but never got my foot in the door. Whatever they were looking for I didn't have.

I'd always loved drawing, but never really thought I'd be able to make a go of it. I'd failed to gain acceptance to The High School of Art & Design due to an unremarkable grade average in spite of a strong portfolio, and that experience soured me on the pursuit of the graphic arts as a way to make a living. But I kept on drawing for my own enjoyment, and enrolled in the Albert Pels School of Art (after four lackluster years in a trade high school) to learn production art.

Once I was able to get my foot in the door at Gem I did everything I could to get ahead. I took a years' worth of night classes at the Art Students League, and I went from doing paste-ups and mechanicals to creating props and film sets, before being promoted to the position of the first on-staff Illustrator in Gem's history. Before that they only used freelancers for what little illustration work they would get. The illustration business grew to employ eight illustrators in the first year, and would flourish for the next twenty-plus. After nearly a decade at Gem I got the bug to create comic books, something I'd always longed to do. So I licensed The Honeymooners along with some business partners and produced two years worth of issues.

After that I was back at Gem for a year and then at Saatchi & Saatchi for two or three, working mostly on animatics for the General Mills account. When Saatchi started hitting the rails and losing accounts I moved over to the design studio of the Warner Brothers Studio Stores. I had finally found a place to apply my love and knowlege of animation and design in a consumer products-based division. I'd never known that Warners and Disney had studios in NYC! After a year in NY Warner moved their design studio to LA. I stayed behind as a contracted freelancer at first and moved west in '96. When WB closed their Studio Stores in 2000 I had the opportunity to fulfill another life-long dream and created children's books based on Scooby-Doo. And I continued producing gallery art based on Warners, MGM and Hanna-Barbera properties for the Clampett Studio.

In mid-December of 2003 I was offered a position at Disney Consumer Products and given the chance of fulfilling another life-long dream. I'm at the beginning of my fifth year at the big D and I look forward to arriving there every day. Sure, they've got some of the greatest properties in the entertainment world, but they've also got some of the nicest people working there as well. It's a blessing to be able to do something you really love for a living. A blessing and a privilege.

I keep this old weathered, poorly executed Popeye hanging in my studio to remind myself of where I came from.

9 comments:

PJ said...

That is a wonderful story!

It exemplifies how one should approach life, every day is a chance to start anew.

I like the way you put it, “washed up at 26 but still able to make a go of things!” How old it may have felt at the time and how young it seems looking back.

It just proves to start any journey, you need to take a first step. It’s really made me smile!

Kimberly M. Zamlich said...

Great life story! It was a blessing that you struggled so much in the beginning because that is what propelled you to success in the future. You never gave up and you know what it is to keep believing in yourself. Kelsey Grammar once wrote, "It's a marathon, not a race" in his autobiography. Keep on drawing and dreaming, Vince! Thanks for sharing!

bigjiminy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bigjiminy said...

Thanks for that auto-biography Vince.
I love hearing about other people's journeys. I talked to an 81 year old man the other day and I was lamenting entering my forties without knowing exactly where I was going as an artist, etc.
He told me of a friend of his who quit a successful musical career as a studio trombonist at 43 and went into Philosophy of all things and became the first full-time Philosophy Professor at UC Fullerton. It's never too late until it's too late.
I love that old Popeye drawing by the way.

Ry's Photo Blog said...

I love the old Popeye drawing too. How cool that it's hanging in your studio. And it was nice to get the history on you....Thanks Vin.

Lena said...

Greetings!This it great1At once there was a good mood1
Good be!

Jen said...

Great drawing and great story of pursuing your dreams- this could inspire anyone to keep going! I remember you telling me how you used to draw on paper bags when you were younger and I'm happy to see such a good example of it.
I think it kind of looks like Shelly.

Vince M. said...

Thanks for all the nice comments, people. I was a little nervous about putting this one up, but after hearing your positive responses I'm glad I did.

Roz and I just got back from NYC for the birth of our third granddaughter, Gianna. I'll post a shot of her as soon as I can.

Pete & Rose said...

Vinny We are so excited that life has brought our paths together again. It was so GOOD to hear your voice and to reminisce about the days of our youth. I am so proud of you man! Looking forward to a renewed friendship.