Saturday, May 16, 2009
Joe Blangiardo 1942-2009
Received some sad news this morning from Ken Bald- Gem Studio founder and CEO Joe Blangiardo passed away yesterday at the very young age of 66.
If you were a storyboard artist in NYC from the late '70s through the late '90s Gem Studio was where you wanted to be. Especially if you were just starting out in the field, as I was in '78. Joe and his partner Mel Schlossberg treated everyone like family, with all of the emotional ups and downs that came along with that type of setting. Some of us hung in for a long haul, while others drifted in and out within a few months.
Gem Studio wasn't an easy place to work at, Joe and Mel could be very demanding, Joe especially. But if they liked you and your work they treated you very well. I became an illustrator at Gem after doing production work for a year or so. It was a wonderful opportunity for a young professional to work alongside seasoned sketch men like Ken Bald, John Moody and Bob Tremaine. My good friend Vic Spadoni was also promoted from production to illustrator and I remember us being thrilled at having the opportunity to finally get the chance to create storyboards and comp art. If Joe and Mel believed in you they would also foot the bill for classes at The Art Student's League, as they did for me.
Don't get me wrong, it wasn't all peaches and cream, but if you were willing to work long and hard you could make a helluva living. Due to the tight deadlines of the ad agencies we worked for overtime was necessary a few nights a week, and we'd be asked to work weekends once in a while. But the overtime pay and weekend bonuses were very much appreciated.
Some of my fondest memories of Joe are with a few of us sitting in his beautiful wood-paneled office in the glow of his huge, immaculate aquarium, shooting the breeze with Sinatra playing in the background. I haven't seen Joe in fifteen years, but I did get to speak with him about a year ago, and now I'm glad I made the call.