9. Digital Art




Photoshop and Digital Beginnings

As I mentioned earlier, on March 8, 1993 my mother passed away. I had a magazine photo shoot to do in the morning and hoped later to take a train out to see my mother one more time. She had been in a coma and off life support for a week, but when I got back to my studio there was a message on my answering machine saying she had died. We were close and loosing her left me feeling like I was floating in space with Earth way below in the distance.

My mother’s last years necessitated a lot of changes for both of us while my photography got secondary status. With my mother gone there was a need to get my bearings and find some direction. The world of photography had been changing too. Some photographers had purchased expensive digital backs for their cameras, which art directors found useful. Everyone seemed to be  learning Photoshop, while I barely knew how to use a mouse.

I decided to take some Photoshop classes at SVA, or The School Of Visual Arts, the college most of my assistants had attended. I also got an Apple computer for which 32 megs of RAM I vaguely remember was something like $2000. Crazy, and still, by today’s standards, the computers were very slow. I got a slide scanner and began cataloging my 35mm slides. I paid my assistant to do that too. When he lost his apartment and needed a place to stay, I let him live in my studio. There was no TV there and to keep busy – no doubt, out of gratitude and boredom too –  he often scanned my slides at night. It was like the elves and the shoemaker. In the morning a whole batch of scans were done.

My First Photoshop Job

I had placed an ad for my photography in the American Showcase source book and one day a woman from the AFT, or the American Federation of Teachers, called me from Washington, DC.

“Are you so-and-so”, she asked? I told her no and gave her my name.

”Oh, I see what I did. I was looking at so-and-so’s ad on the page opposite yours in American Showcase and dialed your number instead.”

That was weird, but we became great friends. I told her I was working with Photoshop and she asked me to illustrate her upcoming AFT annual report.

The first thing they needed was a “Call” invitation, meaning a card which would be mailed to get people to come to a convention where the annual report would be distributed. The idea hashed out with a terrific art director was to take snippets from all the illustrations that would be in the actual annual report and composite them in a single illustration for the invitation. That meant that I had to first make all my illustrations and then work backwards to take portions of each for the Call design. It was one of the most enjoyable jobs I ever had.

Each affiliate union the AFT worked with had to be represented. The illustration above was for a Teachers Union and was made with Photoshop, Painter and scanned images. Other illustrations were made for a Bus Drivers’ Union, Higher Ed Teachers, etc. This assignment was one of several which gradually moved me away from photography and into making illustrations full time.


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