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Unforgettable Art Supply Moment No. 18 - Lou Bortone

posted: August 6, 2012
"My Most Unforgettable Art Supply Moment" is a series of short interviews with seasoned artists who have survived substantial combat in the great war of the graphic arts. Each participant was asked the same five questions.
Lou Bortone in 1958, his first year at WBZ-TV.
 
Emmy Award-winning Executive AD Lou Bortone’s 37-year career at Boston’s WBZ-TV began in 1958 as an assistant in what was then the station’s one-man department. “When I was in my senior year at Massachusetts College of Art,” they offered me one night’s work posting on-air election returns,” says Lou. That turned into a full-time job working 3-11 pm, which allowed him to finish college. His responsibilities grew over the years along with the burgeoning TV industry.
“I was offered promotions to higher positions twice, but turned them both down, mainly because I didn't want to leave the Boston area and because I loved being involved with the actual art,” he adds. “We worked in three areas: print for audience and sales promotion; video (of course); and set design. It was exciting, and there was never really a dull moment.”
 
As cable crept in and much less local programming was done, the art department was reduced to mostly doing news graphics. “Boring!” laughs Lou. He happily retired at 63. WBZ was originally owned by Westinghouse Broadcasting, then sold to CBS, and is now owned by Viacom. 
 
1. Can you recall for us your worst most unforgettable art supply experience?
 
By the time 1976 rolled around, a good many of us had switched to waxers for mechanical paste-ups, rather than the more unforgiving rubber cement. I was president of the Art Directors Club of Boston then, and gave myself the job of laboriously assembling a same-size paste-up of the Club’s lobster dinner poster announcement onto a 30” x 40” sheet of Foamcore. It was a cold December day, and two blocks from the local silk screen house, a strong winter wind did its best to grab the mechanical from my hands. I struggled and sort of regained control, but not before the countless waxed pieces of type (as well as a giant lobster photo in many parts) went swirling down the street on their own. Miraculously, the pieces ended up wedged under a large dumpster, and I was lucky enough to rescue every piece. The print house owner and I managed to reassemble it on a large table with the help of hours of Scotch tape. I used up my entire month’s supply of swear words in one day!
 
2. Other than your first answer, is there an art supply that you’ve hated having to use more than any other?
 
Besides the waxer, I quickly grew to despise spray glue (although it may have made my life easier on the lobster poster).
 
3. On the other hand, can you think of an especially favorite art supply that you miss the most that has unfortunately left us for that big art supply heaven in the sky?
 
It’s difficult to pick out just one! I had a special drawing board made for me by my local art dealer. It had a metal border along one side, which facilitated the use of a cam-lok T-square. A simple twist, and the T-square was locked in place. It was especially handy for mechanical drawings of set designs for the scenic builders.
 
Other favorites would be a Kensol hot press as well as a Polaroid 46-L transparency film and copy stand set up for on-air art. We could make black and white slides pretty fast. Most missed, though, would have to be a Bolex single-frame movie camera we rigged up for limited animations. We mounted it on the Polaroid copy stand, and away we went! It was so successful, that I was able to convince the station to buy us an Oxberry 16mm animation stand and camera.
The Oxberry stand.
4. Are there any other art supplies that you’ve just plain thrown away that you wish you still had?
 
I haven’t tossed anything that I wish I still had.
 
5. At one time or another, a lot of us have purchased something that we thought was soooo cool when we saw it at the art supply store, then we ended up never ever using it. Has this ever happened to you?
 
We bought and soon threw away that little useless blade sharpener gizmo that X-acto came up with. I notice that others here have felt the same way about it.
 
It amazes me today to look back on all the tools and supplies we were lucky enough to have at hand. I felt very bad for some of our suppliers — after the Mac, customers just stopped using their services. Typesetting seemed to get hit the hardest.
South African Radio Interview with Curator Lou Brooks

posted: August 4, 2012

Going "Zippytone" for Forgotten Art Supplies

posted: July 9, 2012
The Museum has received "possibly its greatest honor of all time," according to curator Lou Brooks, when it was recently acknowledged by none other than Zippy the Pinhead himself! Today's July 9 Zippy daily comic strip treats readers to a quick tour of Zippy's very own collection of forgotten art supplies, along with a "tip o' th' pin to Lou Brooks" (see panel 3) by strip creator Bill Griffith.
 
"I'm speechless. Zippy is exactly the type of person the Museum's trying to reach. His is the perfect forgotten art supply attitude," says Brooks. The original art is now part of Brooks' personal comic art collection.
 
Griffith began the actual strip in The Berkeley Barb in 1976, and it was soon syndicated nationally as a weekly strip. Today, Zippy is distributed worldwide to more than 100 newspapers by King Features Syndicate.
Unforgettable Art Supply Moment No. 17 - Glen Mullaly

posted: June 13, 2012
"My Most Unforgettable Art Supply Moment" is a series of short interviews with seasoned artists who have survived substantial combat in the great war of the graphic arts. Each participant was asked the same five questions.

Illustrator Glen Mullaly claims he was born with a pencil in his hand. “After four unsuccessful attempts, doctors managed to transplant it to just above my right ear”, he adds. Now he draws “neato” pictures for kids of all ages from his  “swanky” studio on the west coast of Canada. Straddling the old-school era (first paid job at age 14 in 1982 was a spot illo of a superhero for a used-car-lot newspaper ad) and digital era (current jobs include a children’s animated e-book for Oxford University Press) has not only given him the advantage of a solid mechanical foundation that he uses in his digital work, but also Spray Mount lungs and xylene-addled brain cells. Find out more at www.glenmullaly.com.

1. Can you recall for us your worst most unforgettable art supply experience?

Since attempts at cutting Rubylith in high heat and blood-spurting X-Acto blade injuries have been covered, I'll mention the horrors of Zip-a-Tone/Letratone cutting (the adhesive type, not the rub-on variety). I was always trying to make each expensive sheet last (if I remember correctly, they were close to $20 each by the time I stopped using them in the mid-to-late 1990s!) by using EVERY POSSIBLE SQUARE INCH OF THE DARNED THING! Of course, that meant filling the necessary areas with many smaller sections cut and fit together jigsaw puzzle-like. Apparently I had more time than brains as it always made the job go much longer than needed. And as the years have passed since every one of those beloved black and white illustrations is now covered with an aged layer of shrunken Letratone with wide channels where the spliced sheets have pulled apart from each other. And I won't even go into running out of the percentage screen of Letratone I needed mid-job late at night after the stores had closed, with a deadline looming first thing the next morning. Yep, pull out the Rapidograph or Pigma pen -- it's time for hand-drawn tone dots! Ah, the good old days…

2. Other than your first answer, is there an art supply that you’ve hated having to use more than any other?

As mentioned by plenty o' other folks, the clear winner in the loser department is 3M's Spray Mount. I still have a can of "black death," and pull it out once a year or so for a job. But no more spraying at my drafting table and coating everything within an eight-foot diameter. Now, it's out in the garage with the doors, open, fans going, and a mask. And it's still horrible. I can still feel my arm hairs coated in the stuff. Excuse me while I go and wash up…

3. On the other hand, can you think of an especially favorite art supply that you miss the most that has unfortunately left us for that big art supply heaven in the sky?

I miss the old formulation that Pelican used for it's graphic white. I'm sure it was chock full of leady goodness, but it flowed, covered and flexed so much better than the current concoction. I have a penchant for attempting to customize my art supplies and tools, such as my fleet of heavily customized Sanford Pro-Touch II mechanical pencils I've used to draw everything in the last 15 years. Or my Japanese Zebra neoprene inking brushes, cheap and direct from Hong Kong (I swap out the blotchy water-and-dye-based ink for ammonia-based Pigma pen ink that stands up to smudges and graphic white so much better). I've even tried to add a few secret ingredients to the new Pelican stuff -- but it's just not the same. On the other hand I've probably added a few years to my life without the lead. I guess it's worth it. Maybe.

4. Are there any other art supplies that you’ve just plain thrown away that you wish you still had?

I tend to hang on to those usually expensive tools and supplies, but every once in a while I stumble upon a new technique that requires a tool that I’ve got rid of, not thinking I'd ever need it. The problem seems to crop up as inevitably as the changing of the seasons, or the raising of the prices at my local art supply store.

5. At one time or another, a lot of us have purchased something that we thought was soooo cool when we saw it at the art supply store, then we ended up never ever using it. Has this ever happened to you?

No. I have an uncanny ability to purchase only the exact amount of the perfect supplies needed for the job at hand. On a completely unrelated topic: if anyone happens to be in the Victoria BC area next weekend I'm having a giant art supply garage sale. Items for sale include highly inaccurate matte cutters and wavy paper trimmers; dozens of sheets of partially used Letratone; boxes of incorrectly judged hardnesses and thicknesses of mechanical pencil leads; reams of expensive and obsolete bubble jet printer paper bought during a short-lived inking experiment; $500 worth of gouache I've used exactly twice in the 10 years since bought; complete sets of almost-but-not-quite-dead Pantone and Chartpak markers; 50 (fifty I tells ya!) Mars graphic 3000 duo pens from the late 1990s that I stocked up on when they decided to change the design of the pen (only to switch to a different inking tool a year later); a compass rule for drawing REALLY BIG CIRCLES (used only once by a little old artist on his way to church; that blue flexible ruler thing that broke after three unsuccessful uses; and unfortunately much, much more.
 
How I Spent My Art Supply Summer

posted: May 26, 2012
Simone Weissman strikes a scholastic Cornell summer pose. Photo @ Simone Weissman.
Back in the '70s when Museum enthusiast Simone Weissman enrolled in Cornell's summer architecture program for HS students, they immediately hit her up with this list of supplies required for the program. It's an excellent detailed example of some of the typical stuff we all used back then. Simone confesses that she still has most of them in hiding, but examples of all of them can be found here in the Museum collection.
 
One 36" wood t-square; one 12" 45/90 triangle; one 30/60 triangle; one student architecture scale;  two 2-mm lead holders; one Alvin rotary lead pointer; one 3/pak 2-mm 2H lead;  one 3/pak 2-mm F lead; one 3/pak 2-mm 2B lead; one ruler SS 24"; one white vinyl eraser 2/ct; one drafting brush; one Sobo glue 8 oz.; one Masterbow compass; one 18" x 24" black/green cutting mat; one sketch trace roll 12" x 50 yards yellow; drafting tape; five sheets of 1-ply chipboard 32" x 40"; one stainless steel square 3" x 4"; one 2/pak General's 2B draughting pencil; one erasing shield; one Fantasia 6-pencil sketch set; one Dahle 2-hole pencil sharpener; one HD cutter with grip L-2; one 6/pk Olfa blades LB6B;  one X-Acto #1 knife with safety cap; one 15/pk X-Acto #11 blades.
Art Supplies of the Gods #8

posted: May 26, 2012
1964 by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and the estate of Leslie Stevens.
A Martian (Carroll O'Connor) assists his boss Martian (Barry Morse) in calculating time and the universe by using an extraterrestial "device" that we know better to be an adjustable triangle. From the first season episode of The Outer Limits (1964). The show was constantly battling shrinking network budgets, and necessity is the mother of invention!
Art Supplies CAN Be Funny!

posted: May 2, 2012
Being a long-time member of Elwood Smith's Punsters Society, I've heard more than once that "a pun is the lowest form of humor, but a poem is verse." But back in the Paleolithographic Era of Illustration, I found a way to lower the humor bar even more when editor Jill Bossert and publisher Jerry McConnell experienced temporary insanity long enough to invite me to conceive and design the book for the Society of Illustrators second Humor Show, as well as serve on the jury. What's that? When exactly was the show? 1988, okay, mister? Now you know... so don't ask me again!
 
Anyway, I asked best pal Jim Wilson to design some Johnson Smith-style art supplies for the front of the book, and this is what he came up with. I still hand out a trick push pin now and then to a "rookie". What a riot! A more inclusive view of the spread is shown below, featuring a map of illustration stars' homes as well as a couple of illustrator bubble gum cards. By the way, I did the best I could with patching together flatbed scans of such a large book, so hope it's satisfactory.
Art Supplies of the Gods #7

posted: March 30, 2012
Photo 1944 Universal Studios.
Apparently using no art supplies except for an H-frame studio easel and a small brush, artist David Stuart (Lon Chaney) creates a remarkable likeness of model Tanya Czoraki (Acquanetta) in Dead Man's Eyes (1944) -- the third entry in Universal's Inner Sanctum series. Say, whatever became of all those great paintings seen in so many classic films from back then?
Art Supplies of the Gods #6

posted: March 9, 2012
Photo 1958 by Latimer Productions.
A scene from "The Alibi Witness," a 1958 episode of M Squad, one of TV's greatest cop shows of the '50s. Chicago Det. Lt. Frank Ballinger (Lee Marvin) carefully examines a damning piece of murder case evidence: a wooden t-square! Meanwhile, his deadpan voice-over narration explains, "The unlocked door... the money packed in a bag... blood on a broken t-square. The man had been dead for days."
Unforgettable Art Supply Moment No. 16 - Jack Tom

posted: February 20, 2012
"My Most Unforgettable Art Supply Moment" is a series of short interviews with seasoned artists who have survived substantial combat in the great war of the graphic arts. Each participant was asked the same five questions.

Graphic designer/illustrator/educator Jack Tom grew up in San Francisco during the clamorous headband-and-sitar years of the ‘60s. “At that time, my ambitions had been focused on becoming a herpetologist and working in research for a museum someday,” says Jack. “That all changed when someone on the street gave me a handbill for a rock concert at the Avalon Ballroom. It changed my life forever. From that moment, I knew I wanted to draw pictures for a living.”

While working for a multimedia company, he visited New York City in 1976. The visit convinced him that in order for his career to reach its full potential, he needed to move east. The next year, he was living in New York and working at McCall’s Magazine as designer of the magazine’s “Right Now” eight-page monthly insert. A few years later, Lou Dorfsman hired him on as Senior Designer at CBS.

“At McCall’s, CBS, and later on at Business Week, I was able to work with pretty much any top illustrator that I chose,” he continues. “Most of them were in New York in those days, and they all turned out to be a tremendous influence on me. I found myself moving more and more along the same path, and soon I was a fulltime freelance illustrator/designer.”

In 1985, he eventually launched Jack Tom Design, now headquartered in Bridgeport, CT. He has served as president of the Connecticut Art Directors Club, and presently teaches Communication Design, Typography, and Illustration at Western Connecticut State University as well as at Norwalk Community College. To find out more about Jack and to see his work, visit Jack Tom Design.
The actual 1967 handbill that changed Jack Tom's life: "Van Morrison plus The Daily Flash and Hair - all at the Avalon October 20-21-22." It's been on Jack's wall ever since, as evidenced by the thumbtack hole top center.
1. Can you recall your worst most unforgettable art supply experience?

Yes, or at least it was a hazardous art supply experience. When I was at McCall's, a new adhesive product came on the market: 3M Spray Mount. We were using one-coat rubber cement to paste up mechanicals and the rubber cement required drying time, but spray mount was immediate. The spraying area was in the trashcan next to my chair. Anyway, after a year, I noticed a silhouette the shape of my body on my black chair... it was created by the spray particulars from the spray mount landing around me and the rest was landing on me and, of course, I was inhaling it...OMG!

2. Other than your first answer, is there an art supply that you’ve hated having to use more than any other?

Yes, I hated using Pantone overlay film products...it was much more tacky and more expensive than Cello-Tak and Zip-a-tone. But Cello-Tak and Zip-a-tone colors were being slowly discontinued and getting harder to find, so I was stuck using Pantone. After going digital, I gave away my Pantone color sheets to Randy Enos. They were getting very expensive by then, so I hope my Pantone overlays came in handy for him.

3. On the other hand, can you think of an especially favorite art supply that you miss the most that has unfortunately left us for that big art supply heaven in the sky?

I used to love using Rapidographs and Rotring technical pens. They were a pain to use at times (clogging and cleaning), but they made great lines. I also miss using Letraset rub-down type. I still have a few boxes of both Letraset rub-down and Formatt cut-out type and dot screen sheets.

4. Are there any other art supplies that you’ve just plain thrown away that you wish you still had?
I had a good set of Magic Markers and Pantone markers, over 80 colors. I had to throw them out because they eventually dried out. There are times when I'm doing a tight sketch, and I just don't feel like scanning and coloring it digitally. The markers would come in very handy.
 
5. At one time or another, a lot of us have purchased something that we thought was soooo cool when we saw it at the art supply store, then we ended up never ever using it. Has this ever happened to you?

Chartpak came out with an X-acto blade sharpener called Quikpoint. I was at CBS at the time and someone ordered a few for the designers. We thought it was the answer to reusing the X-acto blades, but it sucked, and it never did restore an X-acto #11 to its former self. So, we just kept on buying the 100-blade bulk pack.
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