Doing the Career Sidestep Shuffle…

by Alden Cole on May 9, 2014 · 0 comments

ShoesAlexisKirkWPleft: original b&w line illustration, 14″ x 14″ • right: printed piece, 12″ x 12″, reproduced from original b&w artwork (destroyed) • both: collection of the artist

Summer/Fall 1970: Although shell-shocked by my negative employment experiences of the past number of months, and determined not seek employment as a designer on 7th Avenue again, my time in that legendary locale was not over. Geneva Jurkewicz, a RISD classmate who had been living in NYC for a couple years, and who had made the transition from fashion design to fashion illustration, knew of my difficulties with getting and holding a job as a designer in the industry. She suggested that since I could draw well, I should pull together a portfolio of fashion illustrations and try to sell myself in that capacity instead. So in addition to constructing and selling custom clothing through the studio I shared with my designing partner Juan Arrillaga, I purchased a portfolio case and started working up some illustrations. I was determined to effect this transition; I wanted to stay in New York, and if that meant side stepping into a different aspect of an industry I had trained to be a part of, that was fine by me. My first big break happened in late 1970, occasioned by a lead from my friend Dick Goodstein, the major client who had been commissioning clothing from the Arrillaga & Cole studio that Juan and I struggled to keep afloat that fall, providing a rather sparse living for us both. Dick connected me to an agency — the Merchandising Group at Madison Avenue and 53rd Street — that would prove to be a mainstay in my evolving career as an illustrator. The first job done for the agency was an initiation into the vicissitudes of client/artist relationships; learning that a client does not always share all the information that should be made available to free lancers. The job: over fifty fashion illustrations that would be combined with fabric swatches to create a marketing booklet for the agency’s major client, Dupont. Due to the total number of illustrations needed, I agreed to do the job for $10 a figure, a low per-drawing fee even in those times. However it was my first major illustration job, and I was already looking forward to receiving that check for over $500 once the job was complete. How many days it took me to create that many similar-but-different b&w line illustrations I can’t remember; but I do remember delivering the finished work, only to discover that all of the drawings were too big. The ladies I was working with had neglected to mention that the drawings were going to be reproduced by photo-copying, not offset-printing, so they needed to be same-size, rather than the oversized illustrations I had created, assuming (incorrectly) they would be reduced down to their proper size before printing. I was stunned by the news. What to do? The solution: to buy a small portable camera lucida which allowed me to trace off my originals as slightly smaller versions. Tedious, absolutely! But the process worked, and the client was thrilled, paving the way for me to do many more jobs over the next three years for them and Dupont.

The shoe illustration featured today was one of those early pieces drawn as a portfolio sample, knowing that b&w line work was an industry standard that I needed to show examples of. The other artwork is a printed piece done for jewelry designer Alexis Kirk, an early client who appreciated my skills as an emerging illustrator. A RISD graduate several years older than myself, Alexis made quite the splash in NY design circles when he first arrived on the scene in the late 60s, shortly before I became associated with him.

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: