The Weiser (pronounced ‘wiser’) Experience

by Alden Cole on March 23, 2015 · 0 comments

“True friendship multiplies the good of life and divides the evil.” – Baltasar Gracián y Morales (1601-1658)

1975WeiserCatalogCoverWPSamuel Weiser Publications catalog cover, spring 1975. 6″ x 9″

Working for and with Donald Weiser was life-altering, a Jupiter-cycle of twelve years from February 1974 to April 1986. This is not the medium in which to explain at length how extraordinary was this experience, nor what a true friend and mentor this man is, who now lives in Florida, a great lover still of books and the printed word. Through Donald I first encountered the work of a major artistic light in my firmament of stars – Nicholas Roerich (1874-1947). But that’s another story. The one at hand is how this ‘apprenticeship’ of twelve years turned many of my life attitudes around. When I started at Weiser’s in February 1974, my job description was ‘invoice typist’ – a way of supporting my new-found painting habit. Having recently burned my fashion illustration portfolio, I’d turned my back on commercial art with a load of attitude: I was a ‘fine’ artist now, who wouldn’t stoop to doing ‘hack’ work as a fashion illustrator any more. I’d taken the regular paying job at Weiser’s so that painting time wouldn’t be ‘contaminated’ by taking on commercial work. I rationalized that I couldn’t stand the tension of being pulled in two directions – the sacred and the profane – seeing painting as ‘sacred’ and fashion illustration as ‘profane’; it was time to leave the profane behind. My dreams of perfect love in a fashionable world had not worked out as planned, so I was going to devote my life to ‘Art’ instead.

“Great ability develops and reveals itself increasingly with every new assignment.” – ditto on Baltasar Gracián

1977WeiserCatalogCoverWPSamuel Weiser Publications catalog cover, spring 1977. 6″ x 9″ wrap-around

Donald, in consultation with Jim Wasserman, Weiser’s office manager in the late 70s, was the one responsible for giving me the chance to discover that the sacred and profane can be balanced:to realize that I could be both fine and commercial artist. In early ’75 I had successfully designed my first book cover; other assignments were soon coming my way. That spring Jim gave me a new one: design the cover for a forthcoming catalog of publications, featured at the top of today’s posting. Just above is a wrap-around cover designed for the ’77 catalog. Wrap-around covers soon became a device I used as often as I could in publications of whatever variety. So I developed another career as commercial artist, this time as graphic designer and illustrator, which proved an invaluable life lesson teaching the ability to wear more than one hat simultaneously, sometimes several. Thereafter I learned to make time for balancing both fine and applied arts in my life without having to cop an attitude about what was beneath me as artist.

“Put a grain of boldness into everything you do.” – ditto

TransitionWPTransition • acrylics on watercolor paper • March 1975 • provenance unknown

Herewith three of the pieces I was painting in my spare time 40 years ago as part of my inner world exploration.
IncantationWPAll three were done in March, the third showing a transition which spring brought in its wake – hair, lots of it: The Rapture of the Fashionistas in Their Birthday Suits.

Ascension2WPSince I didn’t get to a revelation of The Wisdom of the Bottle Caps story and how it relates to Weiser’s, that will have to wait until tomorrow or another day…

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: