artist as brand, digital media, illustration, illustrator, illustrators journal, levinland, social media, technology
When did you first think about art/design/ marketing as something you wanted to do? Were you encouraged or discouraged by family, friends, teachers, mentors?
I was the type of kid born with imaginary, over- sized, futuristic Hollywood sunglasses looking at the world as if every molecule was a crystal ball into the future. I was always confidently doing things a little different like in third grade, deciding to defiantly wear a brand-new crisp light blue Swiss dot pajama top as a blouse with my grey flannel pleated skirt as a precise outfit choice full of contrasting texture and meaning. (for me in any case) I vividly remember the thrill of sit- ting in class with a secret, that I was wearing a PJ top. At 15, I was instructing my needle-pointing Aunt to make a Warhol soup can on a lime green background for a pillow she wanted to make for my bedroom. My visual and style confidence was in the creation of art, no matter what form.
I always felt like a playful old soul, always creating, always inspiring, lovingly-teasing and suggesting to other kids what they should do with their art. (that’s where the PR, brand consultant aspect comes from!) In high school pottery class I convinced a classmate to a challenge that, whatever the assignment was, we had to over-embellish and go a million miles beyond in the assignment. It was like the “Show- stopper” challenge on The Great British Baking Show reality show except with clay. My family were fiddlers who created outside of the lines. My Aunt Adele colored flowers on her plain white curtains with Crayola crayons for décor and I was mesmerized.
My Dad would tinker in the garage to take a copper cooking pot lid and make it into a centerpiece of an antique fireplace grill. My mom wrote a silly poem with little drawings on every birthday or Xmas gift. I collaged the walls of our playroom with magazine images and drawings which be- came my studio in later years. I always think where your ancestors came from influences your life path, those that came from Romania and Russia give me my gypsy spirit and the side from Vienna gives me the focus of a meticulous crafts-person.
I was encouraged by family and teachers. I had many mentors. One, Frank Hyder, artist and teacher at Moore College of Art taught me the sacred art of non-doing, just look- ing at a simple object or scene and taking time to visually record it, versus feeling that lines, brush strokes or marks be made on canvas with the fierce passion of an abstract action painter. Slowing down has always been a teacher!
What kind of kid were you? Where did you grow up? What were your influences?
I was an alternative, nerdy, cool kid that grew up in the suburbs. As a toddler, my toy preferences were pouring over magazines. Saturday morning cartoons were shunned in favor of Soul Train, voraciously
consumed and studied, and of course, being a suburb of Philadelphia, the Gene London show, featuring an illustrator who drew pictures and then went into magical worlds.
I was also very influenced by a relic from my mother’s youth. Her next-door neighbor grow- ing up was a lawyer named Ilo Orleans, who illustrated a 365-day book with little rhymes for his kids. I was fascinated by the charm of it all, the simple, humorous illustrations & poems. Impressed and influenced by the idea that a man self-published his own book!
My influences as a teen were con- sidered “alternative lifestyles” back then in the 70’s, the African American and gay cultures. They seemed to know how to have more fun in life. I tell a story in my book about my first encounter with a gaggle of fantastically-dressed trans-people at a Gay Pride parade. Around color, the worlds of fashion, art and entertainment opened up. I wanted to be there! Then, when I was 16 I entered a national Levi’s denim design contest and won an award. That set my path towards fashion and fashion illustration.
When I was 16 in 1976 I went to Europe for the first time. I was like a sponge in London, awed by the people on the streets, the punk rockers with huge, colored Mohawks contrasted with the proper banker types. I still have the ID magazines documenting the street style photography and describing the individuals photo- graphed. It really was the first I saw the documentation of street style that is huge today on Instagram.
Capturing moments and sketching inspiring people and making little stories today, well there’s where it all started for me!