I photographed my father above on a sunny day in our backyard in Jericho, Long Island years ago, and going through old papers of his I came across a story he wrote as an introduction to his work as an artist. I had never seen these pages of hand-written notes and so I eagerly transcribed them and I could literally hear him say the words that he carefully wrote down - all of which was meant as an introduction to an exhibition he was having in the 1980s - years before he passed away from esophageal cancer.
Both of my parents were active artists, my mom taught and established a Long Island Art League ( MIPA ) in the 1960s, she also illustrated books. My father was known for his illustrations of birds and animals, and he got started early as a young artist who loved going to the Bronx Zoo. He grew up on Audubon Avenue in Manhattan!
I title this blog post - Art Is A Gift - and I feel that it truly is something unique, an ability to use your imagination and get down to details using your hands and all of your faculties. Artists can gain a community by going to school, and both of my parents graduated from The Cooper Union ( as I did 33 years after them ). Going to college to become an artist - isn't a guarantee to finding a way to make a living, but it is a calling! My parents both became employed as illustrators for publishing companies, and my father's love of birds and animals translated into a lifetime affair, publishing almost 20 books and that was a real commitment.
When I was just a kid, my father and Ben Sackheim established an advertising agency in New York City and this company had its office in the Penthouse of the Plaza Hotel. My own education as an artist began watching my dad do his illustrations for ads that were then placed in magazines. He also designed a series of prints that featured some colorful birds that people framed and put up in their homes - more than a million copies of these paintings were sold!
My dad spent years on his Birds of North America, which is still in print now. I even worked on a revision of his bird guide, and I grew up watching him develop each page in painstaking detail. My father used gouache on board with little, tiny brushes. Years in the making, my father's guide books still amaze me!
Birds of Britain and Europe was the next book that he published, and once again he was involved in a project that took years to complete. He has the good fortune to give one of his paintings to Prince Phillip in London one year after his book was published. You can see here a photo from the reception as my father glances down to speak about the painting of a raptor he is giving to the Prince.
While my father illustrated his books on birds and animals he would work on these projects at home, and that means being considerate and not interrupt his work. At the. same time one could see him through every aspect of the design of a page or spread, the intricate drawing and every stage of the finished art, and we are talking about years of this exposure.
When my father was at work at his desk he always had music to listen to. He was a jazz fan from his teenage years right up to the time when he passed away. His favorite music came from the likes of Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway. Both of these jazz greats were Arthur's friends. My dad even designed album covers for Duke Ellington. I used to accompany my dad when Duke was in town and we even were allowed in to hear recording sessions with his big band. When I say art is a gift, I mean all forms, jazz included.
In the last part of my blog post, I can leave you with an image of my father giving another gift of a painting to another form of royalty, and he was known as Duke Ellington, and my dad was so proud and happy to be associated with these greats!