15 September 1988

My Life in Pictures Part Twenty One: A Push in the Right Direction

The daily grind at the print shop was beginning to wear me down. Around the late eighties I was ready for a change, any kind of change. I flirted with the idea of buying my own typesetting design firm in Maine, and got as far as visiting the shop and meeting with the owners and making an offer on the business (which they countered, and we got cold feet and dropped out - thankfully).

I thought that an evening class might be a way to break the monotony, so I enrolled in a life drawing class at a local community college. This was the one class in college that I really and truly enjoyed. This would be in the years '87 and '88 if memory serves. I hadn't drawn in a serious way for nearly 6 years, and it quickly became clear that I was hungry for it. I got some very nice work out these classes, and actually sold a few to the school for their permanent display after the class was over. This started a germ of an idea in my head that eventually turned into my freelance business in the spring of '89.

I wasn't sure how I was going to make a living at 'drawing', but I was determined to give it a go. I didn't know if it would be fine art, gallery shows, cartooning, or illustration, and for the first year or so I actually tried all of them. I was fortunate in several respects. Timing for one thing. The fax machine had just begun to be a 'must have' item in most shops, and allowed me to expand beyond the Grand Rapids area and work for national clients while staying here (earlier in the 80s and I would have probably had to have moved to either New York or Chicago to make a serious go at it). My wife continued to work her full time position (at the same company I was previously working) which allowed us to keep a steady income while I built my business. We also started our family in '89, with our son Keenan, and the fact that I was home in those early years, and not overly busy, allowed me to act as child care and saved us from expenses of that sort.

When I informed my employer that I was planning on leaving, and what I was planning on doing (what little I knew of it anyway), they countered with a tempting offer. They offered me a partership in a new Ad Agency business that they were planning on starting. I wasn't seriously tempted to tell the truth, it just sounded like more of the same that I desperately wanted to get away from, but it was a money proposition that I couldn't just push away without some thought, especially considering how we were planning on starting a family soon. I've never regretted my decision. From time to time in the intervening years, drawing has come and gone as a passion with me (sometimes it needs a little prodding), but I've never considered running away from it again, like I did in the eighties.

This blog, in a way, is my way of fighting that urge to 'push it all aside' and marginalize my talents. For years I've socked away my work in drawers, pretended it wasn't there. It has been fun these past few months in revisiting my roots and taking a good long critical look at my work's journey.