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Steve Wacksman
January 2011
In Which Our Hero, Set Adrift, Espies a Light Ahead
posted:
From the series "The Milliner's Campaign", on view at the Society Of Illustrators Sequential And Uncommissioned Show Friday,Jan 7th.

I've been in the picture-making racket since 1991. I've had the pleasure of working with clients more diverse and respectable than I ever dared to dream when Parsons School Of Design finally unlocked my cage and sent me roughshod and hungry out into the world. Many were the portfolio drop-offs and cold-calls. I remember well the day I procured my first mailing list, handing over $300 cash to a man in Union Square for a stack of neatly typewritten names and addresses all contained in an unmarked manilla envelope. (the gentleman was, according to his claim, a 'rep' who was retiring). I can vividly recall hauling my large paintings to the service bureau in Curry Hill  to have expensive and blurry 'C-Prints' made for my portfolio. I can still smell the ink on my first 2-color offset promo cards. I could go on and on- memory lane is a pretty long stretch of road at this point. My first computer, my first enormous tax bill, the highs and lows too numerous to recount here. Above all I remember the butterflies that used to accompany each call from a new client, the excitement of starring in a script that I'd started writing when I was in grade school. I did everything in my power to project cool confidence, but in truth every day of my early career was like a red-carpet premiere, a waking dream.
'Il Trovatore" Poster chosen for the Society Of Illustrators Advertising and Institutional which opens in Feb.

I'll be frank, if you'll indulge me: I believe that I might've lost the thread somewhere along the line. Somehow I got affected by what might best be described as apathy or complacency coupled to a thick and foggy dreaminess that simply derailed me. Around 2001 I noticed a downward trend in my business, but I was newly-engaged to be married and had other things to occupy my attention. Then in September, four short days before our wedding, the unthinkable happened and we all had to reframe our realities. Eventually the world dusted itself off and got back to business, but I didn't. Hindsight provides no elucidation here, I'm afraid. I know I was depressed and fearful after 9-11 and the subsequent march to war in Iraq. At the same time - now looking at the world through a radically different lens - my light, punchy and cartoonish work that I was known for began to lose it's meaning for me. It was neither a reflection of how I felt nor did it match the timbre of the editorial universe which was now rife with divisive political scree, hand-wringing, fear mongering. The phone wasn't ringing. I attempted to rattle some cages, phone up or email some past clients but business remained slow, almost at a subsistence level. My resolve and enthusiasm were draining. My checking account was hastily following their lead.
Steve Earle, one of 7 images chosen for 3x3's Illustration Annual #7

In the interest of brevity and not wanting to hog the entire internet I'll spare you the long and detailed account of my struggle to realign myself and regain my enthusiasm for my work. Suffice it to say that the superhuman patience and support of my loving wife and ample time spent reflecting finally worked their magic and the creative muse was recaptured. And so it was with great pleasure that I received notice that works I created during those strange and stormy months have been selected for both 3x3's Illustration Annual #7 and the Society Of Illustrators SI53 Exhibition.
There are artists that can work in a vacuum, making work only for their own pleasure or out of a compulsion to do so. There are artists who require no outside validation.  And while I quite enjoy the autonomous process of making art I am not so disposed. Receiving these recognitions was was an enormous boost for me in a time of great uncertainty and I thank everyone involved, no matter how indirectly, in helping me back to shore.
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