I was a painter who paid the rent with occasional commissions. Portraits of people, pets or possessions, often in the style of , you name it. I was about 40 when I stumbled into illustration, getting a job from an aquaintance at the NYTimes. My life changed and for 25 years I enjoyed an amazing variety of jobs and a security I’d never known, I thought it would never end. Today, business is slow, so slow I’ve sort of picked up where I left off. It’s not so bad, and working one on one with people is great and I get to set my own deadlines and work BIG! (bad eyes). This week, a portrait of Churchill (from a photo of my choice), in the style of Alex Katz with an unexpected bonus – I got to sign it - AK AKA JHH ! Funny Huh?
It must be my time of life that keeps prompting me to post obituries. The passing of Ruth Rendell whose prolific output of psychological thrillers was an inspiration to the many illustrators who got to do her book covers- including me. Turning up with pencil sketches (prismaclor on black paper), my Bantam Books AD, Krystyna Skalski suggested we take them to finish -no painting! Pencils, along with my little note book and sharpener are my constant companions and with Ruth, will always share a permanent place in my heart and pocket.
To Tomi Ungerer-
Before I’d ever met Tomi I’d heard about him and in Milt Newborns office on 54th where two of his messy paintings hung, he walked in with Dick Hess. These two charismatic, larger than life characters glowed in their own energy fields and I wanted to be part of this club. Tomi had already left New York and Dick would leave for a higher calling a short, few years later. I’d missed the boat but illustration was something I was determined to try. 35 years later, I ‘m still trying.
"All in One," a major show of Tomi Ungerer’s Work, will fill the Drawing Center this Thursday. Tomi will be there. No one comes close to the prodigious output and brilliant lunacy of this consummate artist and genuine original. If you can’t make it, have a look at “Far out isn-t Far enough” – Netflix.
“I watched a small man with thick calluses on both hands work fifteen and sixteen hours a day. I saw him once literally bleed from the bottoms of his feet, a man who came here uneducated, alone, unable to speak the language, who taught me all I needed to know about faith and hard work by the simple eloquence of his example. M.C.
Dead people are my favourites. I don't have to like anything about them except the way they look. Famous dead people are best because they leave loads of photos to choose from and old dead people have so many years where they could easily be any one of ten other people. None of them will complain you didn't do them justice. They've stopped complaining- and everything else, RIP.