Monday, June 05, 2006
A Calling Card for All the World To See
Imagine a story of a young girl who came to the city to make it big as an illustrator. What if she got a job as an assistant art director at a major national network? And what if, one day, she met a man who had the same job at another national network? What if they liked each other, and each other's work ( which was uncannily similar in style ) and what if they fell in love and decided to marry, and move to the country, and raise a family, and work together - even on each other's assignments - so that their lives became connected in every way, in a perfect union of hearts and minds. Wouldn't that make a great and romantic story?
Well there is such a story. Its a true story - the story of Naiad and Walter Einsel, and thanks to Naiad's generosity in sharing her story with me, I'm able to now share it with you:
Naiad was born in Philadelphia, but grew up in a tiny town called Ocean Gate. In the one room schoolhouse of her childhood she copied pictures from children's books. When she brought these drawings home, her parents praised her and told her she would be an artist when she grew up. And they were right.
Her childhood love of comic strips like Popeye and Terry & the Pirates lead to her teenage interest in the work of Al Parker and Jon Whitcomb and that lead to Pratt, where Naiad majored in Illustration. "I was exposed to a whole new world of art from Indian Miniatures, The Renaissance, Cubism along with perspective, anatomy & basic drawing. I was definitely planning to become an illustrator," she says.
She might have followed in the footsteps of the realistic illustrators of the day but "[in] my last year at Pratt... I discovered illustrators in Seventeen Magazine such as Jan Balet, Jerome Snyder, Ben Stahl & Saul Steinberg in the New Yorker. Even shortly before that I was very influenced by primitive art such as Egyptian, Indian Miniatures [as mentioned before] & especially early American folk Art."
So it was that Naiad began to develop the illustration style that would eventually lead to her first job: "After graduating from Pratt [in 1947] I showed my portfolio to Frank Lavaty , an agent. He told me that Ralph Daddio, the art director at Seventeen Magazine, was looking for an assistant in the promotion department. I called him & showed him my portfolio & got the job...$45 a week. My work on staff began to be seen by advertisers who called me & I started to freelance nights & weekends. After a year I got bored there & heard about a job as an assistant to Paul Rand [my hero art director] at the Weintraub Agency. I was interviewed & hired & learned a lot about graphic design there although Paul was a very difficult boss. We did become friends though. After about 3 years I wanted to move on. I had been doing a lot of freelance for CBS & heard of an opening there & was hired. Again, people called me when they saw my work & I was kept very busy. I had regular assignments from the N.Y. Times which was like publishing a calling card for all the world to see."
For a young illustrator in the ultra-competitive world of commercial art in New York City in the early 50's, Naiad had certainly seen her share of good fortune. But more importantly, she had known to answer when opportunity knocked. Well another knock was about to come, and this time when Naiad answered, she would find Walter, portfolio in hand, standing there.
*These images are from a tiny accordion-fold self-promo booklet from the early 50's. You can find them (plus many more) at a much larger size in my Naiad & Walter Einsel Flickr set.