Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Lorraine Fox: "Why can't I be more of an artist?"

In the Winter 1967 issue of Famous Artists magazine, Lorraine Fox was interviewed at her home near Long Island Sound in Great Neck, New York. Fox was living there at the time with her husband, illustrator Bernie D'Andrea, and had recently joined the Guiding Faculty of the Famous Artists School. Here is the first part of the interview...

Famous Artists magazine: How long have you and your husband lived out here?

Lorraine Fox: About 17 years. We met at Pratt, where we were art students together. He was the best in the class. After graduation he was in the service for several years. When he got out, we had saved enough money to buy a house. We got married and moved here in 1950.


FA: Did you grow up on Long Island? Is that why you chose this part of the world?

Fox: I was born in Brooklyn but we moved to Glendale, Long Island, when I was six, so I did grow up here. My mother lives about 20 minutes away, which is very convenient. She loves to cook and she's always bringing me a quart of soup or something else she's made.


FA: Did someone in your family encourage you to study art?

Fox: My brother, the cartoonist Gill Fox, was six years older than I and I used to see him draw.


I was kind of a tomboy and I worshipped my brother.


I guess I wanted to be like him, in both athletics and drawing. Some psychiatrist could figure that out!


FA: Were you an instant success as soon as you began drawing in school?

Fox: In grammar school I won art awards. I got medals for posters I made for a Humane Society competition. I've always been fond of animals. In high school I suppose I was pretty much known as an artist. Instead of a business course I took a general course, because you could have more art by taking that. I think I had a good start in high school and I had a teacher who became interested in me.


She asked to talk to my parents and told them that she thought I should have more training. She was the one who recommended Pratt. It was probably one of the best conversations my parents ever had. Pratt really opened my eyes.


FA: In what way?

Fox: I had a teacher named Will Burton who was leading the students toward a cerebral approach to commercial art, which is related to painting. I got a very commercial background at Pratt, but Burton's influence was most important, although I didn't fully realize it at the time. At Pratt, you were exposed to illustration, advertising design, and industrial design your first year. I took advertising design, mainly through the influence of my father. He thought this would enable me to get a job in an advertising agency doing layouts. It was more of a sure thing than doing illustration.

FA: And was it easy to break into an agency when you graduated?

Fox: Yes. I got my first job in an agency. The man I worked for would say, for example, "We have a medical thing we want to sell here," and he'd give me the headline and I was supposed to come up with a dozen fast sketches,


... but I was not really an idea lady. Instead, I would get an idea I liked and finish completely and carefully.


He finally said that I should get an agent and free-lance.

FA: Do you think he was trying to get rid of you?

Fox: Maybe. No, I don't really think so. He liked what I did and he took an interest in me. I didn't have any trouble getting an agent. Somebody saw that I had potential. If I were trying to break in today, though, I never would have made it. The competition now is so terrific. Then the agent went into the Army and his sister took over. I sold myself, too, through my portfolio. I made samples. I've been making samples for 20 years, only now they're paintings.

FA: Did you develop a recognizable style, something an agent could sell, as soon as you began free-lancing?

Fox: I suppose you could call the kind of thing I did "decorative design." It leaned toward the primitive and people liked it.


I did quite a lot of magazine covers and spot drawings then and I was good at painting food.

All the time I was doing these things, though, I was constantly annoyed.


People would look at my work and say, "How cute," or "How feminine." I'd kind of smile and say, "Thank you."


That word "cute" got in my hair. I'd ask myself, "Why can't I be more of an artist?"


I was living with one and my husband was leading me (I didn't tell him this) in a new direction. He went with Cooper Studios when he got out of the service and I joined Cooper as a free-lancer. I was very influenced by the Cooper scene. I wanted to learn to draw better, for one thing. Finally we met a young painter, and he told us about his painting experience with Reuben Tam at the Brooklyn Museum Art School. A lot of guys at the studio, about 16 illustrators, started studying with Tam at night and so did I. It changed the thinking of all of us.


Later, I would run into people who would say, "I see you've been Tamified."

* Continued tomorrow.

* Many thanks to Matt Dicke for providing the scans of the Lorraine Fox interview pages from the Winter 1967 issue of Famous Artists magazine being presented this week. Thanks to Heritage Auctions for allowing me to use scans from their archives.


  1. Really beautiful colors she used. I see a little Thiebaud style in here work -- the softer, bleached out but rich colors. Very nice.


  2. I'm digging this interview. Curious what exactly are the qualities of Tamification. Looking forward to next week