Friday, July 10, 2015

Frank Furlong on Fuchs, Freelancing, Reps and the Detroit Graphic Artists Guild

Frank Furlong was a young illustrator in Detroit during the mid-20th century when that city, fueled on high-octane auto industry dollars, was as much an epicenter of advertising art as New York. Yesterday we heard about how Frank began establishing his career, and the camaraderie among Detroit's illustration community. The story continues... ~ Leif Peng


Frank writes...

"If it weren't for Ardy [Kazarozian] trying to convince me I'm not sure I would have believed there really was a Bernie Fuchs. I was a believer that he was just a boogyman created by clients to scare us all. As my other reports have said we were a pretty social bunch in Detroit. But I never met, never even saw a Bernie Fuchs. He was always 23 years old, was missing more and more fingers and was faster than a speeding bullet, never had a job bounce. Gimme a break!"


"Unknowns who deserve credit for so much great art were the 'pencilers'. Photos of the cars would come in the door and the penciler would start his magic, cutting apart stats and reconstructing the car to be lower and longer, then scoring his reworked car onto illustration board with a 9h pencil, so the man who painted the car (a different artist than the one who did the figures and backgrounds) could actually feel the drawing with his brush. This drawing had to not just pass muster with the AD but also with persnickety engineers at the client car company. And just how fussy they were staggers the mind. But none of the ads, wonderful as they were, would have made it to the printer but for The Unknown Penciler. And don't you dare put a figure in front of their work!"


"Freelance work in Detroit was called "sore legging', and my guess is because you had to do all your own running around involved in getting, producing and delivering work. And as for competing with reps -- it couldn't be done. They had persistence and expense accounts. My last boss, a rep, had a reputation that when he asked a client out for a meal they packed a bag. His theory was that every rep took his clients to the same expensive restaurants where they'd see just about every other rep and would never remember who took them there last. So he'd hire a small plane and fly his clients off to wondrous locales. He didn't do it often but when you were asked out for a meal you'd remember it. We had one free lancer in town, a pretty well known guy named Art Radebaugh, who had his studio in a van-type vehicle and he'd bring his studio to the client. But most everybody found it so much easier and more profitable to align with a studio."


"One thing I've been remiss in not mentioning before, and it was a really important thing in the history of the biz. The Detroit Graphic Artist's Guild. The artists had decided that it was true "workers wise unionize". I'm more than a little proud that I was one of the original signers on. But then Button Gwinnett was one of the signers of the Declaration Of Independence and who remembers him? JOHN HANCOCK, sure. But old Button? Nehhh."


"One of the things I feel honored by was that the first anniversary edition of our magazine had the cover art done by your's truly and I had an article inside, along with three or four cartoon spots.(okay, so I'm bragging)"


"The idea of a union came about because the end of the stick the artists were getting grew shorter and shorter. The budgets got smaller and smaller and "90 days same as cash" became the standard. But I think the bit that stopped the stampede of the lemmings was "spec', everybody expected to contribute art for free. As I mentioned before I was happy doing KMAs (pro bono?) and had found a studio that paid me whether or not they were paid for my work. So 'spec' didn't affect me outside of feeling this was a con job most of the time."


"The agencies seemed to have come up with the notion that all would be willing to contribute art for their bids for new campaigns or new clients by "If you do this one for free you'll get the entire campaign", an idea that's hard to sell after a few times. I was not alone in loving the chance to do artwork but there comes a time when you feel you're being had. And too many had come to that feeling and, as we were a pretty social set, the feeling gained momentum and VOILA! The GAG!"


To be continued...

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