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How did you become a designer/artist?
I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I was particularly interested in drawing portraits, and I was pretty good at it. I also have a love for music, especially playing drums. As a young teen I started a garage band in the late 1960s. Because I was an artist, the task to create the band logo and publicity materials always fell to me. In 1974, the band I was in moved to England and was signed to Word/ABC Dunhill Records. I co-designed the cover of our first album with a professional graphic designer in London. I think it was probably then that I realized that it was actually possible to make a living doing something I really loved. The band broke up and returned to the United States in 1976. I was 21, married, and had a newborn daughter to take care of at the time. I knew from experience that I wouldn’t be able to make much of a living playing music, so I looked to graphic art as a possible career. I met with the art director for a local newspaper and showed him the design work I had done for my band, and he hired me on as a graphic artist based on that.
Where are you from originally?
I was born in San Marcos, Texas, and raised on a farm near the small farming community of Uhland, Texas. Uhland is about 30 miles southwest of Austin. There is a large population of German immigrant descendants in the area. I am a third generation Texan of German descent – now living in the wilds of Oregon. Growing up in central Texas, I was exposed to a wide variety of cultures – German communities, Tex-Mex food and art, country music, and rednecks.
Who were your main influences growing up?
Growing up in the 1960s, especially in the psychedelic era of the late 1960s, had a big influence on me graphically. There were some very talented artists who were skilled in hand lettering whose work showed up on music posters and record albums of that era. I can remember spending hours trying to perfect my own hand lettering and inking techniques.
Did you go to art school/college for design or are you self-taught?
I’m self taught. As I mentioned earlier, the first graphic job I was hired for was as a graphic artist for a San Marcos, Texas, newspaper. It was great experience really because in addition to designing all of the ads for the publication, I also did my own camera work and some of my own typesetting. It was a down and dirty, graphic boot camp of sorts. I worked there for about two years then moved to Los Angeles, California, where I got a job with an agency in West Hollywood.
After a two-year stay in California, my wife and I moved our young family back to Texas where I worked for several commercial printing companies before striking out on my own in 1986. As a freelancer, I worked for a variety of Austin, Texas, advertising agencies and book and magazine publishers.
I started publishing my own magazine, Austin Blues Monthly, in 1994. It was a newspaper tabloid format and was distributed throughout central Texas. In 1997, I started up another publication called True Believer. It started as a local tabloid and evolved into a glossy four-color magazine that was distributed nationally. It was incredibly hard, but at the same time it was a great time of growth artistically for me.
Any advice or tips to novice designers?
I think you really have to immerse yourself in as many different subjects and experiences as possible, which will in turn give your design real depth. My interests vary wildly, from fine art to photography to music to science. I spend a lot of time at bookstores pouring through books and magazines on graphic design as well as devoting reading time to my other hobbies and interests. An artist may consider getting involved with a graphic design forum. I have really benefited as a member of the HOW Magazine design forum. Getting to know other designers (even if it is just virtually), asking questions, and having artists around the world you can interact with on a daily basis is valuable to me.
What has been the most rewarding and challenging project you have worked on?
I think publishing my own magazine was by far the most challenging and rewarding thing I have done to date. It was up to me each month to plan out each issue, gather the articles, design the issue, deliver it to the printer, and then see that it got distributed properly. It was a great experience, and I learned a lot.
What is your favorite design piece? Why?
A favorite of my own work? None. I always look back on something I’ve done in the past and think about how much better I could have done it. It’s the rare piece that I can actually sit back and think, “Yeah, that’s the way you do it”.
What American artist inspires you most?
Gerard Huerta is an incredible logo designer. Texas illustrator Tom Curry has been a favorite of mine for years. I have also just recently rediscovered the artwork of Jesus Helguera, an artist born in 1910 in Mexico. I remember, as a kid, seeing his calendar art of Aztec kings and warriors hanging up in various Hispanic business establishments in central Texas.
What unlocks your creativity?
That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it? I think constantly exposing yourself to a variety of interests will play a major role in the development of your creativity. You never know what little thing you filed away in your mind will come floating to the surface at just the right time.