The years 1953-1960
After a year at Grey, Garfield, Lange I left and began working at Jose Cavillo Studios. It was a short stay as I soon was hired as a graphic designer and illustrator by McNamara Brothers, a new studio that had just opened. Dave Lindsay was their top automotive artist and we worked as a team on many assignments. I was very busy at McNamara’s and recall designing five automotive catalogs over one weekend. When the designs were approved then the studio artists would be working day and night on the artwork to meet the tough deadlines. This was known as “Catalog Season” and it lasted for about three or four months. This was the prime source of business for most of the Detroit art studios.
In 1955 Dave Lindsay and I left McNamara’s to become partners at MDM Studios. I was mainly working as a graphic designer during this period. We were extremely busy and after one year I was literally burned out. I decided to quit the studio business altogether and become an advertising agency art director. I approached Campbell Ewald, as I liked what Jim Hastings, the creative director, was doing on the Chevrolet account. Jim knew of my work and was happy to hire me. He liked to hire artists with studio experience. I began working as head art director on Chevrolet sales promotion, designing catalogs for Chevrolet and Corvette.
I later became head art director on Chevrolet magazine ads for a year, then worked in a special two man idea group called Plus One with writer Fenton Ludtke. We were in direct competition with the regular Chevrolet group and presented our ideas at the regular meetings. We had no restrictions on what we could do, so we had fun experimenting with ideas. I’m certain that the regular Chevrolet group was not too happy about the situation. I was a partner in this group for about a year.
Jim Hastings was moving up in the ranks and offered me his job as creative director. I refused and decided to quit as I felt that it was more of an administrative job. I decided to become a freelance designer and illustrator. But, when I quit, I was immediately rehired to work on a very secret, special project, the Corvair announcement ads. Campbell Ewald set me up in an office in the GM Building. My former co-workers at the agency wondered why I was still coming in to work every day after leaving the agency. I couldn’t tell anyone about my secret project nor could I let anyone in my office. When I needed to have type set, I would split up the copy and send it to three different typesetters, then reassemble it later to create the ads.
The years 1960-1968
After working on the Corvair announcement ads, I began freelancing with a group of other artists which included Dave Lindsay, Ted Lodigensky, Jim Jackson and Ted Paul. This group changed often through the years and I also was also associated with Charlie Schridde, Martin Anderson, George Francuch, Del Nichols, Jack Mills and John Asaro.
Often, there would be a design change, like new hubcaps or a new grill. And the art would have to be altered quickly. We had very tough deadlines to meet on most of the catalogs and ads. The automotive industry made Detroit a great place for commercial artists as there was an enormous amount of artwork that had to be done.
I was doing work for many different clients, realistic art, decorative art, cartoons, a real variety of assignments. Bob Witmer was our rep and he even was bringing in work from Chicago and Pittsburgh.
Around 1964 I decided to team up with Al Hutt Associates, a hot new art studio that had hired some great artists like Mark English, Don Silverstein, Ray Burdzinski and Bob Hohnstock.
I also was the Head of the Advertising Department at the Society of Arts and Crafts where I taught for four years. The school is now the College for Creative Studies. To show you how crazy the advertising business was in Detroit, I taught at the school full time during the day - that was morning classes everyday except Wednesday, which was a full day. It seemed that most of the assignments for the agency came in after 5 pm and I usually worked many nights. It was a bit tough to check and evaluate all of the students work. I think I had 48 students, but I managed. Only once did I miss a class because of business in four years.
The years 1969-1977
I started a company called ART & IDEAS in the late 1960’s and did a lot of freelance work out of Detroit, Chicago and New York. For a time I even had a rep in Toronto and got an occasional assignment from him.
One day I got a call from a local travel agency, Transcontinental Travel Bureau. The owner wanted to have a meeting with me regarding his newspaper ads. He had found me in the telephone book. I was listed as a commercial artist. Aouni Keilani was the owner and was quite an interesting person. He had big plans for expanding his business. He even talked about opening offices in Beruit and Cairo. I did many ads and brochures for him and he sent my wife and I on many trips to the Middle East. We even were in Luxor, Egypt when the Six Day War broke out. We ended up going back to Cairo. Then we were put on a bus which took us to Bengazi, Libya, which was kind of scary, as the U. S. had no diplomatic relations with them at the time. A U.S. diplomat arrived and arranged for us to be flown to Rome. It was quite an experience and I did a story on it for the Detroit Free Press which included illustrations.
These were all very interesting assignments and more fun than the rigid automotive work I had been used to, which, incidentally was drying up as photography was taking over.
Through the years I would be called in to work at McCann Erickson in New York by Bob Shepperly, the creative director. Bill Wallace, a Detroit designer, would design the ads and I would do the renderings. We worked as a team and often were there for a couple of weeks. We would also bring our wives so they could have a mini vacation in New York City. While I was there I heard that McCann’s Sao Paulo, Brazil office had an opening for an art director. My wife, Jeanne and I had been thinking about moving to a foreign country and this sounded perfect. I immediately applied for the job, some of the executives at McCann knew of my background as art director on the Chevrolet account at Campbell Ewald. However, I didn’t land the job, I believe Bill Gilmore, another art director from Detroit, got the job. At that point, my wife and I decided that we would move to Paris, France when our daughters went to college. In fact, Jeanne, who had never gone to college, decided that she would enroll at the American College in Paris and work for a degree in Fine Arts.
Join us again tomorrow as Harry moves to Paris, France and makes the shift from advertising to fine art.