Evolution of an Illustration Master, Harry Borgman: Part III

The years 1977-1983

In 1977 my wife and I moved to Paris, France, an exciting change in our lives. The illustration business was changing and the automotive assignments were becoming scarce. I decided that I would pursue a fine art career. We had no idea as to just what was ahead of us, and we didn’t know anyone in Paris. I thought that for a while I could do some commercial art to support us until I developed my fine art paintings. I got connected with a small advertising agency, Publiland, and did a lot of graphic design and some illustration work for them. I also was introduced to an art representative, Evelyn Manache. She decided to rep me. She was also repping Milton Glaser of New York. Evelyn got me quite a bit of work, but after a few months I decided to go on my own. I took my samples up to Lintas, one of the largest ad agencies in France. To my surprise, the Creative Director was Bob McClaren, someone that I had helped get a job at Campbell Ewald when I was working there twenty years ago. He was originally from England, then came to Detroit to work, and eventually went back to Europe. This was a real break for me as Bob gave me a lot of work. He even sent me to work in their Vienna offices and to Madrid, Jakarta and Singapore to teach their staffs how to render ads and storyboards. I did work for all of the major ad agencies in Paris but my main source of business was Impact FCB and Lintas.

I was taking French lessons while I was there, but language never was a problem at the ad agencies as they all wanted to practice their English. Jeanne spoke French. Her parents were French Canadian, but the French thought her accent was hilarious. She didn’t mind, as she still was able to communicate.

I did a series of newspaper ads for Intermarche through the ad agency Publiland.

One of my Detroit clients, Wayne Alexander Company, brought over an American Motors Renault catalog for me to design. This is the illustration that I painted for the rear cover.

On top of illustrating, designing and doing paintings, I also began to write a series of “How to...” books for Watson Guptill publications in New York.

I managed to do a great deal of painting while in Paris and entered all of the major art salons. I decided to do paintings in black and white without any painting technique or brush marks, just simple, flat designs.

One of the Board Members at the school where Jeanne was attending classes, was Bob Virtue, an American with a company in France. He hired me to design a series of magazine ads for his company using my paintings as the main images. He also rented about 48 of my paintings to hang in the company’s offices. What a great client.

I also painted many realistic color scenes while living in Paris. The first one is a portrait of my wife Jeanne.

In 1983, after the Socialists were voted in, my tax situation became difficult. The government also wanted me to charge my clients TVA, an Added Value Tax, which was 17.6% then. Now it is over 20%. I would have been a bookkeeper for the government. Also, if a person bought a painting, they would be taxed on it every year, not just when they purchased it. This would really hurt the fine art market. We decided to leave and set up shop in New York. We both really loved our life in Paris and enjoyed traveling in Europe. When Jeanne’s class would take field trips to England, Italy and other places I would usually go along. We had a great time.

The years 1983-1993

In 1983 Jeanne and I moved back to the States, we moved to a Soho loft in Manhattan. The next few years were very productive both in the fine arts and commercial fields. Illustration was becoming less of an option, illustrators had to do storyboards and animatics to keep busy. There was plenty of storyboard work with Monday morning deadlines, which usually gave me the whole week to do paintings.  I began working with my former rep, Randy Mulvey, his partner, Bill Neeley, had died in a tragic accident. When Randy passed away, I began working with another group called The Yellow Brick Road. After a few years I was repped by Dianne Boston of Way Art. They all had kept me quite busy. I still had a couple of Detroit clients which fed me work also. Finding an art gallery to exhibit your work in New York can be a real chore, most will not even look at your work. I knew several Argentine artists who liked my work and they recommended that their gallery, the Allen/Wincor Gallery, take me on. In January of 1985 they gave me my first one man show. Five paintings were sold, they were part of a series titled “New Landscapes”. After about a year the gallery owners had a dispute and the gallery closed. I was unable to get another gallery to take me on, the fine art business can be very difficult to get started in. I was convinced that when I decided to do paintings to exhibit in galleries that it would be a simple task to get established - not so.

The poster that I designed for my first exhibition in New York City. After the gallery closed, I could not find another one to represent me.

Fortunately, I was also doing a great deal of storyboard work which paid the bills. New York is a very expensive place to live and work.

I had an assignment from Detroit that took me out west on a photo shoot. The Wayne Alexander Company hired me to design the 1984 American Motors Renault catalog and we shot a lot of the photographs that were needed for it in Santa Fe, New Mexico. There are tons of art galleries in the area and I thought that I would do some western paintings when I got back to New York and see if I could get gallery representation in Santa Fe. After completing about twenty new paintings directed at the Santa Fe art market, I took them out there to present them to galleries. It was a disaster, I could not interest one gallery in representing my work - a great disappointment.

Two of the paintings that I did, hoping to find a gallery in Santa Fe that would represent me.

Here is another painting from my “New Landscapes” series.

In 1990 I got another call from the Wayne Alexander Company to design and do art for all of the new Volkswagon catalogs, a great opportunity. There were several catalogs required and it was a large assignment with the usual tough deadline.

One of the VW catalog covers. I used a strong, decorative black road as the design element on all of the covers which worked quite well.

The catalogs were enclosed in the above container. Wayne suggested that we use one of my black and white paintings on the cover. The painting was one of the series that I painted while living in Paris.

I did a lot of the interior art for these catalogs, using a very strong, decorative style.

I even illustrated a few cars for the interior of these catalogs.

When I first moved to New York City, I still continued painting the black and white series that was started in Paris. I find this theme very interesting.

These images are typical of my storyboard and animatic renderings which are done using markers on high quality layout paper. The deadlines on this type of work can be brutal, usually involving overnight work for early morning delivery. I used to have to leave early on a train to Chicago to deliver the work. Now, of course, jobs can be delivered over the internet, although scanning the work into the computer adds to the time involved in completing the job.

Next Harry leaves The Big Appple behind and heads back to Michigan. Also, Harry jumps into the world of computers after losing a client's art - nearly costing him the assignment.


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