I AM A VISUAL ARTIST. I do graphic design and illustration. I take thousands of photographs, I create patterns for architectural surfaces,I worked for a decade as a painter. I’ve designed and made ceramics and textile designs. My interest in making artwork began when I was almost completely blind. Ten percent vision in both eyes meant I could see little more than light and dark. Born and raised in South Africa, one of six Jewish kids in a Catholic school of two thousand, my eye problems pushed me to the periphery socially and academically. Steeped in some sick form of so-called religious observance, my teachers, ominous, humorless men, in full length black robes, seemed to take pleasure in the fear they struck in most of the boys. I think they enjoyed the regular dishing out of a little brutality to the backsides of little boys using a whippy bamboo cane kept in a custom robe pocket. I hated school.
As I entered my teens I was flown off to Switzerland, for a six month stay in The Dolder Grand Hotel, waiting for my left eye to mature for a corneal transplant. Bored and restless, I found, down some far corridor, a high silent room with soaring windows behind deep gold velvet drapes. I brought in large thin sheets of drawing paper, and thick stubs of charcoal. I knelt on the carpeting and bent over the paper. I began to draw. And draw. And I did not stop. There was no thought about being an artist. I was not following any preexisting passion. I was bored. And had stumbled across an activity that gave me instant feedback. The compulsion to draw was to get better feedback. And so I kept drawing. I became obsessively committed to this work. Hobbies became immaterial. This continues to this day.
Three days after the surgery, the bandages were removed, the back of the bed was lifted and instantly I found myself staring at the floor in amazement. I saw, under years of deep glossy polish, a flecked, cork-like texture. I could see texture. It’s the first thing one loses when vision starts to go, the ability to see texture. When a camera lens snaps into sharp focus, we know it, thanks to texture. A year later I had the second transplant to my right eye in New York. A faster process than Switzerland, and so less time out of school. I finished high school, and entered Johannesburg College of Art. Situated in a bleak building in a seedy area of downtown Johannesburg, my fellow students and I watched hookers across the street, first port of call for ex convicts just released from the state prison. I studied Industrial Design for two years before switching to Graphic Design for a further two years, graduating First in Class.
I went on to attend Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, spending three years immersed in graphics, illustration, and fine art. I graduated BFA (Honors), after which I packed some belongings into a van and drove out of LA, my heart already in New York. I did not know a single person in New York City. I pushed my portfolios in front of every art director I could meet, and freelance life began. I was filled with excitement and drive. I made artwork until midnight before going out and dancing until dawn in small, dense, downtown clubs, or watching the newest punk bands pound their hearts out, sometimes to just a handful of rockers for an audience. It was the front door of a young paradigm shift that raged energy; it was just catching fire; it infected music, design and the arts, magazines, clothing, hair styles, it had attitude, it was pared down, and I was airborne by its power. From a visual and musical viewpoint, it slapped a slumbering youth culture awake.
I worked for large corporations, WNBC-TV (four years), Revlon, Estee Lauder, Bergdorf Goodman, New York Institute of Technology, New York Times Publishing, New York Magazine, Esquire, among many others. And my work with tiny adventures—start ups— are the sparks that lit my road. After ten years of this, I turned to fine art, a decade long immersion in abstraction, fired by the giant abstract works that dominated the soaring lobbies of New York skyscrapers. My paintings now hang in public and private collections in eight countries.
I began to feel pulled back to working in the commercial marketplace, outside the gallery. I was astounded at the precision of a print created with work done on a Macintosh computer. It became my tool of choice. I work widely in graphic design, illustration, photography. After working as an art director for a multimedia company, charged with all design and branding, I changed direction to design large patterns for architectural surfaces. My life does not follow a well-worn path. I am now busy with design for Mobile, the Web, Information Architecture, and Interaction. The more the categories break apart the more they have at their center the same spine inside all good design. It is intimate. It is capable of being wordless. And behind it is a story.