Poor Bradford's Almanac

Brad Holland is my oldest professional friend and colleague. Without him, frankly, I don’t know where I’d be today (possibly retired from a desk job in the U.S. Air Force, which was one of my earliest ambitions). He introduced me to (in no particular order): the work of great designers, particularly Herb Lubalin; a new way of conceptual thinking and other illustration techniques; Ruth Ansel, who got me my job at The New York Times; and artistic integrity that has been a high and admirable bar to strive for (even if not always reached).

I stopped drawing cartoons because Brad did not say they were any good — but that pushed me into art direction and later writing. I learned about the great satirists and caricaturists of the 18th and 19th centuries, thanks to Brad, and started writing about them, in a way, for Brad.

Don’t worry, this is not a memorial. He’s still very much with us, and extraordinarily active — not only fighting for artists’ rights against the anti-copyright movement, but doing his art and now writing about it too. I’ve always loved his writing; it was sincere yet ironic, smart, and soothing, just like his best talks and lectures. But he never did enough of it. He started a memoir once, but never finished it. Believe me, that’s too too too bad for all of us.

Yet now — Internet be praised — thanks to Drawger.com, the website/community for illustrators, he is actively blogging under the rubric “Poor Bradford’s Almanac,” and some of his posts are preludes to his grander memoir.

I may be biased, as I am featured in one about Brad’s early work on the Times’ Op-Ed page, but I swear these are worth your reading time. Admittedly, I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know about these before yesterday, but I will make amends, as Mr. Scrooge might say, and keep Poor Bradford’s Almanac in my heart always.

(In his most recent post, Brad notes the following for more information about himself and others: “The documentary “Forty Years of Op-Ed Art” was produced by The New York Times and posted on its website September 26, 2010. It was produced, edited and directed by Aviva Michaelov, current art director of the Op-Ed page and Gabriel Johnson. Steve Heller, a former Senior Art Director of the Times, collaborated as writer and narrator. And for more personal perspective on the art and artists of the Op-Ed page, see  All the Art That’s Fit to Print (And Some that Wasn’t) by Jerelle Kraus. Jerelle followed Suares, Heller, Pam Vassil and others as Op-Ed’s art director, and no one so far has held that position longer nor done did more to sustain and extend the premise of art as an independent means of expression.” )

5 thoughts on “Poor Bradford's Almanac

  1. Ken Dubrowski

    I am grateful for having met Brad twelve years ago. He has greatly influenced me in so many ways that go far beyond illustration. He is indeed one of the few people in this industry I admire most and one who I am glad to have as a friend. There is no finer person in our field who shows such integrity and commitment to his work. He continues to amaze me.

  2. Craig Frazier

    Let’s hope Brad approves of your current job. No serious illustrator today hasn’t had their career counseled to some measure by Brad and his work. His recollections are humbling to say the least. Thank you both and don’t let up.

  3. Eric Hanson

    When I was a young artist his densely drawn work validated my own elaborate crosshatching, but I soon realized I’d never crosshatch as well as he did. I learned other ways of drawing. I learned how to invent metaphors from Brad and a few other people. Drawing is a way of thinking.

  4. Brian Johnson

    I note with interest your mention of “the anti-copyright movement”. The only copyright movement I’m aware of is the one that seeks to hold our culture hostage and punish fair-use.
    I’m a professional graphic designer and I’m worried that copyright is being misused.

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