Monday, February 27, 2017

Young at Art

This world is a dream within a dream; and as we grow older, each step is an awakening.
— Sir Walter Scott

We don't appreciate how formative youthful pursuits can be. They can shape not only the adult, but whole industries—even the whole world.

William Hogarth at 16 apprenticed to a London engraver, who taught him to design business cards and invitations. Whenever he had time off, Hogarth would amuse himself by wandering the nearby streets and sketching the odd characters he saw there. Within seven years, he was able to open his own business, engraving coats of arms, advertising handbills, and plates for booksellers.

Beatrix Potter at 14 began to keep a diary in which she wrote short stories, recorded impressions, and sketched pictures of her favorite pets, including rabbits, mice, frogs, lizards, snakes and bats. Although she never attended school, she learned to develop her skills in observation and draftsmanship from a private art teacher, Miss Cameron. 

Alfred Hitchcock at 15 enrolled in engineering school, but quit when his father suddenly died to take a job at a company that manufactured electric cables. Hitchcock worked in the advertising department there, writing copy and designing ads, all the while moonlighting as a title-card designer for the local silent-film studios. Within six years, he landed a full-time job with one of them.

Woody Allen at 16 held an after-school job with a New York ad agency. Every weekday, he would ride the subway into Manhattan from his high school in Brooklyn, all the while scribbling jokes onto pieces of paper. The agency's executives would place the jokes in the newspapers, attributing them to their clients. Woody's daily output of 50 jokes quickly landed him his first job as a comedy writer, for the TV personality Herb Shriner.

Bob Dylan at 12 would stay up every night until 3 am listening to Southern radio stations that played Muddy Waters, Hank Williams and Jimmy Reed and fingering their tunes on his guitar. While at summer camp in 1954, Dylan met a kid with his own high school doo-wop group. He formed a double act with the kid and, not long after, Dylan wrote his first song, a homage to Brigitte Bardot.

Roger Deakins at 18 enrolled in art school to study graphic design, but quickly discovered he preferred photography, and transferred to film and television school. After graduation, he found work as a cameraman, landing within seven years in the hot, new field of music videos. His music videos eventually earned the attention of the Coen Brothers, who asked him to shoot Barton Fink.

Steve Jobs at 18 audited a college course on calligraphy in which he learned about type design. He became so obsessed with typography, he began to look for a way to build a computer capable of printing multiple, variable fonts. He said of the course 22 years later, “It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating. Ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me."

HAT TIP to Ann Ramsey and Lucy Smith for inspiring today's post.
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