Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Day With Don Knotts

An assignment like this comes along once-in-a-long-while for a small-town photographer.
    I was the runner-up choice when another local graphic designer/photographer couldn’t make time for one more project. A local copywriter then came to me for graphic design and conceptual assistance with some brochures for his account. 
    “Why don’t we suggest Don Knotts as a nervous dentist/doctor with a fear of computers.” he asked. This idea was included with other sketches including a Tooth Fairy.

This 20" x 16" oil painting of Don Knotts by 
Larry Kassell is derived from one of the many photos 
taken on a commercial assignment in 1986.
    This was in May of 1986 – more than 25 years ago – when computers were a whole new learning curve to medical professionals who had more important details to tend to. The message of the account’s campaign was to not fear, but embrace technology, “ ... and we’ll make it simple for you.”
    The copywriter and I flew to Los Angeles the night before the shoot. The session took place the following morning in a dentist’s office which was closed for the day. Mr. Knotts arrived at 8:00 a.m. escorted by two employees of the sponsoring account. Photography began as scripted , and included props we had brought. I was photographing with Kodak Plus-X panchromatic film in a Pentax 6x7 camera, occasionally checking progress with Polaroid prints. 
    In the morning session I was coaching Mr. Knotts to: “Do this with your hands, and make a face like that ... ” I then caught myself and said: “Here I am telling Don Knotts how to look nervous!” The assembled entourage chuckled too.
    Our group had lunch at a nearby restaurant where patrons would point and stare, and our server asked for Mr. Knotts’ autograph. As as you can imagine, he answered a hundred questions, including working with Andy Griffith and Tim Conway.
    We wrapped up the photography by mid-afternoon, and Don Knotts was escorted to his home. The copywriter and I returned to Oregon that evening and I began developing the film from our day’s work.
    Our efforts resulted in several direct mail brochures with an instantly-recognizable face on the cover. And I got an autographed photo of Mr. Knotts and me.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

So, when does Senior officially begin?

Let’s pick an official date. At the far youngest end, citizens can drive at sixteen, vote at eighteen and drink at twenty-one. The ages are well defined.
    So, when does seniority start? The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) sent me membership applications before I was fifty to make sure I was on their rolls when I turned five-oh. I could have joined the Senior Golf Tour at fifty, had I golfed then and been good enough. Senior discounts at one drive-thru in town begin at fifty-five; sixty-two at another. I was “carded” at that one. Pointing out the birth date on my driver’s license caused the window-worker to subtract numbers without the benefit of a cash register. Yet another local fast-food employee wasn’t sure of the senior age chalkmark, but she thought I looked old enough. Some golf courses encourage seniors to exercise more with lower rates for old-timers of sixty or sixty-two. The Oregon State Fair discounts oldsters at sixty-five. Social Security can begin all-over-the-place, but sixty-six is a good place to start receiving benefits.
    Once that magical age has been established, Senior Citizens could get a Silver-Hair passport and a PIN number, or a sticker for their license ... or at least a  lapel pin to show proof of achievement that could be used not only at drive-up diner windows (where we shouldn’t eat anyway) but at pharmacies for our increased aches and illnesses, health food stores, grocery stores, utility companies, gas stations and so forth. And ... art supply stores, since we supposedly now have “free time” to doodle.
    A senior discount seems like a fair enough reward for walking nine miles to school, in the snow, uphill both ways as we all did in the “olden days.”
    We shouldn’t have to grow old for nothing.

This Kassell cartoon appeared in the Silverton (Oregon) Appeal-Tribune, and then Pelican Publishing's "Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year / 2009 Edition."

Welcome to my glob, Volume 1, Number 1. There could be erors.

I was told to write from what I know, and I know something about art, but certainly not everything I should about the subject. And that’s why I’m counting on feedback from friendly friends and (constructively) critical critics.

As a painter I favor realism with maybe a touch of humor — from others as well as myself. I believe we should paint to the best of our ability each time, and then build on that to become better — eventually achieving artist stature. Is randomly smearing paint on a canvas declaring: “It came from in here” (pointing to the heart area) the best use of God-given talent and resources?

I was not blessed into a wealthy family, nor folks that encouraged my art, nor did I have the talent to earn an art scholarship. What I learned was gleaned from art history books and studying the techniques of the Old Masters.

When I graduated from North Salem (Ore.) High School, I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was sent to electronics school where my classmates were already ham radio operators and already knew the color codes on resistors. That I knew the primary and secondary color wheel was of no consequence. In the little time off I had, I’d paint oil portraits of classmates’ girlfriends from a tiny photograph . I learned the tough lesson that if it did not look like their love interest, or better, I didn’t get paid. In the mix of subjects I painted portraits of a captain and a major. The Air Force then decided I’d make a better Illustrator than Missile Maintenance Technician, so I painted fighter jets in acrylics and prepared informational slide shows for the remainder of my commitment which concluded in South Korea. At the Base Exchange at Osan, Korea, cameras were duty-free and I had access to a darkroom, so I retired my paintbrushes for a time and pursued my new found interest in photography. I admired the crisp landscape work of Ansel Adams, struck up a postal correspondence with him, and in 1966 purchased one of his noted photos — Aspens, New Mexico.

After four years of military service, I worked for the State of Oregon Education Division as a Graphic Artist, the (Salem) Statesman-Journal newspaper advertising department as an ad designer, the Silverton Appeal-Tribune newspaper as Advertising Manager, State of Oregon Employment, again as a Graphic Designer, and a now defunct graphics firm in Salem before launching my own design, commercial photography, publication design, and humorous illustration studio in 1976. We pretty much have to do-it-all to stay in business in a town the size of Silverton, Oregon. April 2011 marks my 35th year as Kassell Concepts. I photograph, write, then design ads, brochures and booklets.

I enjoy humorous illustration (cartooning), because humor and caricatures often best drive home a point. Photography is especially rewarding because a photographer has to actually be present at the event to capture a photo, and sometimes that requires extensive travel. In forty-plus years of photography I’ve met so many interesting people and witnessed so many gorgeous sunsets that I can’t keep it inside. A photo in an album, attic, or still in a camera or computer is like the tree that falls in the forest and nobody hears. So, I choose to share my illustrations and photos — but like home movies, they’d better be interesting. I published two photo books of my hometown, Silverton Sampler (1972) and Silverton Sampler II (2003).

As much as I love photography, film and darkrooms have gone the way of tail fins on cars (remember 1957?), and digital photography and its editing programs have made practically everyone a photographer. In December, 2007 I bought some canvases, an easel, a few brushes and a selection of Gamblin oils and launched my third or fourth career. Now with our six kids out of the nest, and with my wife Julia’s blessing, I paint, paint, paint — whenever I find time — like when I was in the service more than forty years ago.

Favorite artists

Seriously. The best artist in history was Norman Rockwell. The best impressionist was Bernie Fuchs. My favorite living artist: James C. Christensen. Others, living and not-so-much, are Adolphe William Bougerau, Nelson Shanks, Jacob Collins ... all traditionalists.

The best artist in Silverton, Ore. is probably the lady who decorates cakes at Roth’s Fresh Markets.

What I’ve been up to

This painting is from a photograph taken many years ago of a friend posing with my wife Julia’s VW Beetle, Susie. “The Controlled Beetle Hunt of 1968” takes a humorous poke at Oregon’s SUV and pickup owners who see little foreign nuisances on the road as fair game. A brush-and-ink rendering of this painting will be featured in an upcoming book I’m working on. I’ll keep you updated.

The Controlled Beetle Hunt of 1968

The Controlled Beetle Hunt of 1968
Oil on canvas, 24 h x 24 w