My first full-time job as a fresh-faced college grad after getting my BFA was as a pizza chef at a little sandwich shop around the corner from TCU. After being trained on how to carefully weigh the ingredients for each type of pizza, I discovered I made much better pizzas by just eye-balling it. If the pizza looked good, it tasted good. Everybody benefited.
After six months I scored this amazing opportunity to work at D’Arcy-MacManus & Masius Advertising Agency in St. Louis, where I worked for about a year and a half, before moving to Santa Barbara for a job and love (both of which lasted about 18 months).
I moved back to Texas, collected a little unemployment, worked as a census worker for about 3 weeks, then started freelancing as a graphic designer. Since I was woefully ignorant of the business side of things, I set my hourly rate to a ridiculously low sum, which meant I got a fair amount of work, most of it for Pier 1 Imports. Thus was born Ralph Art Design.
To qualify for a mortgage, I went to work (against my better judgement) for Color Tile, doing mostly package design. Great co-workers, terrible management. I quit after 2 months and went to work as an art director at Pier1, my former freelance client. I did a little of everything: newspaper ads, product illustration, in-store signage and promotional materials, package design — you name it, I did it. I eventually became the Director of Graphic Services.
I realized it was time to leave when my boss ragged on me for taking a day off to attend a friend’s funeral , and so plotted to leave and go back to grad school. Three years later, I graduated from North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas) with an MFA in drawing and painting, and a 1 year old son.
For a period of about 10 years I did nothing but paint and draw (and change diapers, push strollers, and function as Mom in our household). It was the most productive time in my career as an artist. Then my wife got the crazy boss and she decide it was time for *her* to go back to grad school.
I’d been doing the odd freelance job with my old supervisor, the amazing “Patsy Bob” (the late Patricia Sloan). While talking at one of her daughter’s weddings, circa 1994, I said, “There’s this new thing I’ve been playing with called the World Wide Web. We ought to start doing websites.”
After some false starts pitching potential clients, we landed a gig designing and developing the brand new Michael’s Arts and Crafts website. We worked with a very bright TCU computer science student named Matt and created all sorts of pretty amazing and (at the time) cutting edge stuff: online greeting cards, store locators, interactive games, Flash activities. This lasted for about 5 years before they fired the 3 of us and replaced us by an in-house department headed up by a former IBM guy and around 40 staff people.
Meanwhile, I’d been doing other work, including designing “novelty tables” and nutcrackers for the old Bombay Company, and teaching part-time at Tarrant County College and TCU’s Department of Extended Education.
Still, without the steady income of Michaels, freelancing became a lot more stressful, and in 2001 I went to work at Bell Helicopter doing design and IT (web) work. I started out as a designer who knew code, and eventually became a coder who knew design. I eventually moved over to Textron Information Services, where I
currently work worked for almost 20 years with a broad cross-section of internal customers, managing websites and giving technical support (see my resume for more in-depth description).
Update: In early 2020 I’d just about decided to retire once I hit 20 years with Textron, which would have been the end of January 2021. A few months later everyone was mobbing stores in search of toilet paper and masks. Welcome to the wonderful world of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
After six months of working remotely and having meeting via Microsoft Teams, along with a couple weeks of unpaid furlough, my employer announced a voluntary separation program to rid itself of older employees like myself. So by the time October of 2020 rolled around I was a retiree.
…A painting fool of a retiree. As I write this in fall of 2022, I realized I will have been in 8 shows and counting before the end of the year. My IT job was always a job, not a career, but I’m grateful to have had it since it enabled me to be able to do a lot of things I would not have been able to do otherwise.
Life is funny.