Jack Potter: “Create art because you love it!”

By guest author Daniel Zalkus

Jack Potter studied at The California Art Center of Design and graduated in 1949. At the time there were many students who had just returned from military duty and going to school under the G.I. bill. He told me that he benefited from being around students who had such a strong work ethic. In addition to a commercial art education Jack secured a scholarship to the Jepsen School where he studied under the fine artist Rico Lebrun.

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Shortly after graduation he went to New York to make the rounds. The first agent that reviewed his portfolio wanted to represent him and the rest is history. His career took off! He started getting work from all of the major Women’s magazines and later for big advertising campaigns such as Coca-Cola and Fuller Fabrics.

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He never liked talking about his illustration career while I knew him. I could see that it bothered him when students asked about it. Looking back, I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that he had quit the business so long ago (in the 1960’s) and was asked about it all the time.

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I was curious to know more about his work and illustration career. The first piece I found was a Coca-Cola Paris ad in an old Society of Illustrators Annual in the SVA library.

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I knew I needed to keep digging and see more. I generally tried to respect his desire to not discuss his illustration career but occasionally he would volunteer things.

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One night at his apartment, with a grin on his face, he took a blue portfolio from a box and handed it to me. Smile stretching ear to ear he said, “I was a star!” To my surprise it was tear sheets of his illustration work.

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We talked for a bit about the business back then and at one point I could tell he was a bit down. He said, “I know how difficult it is today for artists like yourself.” He knew that the business had changed and that he had worked in a golden era of illustration.

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And I understood what he meant. Jack cared about all his students and knew that today illustration work was hard to come by. He told the class many times, “Create art because you love it!”

Continued tomorrow...

* Daniel Zalkus is a freelance illustrator, graduate of the School of Visual Arts and loves to wear plaid. To see samples of his artwork please go to www.zalkus.com

* My Jack Potter Flickr set

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