Friday, September 21, 2007

Rowland Remembered

The Creative Talent Network, driven by the creative, talented Tina Price just had an evening devoted to Disney greats Walt Stanchfield, Joe Grant, Mel Shaw and Rowland Wilson. I had the great good fortune to have worked with and become friends with this last man, truly was a hero to me all through my formative years. i always combed magazines and sources of print inhopes of finding another example of this guy's great design. Little did i know i would eventually meet him. And he sure could draw a well turned ankle.

Here's a bit of reminiscence:

I first “met’ Rowland in the small Southwest Ontario town of my childhood on the pages of my high school friend’s brother’s issues of Playboy. Immediately drawn to the strong design and great gags, but mostly i liked that while he drew nubiles with the best of them they weren’t all sex gags; alot of them were just quite witty and intelligent, often based on history or literature; and Accurate - when he drew a WWI plane, it was a definite type, not just an ersatz cartoon plane. I thought, this guy must have some clout to get this stuff into the likes of Playboy.

Fast forward to Sheridan College where I had a cuople of Wilsons (exactoed out of mags) over my desk; instructor Kaj Pindal came up and said, oh, yes, i worked with him at Dick Williams studio, and told a story or two. Wow, i thought, this guy works in animation too! Soon after that, I saw those Pushkin vodka commercials at a festival, with Rowland’s tag on them. They’re still great.

So imagine my surprise and delight when, after joining Sullivan Bluth studios in Ireland, where he arrived after parting ways with Disney, (which, he alowed, was not always a completely harmonious job) he arrived there and I finally met and became friends with this long admired man and his wife, suzanne.

A couple of my own reminiscences:
We worked together at the annex that Don put together down the road from the main studio, along with the likes of the Zondag brothers, Dave Goetz, Guy Deel, Kevin Gollaher and Mark Swan. It was a cold draughty warehouse building, two floors, office area in front, warehouse in back, filled with cels of banjo and Miss Brisbe and the shooting stage where Don would shoot the live ax ref for the features at the time. In which the bunch of us hammered out a lot of forgettable artwork, and it wasn’t all fun, but it was an experience in camaraderie, mostly due to Rowland.
Like others have said, he had these worksheets he had made; small thumbnail exercises of composition and colour with notes about value, colour and the like, real nuts and bolts stuff. These he passed around and copied for us, in his capaciity of Avuncular Artistic Mentor.
He was always good for a short saying or bon mot at the end of a discussion; there would the pause after a round of talk, then that unmistakable drawl, ” Well, it’s easy to criticize, but it’s hard not to!” And he was not sparing in his criticism, sometimes to our distress.
He loved taking short trips to various places on the continent from Ireland, as we all did; I remember him raving about visiting a certain castle in Portugal and a show he went to in London of the work of Carreveggio. He thought one the best pieces of Western Art was the View of Delft by Vermeer.
There’s so much more and it ’s only a small slice of the man, only my own meagre experience; he was all everyone else has said. It was a pleasure and an honour to have had the chance to know him ; you don’t get such chances often.