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Saturday, March 21, 2015

WALT REED: ILLUSTRATIONS KEEPER OF THE FLAME

 I first heard the name "Walt Reed" when I was an illustration major at the Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio.  I discovered his book "The Illustrator in America" in the CCAD library in 1982. I kept the book checked out so often it should have read "Property of Jeff Preston" as opposed to the rightful owner. That book, along with Mark Hazlerig's "History of Illustration" classes, became my magic window into the rich history of those that came before me. Both in their work and their lives. The fact that there was a full page dedicated to Frank Frazetta in the book endeared me even more. Walt Reed's most recent book "Harvey Dunn: Illustrator and Painter of the Pioneer West" was just released  4 years ago, Walt was 93!
In 2006 when I got my Society of Illustrators membership application back from my sponsor Vincent Di Fate my heart leaped when I saw the signature of one of the co-sponsors, Walt Reed! I had never felt so deeply honored.
The day after the Society's "New Members Dinner" in New York I made it a point to visit Walt's "Illustration House" where he and son Roger brokered original illustrations for decades, and still do. I wanted to personally think him for co-sponsoring me since he was unable to attend the dinner. When he came into the room he was gracious and glowing. His love for illustration and illustrators was evident in every world he spoke. We talked about the dinner and how very special it was to me to walk across that old wooden floor where so many giants of illustration had done before to accept my membership certificate. I told him how reverent the entire evening became when then director Terry Brown told the story of Meade Schaeffer and how he died in that very room while in attendance at a luncheon to honor him and his life's work. Walt's eyes became misty and he said "I was sitting beside him". That is a moment I will never forget.
I had my portfolio with me ( of course) and asked Mr. Reed if he would look through it. He did so with great enthusiasm. For the "Dean of the History of Illustration" to smile as he looks at  your work is a stamp of approval that is absolutely priceless.  As some point I had to ask as I have others so many times before because the reaction is so priceless, "Now what do you you think I'm working in?"
He looked at me somewhat puzzled, looked a a few more pieces and proceeded to go through thte whole range of mediums.
"Oil? No not oil. Acrylic? Watercolor?"
I took an illustration, flipped it over so he could see the bleed on the back of the paper and said.
"Or it could be marker"
"MARKER?" he said genuinely shocked. "I don't think I've ever seen that before!"
I smiled and said, "When the man who has seen it all, knew everybody  and literally wrote the book on "The Illustrator In America" tells me he's never seen this before.... you Sir have just made my career!"
Walt Reed was a man who lived his 97 years with great passion for what he did, what he loved and he gladly shared it with the world. I only met him that one time, but that was a lifetimes worth.
Thanks Walt for all you did for illustration and illustrators, with a legacy such as yours death has no dominion.


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