Michael Pitzer, 3/2019
I wrote this "Artist Stament" for my first art show at the Fig Tree Gallery.
My work is comprised of highly rendered pieces of iconography that come from my childhood growing up on the St. Clair River in Algonac, Michigan. I call my work "Happy Art" because the inspiration to create each piece is simple to appreciate, easy to understand, and the work makes me happy.
Before I started drawing again, I spent 40 years of my life working in advertising, an industry I still love. Twenty of those years were spent as an international, award-winning Executive Creative Director working for some of the largest ad agencies in the country on some of the most creative accounts in the world. Much of that career was spent in vibrant, competitive, creative advertising markets like Los Angeles, Silicon Valley and Phoenix. Then 8 years ago we moved to Fresno… where for the first time in my career I experienced, what it’s like to have my creative soul sucked dry. That’s just my experience, and as they say, "your mileage may vary."
It was awful — but here’s the amazing part; my wife, Lynn, knew how unhappy I was and, without any job offer or freelance prospects to provide income, she told me to quit. I think her exact words were, "Get the f**k out of there now! Please." I did. That’s where this journey truly begins. Lynn encouraged me to start drawing again — something I hadn’t done in many years. My natural instinct was to pour what I was feeling emotionally into my art. The black mannequin with its hands tied, juxtaposed to the modern painting symbolized the emotional struggle I was feeling of being trapped in darkness, yet needing to let my creativity out. Even my attempt at oils turned out dark and somewhat foreboding. The issue for me was that this series (while true) was not cathartic and was not making me happy.
I’d always found drawing with pencil to be meditative, so one day, I sat down at my desk and started drawing my Stan Smith tennis shoes. They were so beat-up, just like me. The leather was incredibly soft with some scars and scuffs, like me. And yet they still had a lot of life left in them, once again, like me. When Lynn saw what I was doing she wanted it framed, and hung by our front door so that everyone coming to our home could see what her husband had drawn. That felt so great. It was like being a kid again, and having a drawing put on the refrigerator for everyone to see.
Then it hit me, I was happy, again.
What to draw next? I started thinking about the things that made me happy as a child. As I drew, I put progressive drawings up on Facebook. Family and friends started to comment, offer encouragement, and share their own stories of similar things that had made them happy, too. My art was encouraging conversation and spreading happiness — ergo, "Happy Art" I hope my work brings back happy memories for you, too.
Why I shoot...
I am a classically trained art director and designer having attended Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. But my artistic side goes deeper than the Art Center experience because I also come from a family of working artists, so the "creative thing" is in my DNA.
My parents met at J. Walter Thompson in Detroit. My Mom went on to write 27 cookbooks and appeared on Phil Donahue's show twice before she retired. Both my aunts are working fine artists who've taught, shown and have been collected nationally and internationally for decades. One uncle is a highly respected sculptor and another opened a Southern California animation studio where he created Elsie the Cow for the Borden Dairy Company before his studio was acquired by Hanna Barbera. So growing up, I got brushes, paint and canvas every Christmas and birthday. I won my first art competition in 3rd grade. My first architectural competition as a sophomore in high school and my first college art scholarship as a senior. I won my first Belding Bowl shortly after leaving college and joining Dailey & Associates on the $65 million Honda Motorcycle account. Over the years the awards I've won have covered all types of accounts in all types of advertising industry categories. I've won for Art Direction, for Copywriting and for Design, and then I started winning for my photography of old neon signs.
A business neighbor stopped by my offices in Sacramento to welcome me to the building. She saw my photography and asked if I'd ever shown anywhere. I said not since college. She called a friend of hers who owned the Barton Gallery in the art district of Sacramento and he agreed to see my stuff. Greg liked the work,... well, not enough for a show in his gallery but he also owned the restaurant next door — Michelangelo's Italian Art Restaurant, and he said he'd hang 14 of my photos there for a couple a weeks. He was honest with me and said that the photos were nice but they'd probably only appeal to someone who'd eaten at one of those places as a kid and they might buy one because it was nostalgic.
Sure enough, Greg called me a few days later saying he had a check for me that someone at the restaurant bought one of my photos because he'd eaten at that place with his family as a kid. I thought Shit! is that the only type of person who'll buy my art? A week later Greg said he had another check for me but he needed to ask me a question and could I swing by the gallery. I thought he was going to say he needed me to take the photos out of his restaurant because he'd only sold two. As it turned out a designer was at the restaurant the night before and ended up buying 12 photos - All at once!
Shortly after, my wife and I moved to Phoenix, Arizona and I put my photography on hold for a few years until a close friend, Caroline Oppleman introduced me to the owner of the Arte Media Gallery in Old Town Scottsdale. As it worked out Caroline convinced her boss that I should be part of the Scottsdale openning Art Walk Weekend and represented as new talent at their gallery.
Scottsdale Mayor, Jim Lane and his wife Joanne stopped by the gallery and posed for a photo with my wife Lynn and I. Pretty cool and what a great couple!