Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ray Prohaska: Art Reps & Art Directors

Ray Prohaska was represented by Lester Rossin Associates - the same studio that represented David Stone Martin. Though Rossin had quite a few high profile artists (including Ray) in his 'stable', almost every Lester Rossin ad I've seen from the early 50's features Martin's art ( as in the example below).

In 1956 Ray Prohaska received an Award of Merit for the piece below from the New York Art Directors Club. (Tony Prohaska writes, "I remember posing for one of the kids on the jetty.")

That year, Ray's illustration was at last featured in the top spot of a Lester Rossin group ad in the back pages of the '56 Art Director's Annual.

Tony had a summer job one year at Rossin's studio. He describes what it was like:

"Lets see...Rossin's was one floor... a receptionist, and maybe six people in the bull pen, including one very good letterer, another guy who did airbrush, and several people who did layouts, spots, and retouching. I think there were either three or four salesmen, maybe more, but I don't remember... and Rossin did sales too. I was in the production department, and did deliveries, mattes, wrapping packages, that kind of stuff. There were two of us gofers and a production manager, named Charlie Stubbs. My fellow gofer was Fred Travelena, who became a well known comedian, and died just a couple of weeks ago."

"I'm not sure if Ray ever had an other full time agent in N.Y., beside Rossin. He thought that all agents were crooks, but that you had to find a crook that wasn't too bad. Rossin occassionally would have one of his in-house studio people do a fake Ray Prohaska. I found that out when I worked that summer job for Rossin. Ray said he knew about it, figured it wasn't out of control."

"He was friends with a guy who'd been an agent and who moved out to Amagansett around the time we did, named Jim Perkins."

Looking over James Perkins' and Lester Rossin's artist lists, we can see some of the biggest names in the New York illustration scene of the day - and see also how close knit the entire community of graphic arts professionals were, socially and professionally.

But did Ray get all his jobs by way of his rep, or did he also take his portfolio around to show to art directors?

Tony writes, "He did get quite a few jobs direct, without Rossin, but I suppose he'd pay him anyway, I'm not sure. Also, his relationship with J. Walter Thompson was an old one, and he kept that up, went up to their offices quite a bit. I think he felt that he was treated o.k. by [Saturday Evening Post AD] Frank Kilker..."

"I'd have to say that one of his favorite jobs was a job he did for Frank Zachary, who was then at Holiday, I'm sure you know of him... it was an illustration of an African scene. He loved Frank. Frank rented the house next door to us one summer, and after that, rented down at the beach every year for several years."

"In general though, art directors were the bane of his existence, and we were under strict orders not to tell them he was fishing, or they'd think he wasn't busy."

"You had to be busy or you were dead, was how he put it."

* Tony Prohaska has put together an extensive website devoted to his dad's life, where you can read a very thorough biography and see many more examples of the artist's work. Go to The Art of Ray Prohaska for more.

* My Ray Prohaska Flickr set.

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