Murray Tinkelman admits that he didn‚??t start out as much of an artist, but his long career proves he certainly turned out alright.
He started drawing in kindergarten and continued through elementary school despite his colorblindness, something that he says had ‚??no effect‚?Ě on his work. Claiming that illustration was ‚??the only thing‚?Ě he could do, he attended the School of Industrial Art, now the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan.
‚??There‚??s nothing else I can do. I don‚??t know how to do long division to this day. I don‚??t know a dangling participle from a bellybutton. I make pictures. That is why I have been put on this Earth,‚?Ě Tinkelman insisted in a phone interview from home in Cortlandt Manor, N.Y.
‚??I did my first commercial job for a national magazine in 1951 when I graduated high school. I got $10 for it, and I assure you, I was grossly overpaid. It was terrible.‚?Ě
He started working in a comic book studio, but he described the job as ‚??hideous.‚?Ě
‚??I was terrible. We did ‚??Sheena, Queen of the Jungle‚?? and other great monuments to literature. I so desperately wanted to do well in that job, but I was just awful, and I got fired,‚?Ě he recalled.
‚??(I went) into the army, and they did not fire me. ‚?ĽI did a year in the United States Army doing posters and training aids, then went overseas to Germany. This was during the Korean War; I did not go to Korea, fortunately for me.‚?Ě
While Tinkelman spent his time in the service decorating cakes and other ‚??silly things,‚?Ě he persistently pursued his craft when he got out, eventually getting out of commercial illustration when he began teaching. This allowed him to delve into his own interests, which he found hadn‚??t changed much since he was younger.
‚??As a kid, I used to love to look at drawings in dictionaries and encyclopedias. I didn‚??t realize that they were mostly engravings; I thought they were pen and ink drawings, and I would emulate that‚?Ľvery detailed style,‚?Ě he said, choosing to work almost exclusively in pen and ink.
‚??I started becoming much more selective about what I chose to work on. It evolved rather quickly that I wanted to explore my childhood fantasies, so I started doing ‚?? not in this order necessarily ‚?? drawings that had to do with horror motion pictures that I used to watch as a kid. I started doing Western illustration; again, I would watch Western movies as a kid or read Western pulps or paperbacks. Automobiles ‚?? what prepubescent male doesn‚??t go orgasmic over shiny finned behemoths?
‚??I was in a Chinese restaurant and I got a fortune cookie. The fortune read, ‚??Be true to the dreams of your youth,‚?? so I‚??ve been following that advice.‚?Ě
Considering this advice, it‚??s not surprising that even after winning gold medals from the Society of Illustrators, the New York Art Directors Club, and the Society of Publication Designers, his most treasured prize is a trophy buckle from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association for the best photograph of 1982, which he keeps propped up on his drawing table.
‚??The buckle is the size of a manhole cover, and it‚??s gold and silver and has sapphires. Whenever I go out West, I wear it. In a way, that‚??s my favorite award because it‚??s so unlikely,‚?Ě he emphasized.
Becoming an ‚??adept photographer,‚?Ě he received permission to shoot Native American Pow-Wow dances and cowboy rodeos as an authorized rodeo photographer. ‚??One of the great thrills‚?Ě of his life was a one-man show at the Cooperstown National Baseball Hall of Fame, giving him the opportunity to meet many of his subjects.
‚??It‚??s dying and going to heaven to meet people like Pee Wee Reese or Duke Snider and these great heroes of Brooklyn baseball. I have to admit, kind of over my dead body, but I have to admit that Phil Rizzuto was not a bad guy and, meeting (Mickey) Mantle a couple of times, he was not a bad guy. It‚??s genetically predetermined that kids from Brooklyn hate the Yankees, so my real joy was tracking down Brooklyn Dodgers and doing artwork that related to them, and then later the New York Mets,‚?Ě Tinkelman quipped.
While the business has changed dramatically since he began his career, the 79-year-old still believes there is a place for illustrators and enjoys imparting his vast knowledge onto students, which he will do this week with two free lectures on Thursday, Nov. 29 at Marywood University and Keystone College that are open to the public. Tinkelman aided in the inception of Marywood‚??s Master‚??s Program and taught in it for a time.
‚??You‚??ve got to love what you do and do what you love. It sounds like a clich√©, it sounds slick, but I really mean it. ‚?ĽConvince your students that there‚??s no place in the world you would rather be than right here working with them and teaching at this time and this place. ‚?ĽMost of the time, that‚??s true ‚?? there‚??s nothing I‚??d rather do,‚?Ě he said.
‚??When I was a kid, my parents would say, ‚??Murray, shut up.‚?? Now people pay me to talk. I enjoy that. Every time I get an invitation, I think of that.‚?Ě
Murray Tinkelman lectures: 50 Years in 90 Minutes, Nov. 29, 1 p.m., Marywood University, Media Center, MD160; History of American Illustration: 1850s-1950s, Nov. 29, 6 p.m., Keystone College, Capwell Hall, Room 209.