5 minute read

Behind the Scenes with Lisa Cyr

An Interview with Marshall Arisman

Over the course of my life, I have moved several times. Each time, non-essential things were kept in boxes, put in storage and were never to be seen again, until the fourth of July weekend in 2018. It was the project that began a whole other project.

The day started out simple enough. My husband and I started to clean and clear out things from the basement, which is also known as the abyss. It was a task that was far long overdue. What was to come was something I would have never imagined. My weekend cleaning spree had resulted in the unveiling of a gold mine of trinkets and treasures. Going through storage bin after storage bin, I was able to take a trip down memory lane. There were things that I uncovered that I had completely forgotten about. Going through old posters from lectures, invitations from exhibitions, workshop flyers, magazines with articles in them that I had written or was featured in, kind notes from artists, curators, editors, former students and the like, was a reminder of my personal history.

Amidst the chaos of the clean, I also found a very large plastic bin filled to the top with old cassette tapes. As I began to look through it, I was amazed at the memories that came flooding back to me. Being in the artist’s studio with Robert Heindel, talking to Milton Glaser about his I Love (heart) NY More Than Ever logo with a baby on my hip, being amazed by the civil rights stories of reportage illustrator Franklin McMahon and talking about illustration history with Murray Tinkleman, Vincent Di Fate, Walt Reed, Bunny (Alice) Carter and Ben Eisenstat are each moments I hold dear to my heart. And, then the

funny moments started to come back, like the time David Grove called me after midnight because he forgot the time zone change from the East and West coast. I did that interview into the wee hours of the morning. There are some interviews that I did with artists like Sterling Hundley, James Jean and Shawn Barber that were conducted early on in their careers for magazine annual feature profiles. It has been such a treat to see their evolution as artists. As I lifted cassette tape after cassette tape out of the bin, I recalled many fond memories of talking with Barron Storey, Marshall Arisman, Fred Otnes, Brad Holland and Kazuhiko Sano, just to name a few, about their work and process for both magazine articles and books. When I reflected back on each conversation, I could recall their words of wisdom, hearing their actual voice speaking to me in my mind. The experience of sitting in my basement and having all these memories come back to me was priceless. I knew then that these recorded moments in time should be shared.

My interview with Hall of Fame illustrator Marshall Arisman is the first in this new series entitled Behind the Scenes, where I share insight into the backstories that I have witnessed through doing research and interviews for the many articles and books that I have written over the years. The full audio of my interview with Marshall Arisman is posted online on my YouTube channel here:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFf-iWzaKo&t=32s The interview was originally done in 2009 as research for an artist profile entitled Content-Driven Approach featured in my book Art Revolution: Alternative Approaches for Fine Artists and Illustrators (North Light

Books). Although the interview was done several years ago, the content is as valid today as it was back then.

Over the years, I've had the privilege to speak with Marshall not only about his creative process and approach but also about the industry at large. His work, words and insights are an inspiration to us all. What has always impressed me the most about Marshall is his ability to work from a place that is genuine and authentic, inspiring many to follow that same path.

For the same book, Art Revolution, I also interviewed multi-media creator Dave McKean. During our interview, he told me an interesting story about Marshall’s impact on his work and approach. When he had went to New York City to show his portfolio to comic publishers, he saw that Marshall Arisman was giving a talk at the ICA (1985) and he attended. “It was a wonderful insight into the life of a creative person. How his work is bound into every aspect of his life. How he balances life and work emotionally, chemically and in every way: in his case, music and pictures,” recalls McKean. “And of course, it was a relentless two hours of extraordinary visuals and crazy stories all about real people and their inner lives. I walked out thinking, ‘I want to do that!’”

Another similar story came from illustrator Matt Mahurin. While making his way in art school on the West coast, he reached out to Marshall Arisman, one of his illustration heroes. Marshall graciously sent a package of printed materials of his work along with an inspirational letter, suggesting that if Matt comes to New York City after graduation he should call and perhaps stop by the studio. He of course did. After looking through Matt’s work, Marshall gave him Rudy Hoglund’s number at Time, which led to multiple illustrations being printed in the magazine. The rest is history, as they say. When I served on the education committee at the Society of Illustrators, we were in charge early on to elect the Distinguish Educator Award. When Marshall Arisman received the award in 2000, Matt Mahurin was more than eager to speak and share his story at the reception and flew in on the red eye to do so. Marshall continues to inspire still today.

Throughout the interview, entrepreneurialism and authorship abound: an approach that has allowed Arisman to create a multifaced career as a painter, illustrator, author and teacher. He also discusses storytelling, playing music,

making videos as well as chairing a department, teaching and his approach to working with students in the MFA illustration program at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Most importantly, Arisman talks about his subjects, work in series and his unique process and approach and how it has evolved over the years. “Follow the work”, says Arisman. In three simple words, he reminds us all of the importance of letting our work guide us to where it needs to go.

Over the years, I have been blessed and honored to have had the opportunity to collaborate with an amazing array of creators from around the globe, keeping me in tune with the pulse of an international marketplace. From the fastpaced, forward-thinking worlds of cutting-edge design, illustration and fine art to the inner workings of the exciting fields of animation and interactive storytelling, I've been able to profile groundbreaking work, experiencing artistic expression through the eyes of some of the world's leading creative visionaries. I've visited studios and have watched some of the best in the business work. The many memories with amazingly talented people and creative friends, some to which are no longer with us, has created an interesting and fulfilling artistic journey for me and I want to share that with the world. Although some of my interviews were unfortunately taped over by other interviews, there is still quite a large collection of tapes available for me to convert to digital and put online publically. It has become a labor of love project that has risen from the depths of my cluttered basement.

Copyright 2019 Lisa L. Cyr Cyr Studio LLC all rights reserved.


A graduate from The Massachusetts College of Art (BFA) and Syracuse University (MA), Cyr's artistic oeuvre has been exhibited in museums and galleries, including traveling shows with the Society of Illustrators of New York and Los Angeles. Her work has been featured in magazines, books and online, including numerous features in Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art, Infected by Art, AcrylicWorks: The Best in Acrylic Painting and Incite: The Best in Mixed Media. Her work is included in the permanent collection of the Museum of American Illustration in New York City as well as in private collections.

Cyr writes for many of the creative industry's leading art publications and has authored seven books on art and design, including Experimental Painting and Art Revolution (North Light Books). She teaches at the New Hampshire Institute of Art, The Art Students League of New York and in several of the top MFA graduate programs across the country.Cyr is an artist member of the Society of Illustrators in New York City.