There is a wide variety of art that I’ve created over the last 30 years: illustrations for business and publications, “milestone art” for weddings, birthdays, and anniversaries, jazz art, pop art, and abstracts. The qualities they have in common, besides that they were done by me, is that they’re all rendered in watercolor and ink , all done on the same Waterford paper, and all infused with a spirit that I strive for each time I pick up a pen or brush.
The collaboration between me and my clients is a fun and exciting process that I value. To see a piece of art for them come together is one of life’s greatest pleasures.
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It’s always fun to work with a business and create an image that is fun, colorful, and shows off an aspect that the owner wishes to advertise. Since I’ve always been a big fan of the marriage between words and images, I don’t feel that commercial art is of a lower form than a Pollock abstract. Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of creating all sorts of images for all kinds of businesses which use them for cards, print ads, T-shirts, and on their websites.
Art that celebrates marriage, anniversaries, big birthdays, posthumous tributes, and poetry is often done for people who “have everything.” This is one thing they don’t have: a custom piece of art that is all about them. I consider it an honor to create this work.
I’ve been a big fan of America’s Classical Music since I was a toddler (thanks, Dad). It was a natural idea to combine my love for jazz with my love for visual art. Many of these pieces were created for my own pleasure, listening to music as I painted. Also, I’ve created some 15 posters for music festivals which include, the Telluride Jazz and Blues, Sonoma Jazz, 4 for the Birmingham (England) Jazz Festival, and the San Francisco Blues Fest. The biggest compliment I’ve gotten is that viewers say that they “can hear the music” when they see the art.
As a child of the 1950s, it was inevitable that cartoon images, ad images, and various American ad jingles bound about in my sub-conscious mind. These pieces are a by-product of those indelible impressions.
I began to do these after seeing a Richard Diebenkorn show in 2000. Abstract art demands such a different approach to art from anything else I create. It is refreshing for me. Whereas everything else I do begins with drawing and concept, the abstracts begin with neither–they simply evolve. Many decisions go into their creation. Some using intellect. Others using gut instincts. For some reason, I’ve used Payne’s Gray as the major color for most of them.
See What Rich’s Clients Say
Rich has been co-designing and solely executing all of Lang’s unconventional greeting cards from the beginning (1991). Besides his more obvious virtues - artistry, creativity, wittiness and humor – Rich is a mensch. It has been my great pleasure working with him, putting our heads together and coming up with cards that are always (read mostly) received with cheery approval.
Thank you Rich Sigberman for the wonderful painting you did for Bread & Roses. The posters made from the painting were distributed to the 100 facilities where we bring free, live entertainment throughout the Bay Area. Thousands of people agree that Rich’s use of humor and lively colors in his painting convey the joyful feeling that our music brings to the clients we serve. We love the way he brought it all together: geography (having both Bay bridges) entertainment (jugglers, musicians, dancers) and clients (children, seniors, handicapped).
It is my pleasure to recommend the artwork of Richard Sigberman. Rich was the most imaginative artist I ever worked with. His has a special ability to grasp the essence of a story and illustrate it in a way that was illuminating but not obvious.
I rely on Rich for the creative interpretation. He’s terrific at that kind of brainstorming, and he usually gives me a range of options from serious to humorous, and in several styles. He’s always met my deadlines, and many times, he’s beaten the deadline significantly.
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About 5 years ago, I was privileged with the task of taking some 35 of Val’s journal poems, and illustrating them. Since she is open to ideas and loves cartoon art, it was a creative marriage made in heaven, and I did some of my best work. Not only was her writing inspiring in its cadence, style, and content, but I found interesting ways to integrate words and pictures, sometimes turning a letter of a word into a small illustration.
Since then, the art stayed here, as Val busied herself with lots of other activities, but recently she asked me to resurrect them, and get them ready for reproduction. When I got a larger scanner, I was in business. Each page was scanned at 300 dpi, and then I went in on each page, enlarging them on the monitor some 400%, and getting rid of any stray pencil marks, dirt, or paint that went over a line. Moreover, I was seeing the art a bit differently, and began to change some of the values of the art, knocking back details that I felt competed with the words. Overall, what I may have sacrificed in sharp contrast was more than made up for in subtlety and new clarity.
While I thought I was merely going to scan and clean up the art, what I didn’t take into account was that 5 years later, I had changed enough so that I wanted to change the art too. Also, in going back to it, I remembered what fine work the collaboration is, and I’m really happy that it’s finally going to see the light of day.
The Payne’s gray color emulates the tonal palette of black and white photography, which was my big influence in this case, from watching 1930s movies on TV as a child.
I know what you are thinking: “Ketubah—it must be something like a tuba, right?” Well, you couldn’t be further from the truth. A Ketubah (sometimes known as Ketuba without the ‘h’) is best known as a Jewish Wedding Contract. It is a marriage contract that goes about 2000 years, essentially providing economic protection for the bride. This fact alone makes a Ketubah “progressive.” While photographs, invitations, and music might help you remember your wedding day, a Ketubah reminds you of the love and promises you have with one another.
A Ketubah Overview
A Ketubah (which is Hebrew for “marriage contract” and traditionally part of a Jewish Wedding Ceremony) is done in calligraphy and surrounded by decorative art that is as beautiful as the artist, or artists, can make it. No matter how detailed and lovely the art may be, without the calligraphy, the Ketubah is merely ornamental, but with words, it is a contract between man and wife and should be taken seriously.
While there is a traditional Ketubah Text that you can use, the Ketubot (plural) I create normally have Texts that evolve to become the couple’s wedding vows. In a short ceremony that precedes the normal marriage ceremony, the Ketubah text is carefully reviewed by both bride and groom and signed by the two people getting married, the officiate, and two witnesses. I love this moment. Watching two individuals sign a Ketubah (they are usually nervous because they don’t want to mess up the art) and pledge themselves to one another through a contract creates a unique, warm, and lifelong memory.
The Ketubah Process
I usually meet with the prospective bride and groom 3-6 months prior to the wedding date. Starting early provides us with plenty of time to help the bride and groom determine what is most important to them and identify what will and won’t be included in this art. At our first meeting, I will show a few past pieces, ask some open-ended questions, and do a bit of sketching. I then make a copy of the sketch for them to take home and review.
At our next meeting, we really begin to design the art, which includes the Ketubah’s overall shape, where the calligraphy will go, the content for the art and text (which is often quite personal), and the color scheme. It’s most rewarding for me to witness their growing excitement as this piece, which is all about them, takes life. Also, the couple will decide what is not important enough to include. It is fascinating to watch this negotiation, which is always done with love. To me, this is what a Ketubah is all about—distilling this couple’s love on to a 30” x 22” piece of watercolor paper.
Throughout the whole process, I take photos of the Ketubah in its various stages and send them to the couple. This allows them to see its progress, and, most importantly, to refine and revise it along the way. If they wish to come over to view its progress in person, they are welcome to do so at any time. After my part is nearly or completely finished, I hand the art over to the calligrapher. The calligrapher then scribes the couple’s chosen Text (which is often done in Hebrew and English) on the Ketubah.
You don’t have to be Jewish to have your own Ketubah
Most of the Ketubot I’ve done are Interfaith, meaning one person in the couple is Jewish and the other is not. A good Ketubah illustrator can combine a couple’s different cultures or origins through the use of symbolism, color scheme, and Text and create a piece of art that truly reflects their everlasting union. To me, a Ketubah is about two people’s love and not their religion, and I consider it an honor to create a Ketubah and to work with those couples in a “rarified state” leading up to their wedding day.
My autobiographical comic strip didn’t start out to be such. It grew organically from that “POW!” center section of Barney Google getting a fist in his face, which came from a very beat up 1924 Sunday comic section. It was only then that I asked myself, “What has had that “POW affect” on me?”, and the answer was “when I first saw comic book and comic strip art.
Then I began the narrative in the upper left, but wanted to keep the format fluid, so I have characters in different sizes moving from one panel overlapping to the next, and used depth, especially in the upper right corner panel, that shows 7 year old me flying over a geometric field of comic strip panels vanishing into the horizon. Lastly, I go back and forth from a child to an adult twice, adding to the expanse of time. (there’s also a reference to 21st century, of which this style of art is decidedly not)
All the memories are true, and I think that shows. Having my parents holding me back was a throwaway to fill up a small space, or so I thought, only to realize that for me it was the psychologically most complex part.
The piece is a collage, using the yellowed newspaper to visually tie things together (it amazed me how well this old paper held up to paste and water color!). I also used my polka-dot blue pajamas as a repeat motif to visually add cohesion. But, the eye keeps going back to “POW!” and the green burst around it, as those are the most intense colors on the page and the basic idea.
This comic strip focuses on the moment I fell in love with cartoon art.
Here is my explanation. Picture three rings that intersect and overlap one another in the middle, with each of those rings representing one of the following categories–illustration, graphic design, and “fine art.” Each one is an entity unto itself, and yet they have common areas. There are plenty of examples of one piece of art being all three at once, with the caveat being that the term, “fine art,” is subjective. I’m a fan of all three.
Illustration is what I do. I create images by drawing and painting them in ink and watercolor. While my work is done entirely by hand in “traditional media,” perfectly valid illustrations may be computer generated. Regardless of the medium, illustrations are images usually created to highlight something that is written first. The image is illustrating the written word, and bringing more attention to that message than if it was simply a written word.
When that illustration is combined with typography, as in a poster or advertisement, we’re in the category of graphic design. Graphic design normally involves words, layout, and combining those with images. Logos are usually considered graphic design, even if there are aspects of illustration in them. Those aspects are stylized and hard edged enough to blend in with the lettering, and this type of work is mostly done on a computer. I have hand drawn some logos, and those fall right in between the two categories.
The purpose of illustration is specific, as is that of graphic design, and, to put it loosely, they are advertising something, be it a product or an idea. A client, either individual or business, hires the person creating the illustration, or design. The artist knows that he/she will be paid, usually receiving a down payment to begin.
Fine art is art that is created by and for the artist. It can be anything the artist feels like doing at that moment. It may be representational. It may be abstract. Its intentions are to be “art for art’s sake,” and, after completion, the artist will try to sell it. Many aspects of illustration and graphic design, such as composition, use of color, texture, shadow, and subject, are also parts of fine art, and that is where the three categories intersect.
Lastly, an anecdote: many years ago, fresh out of college, I was chatting with two artist types who both did abstract work. I was already clearly more of a cartoon/illustrator. One of them said, “of course you know that our art is higher than yours,” to which I expressed strong disagreement. Some twenty years later, I was visiting people back home, and this artist happened to get wind of my presence. He found out where I was staying, came over, and apologized.
While snobbery may help in the world of art sales, I have no need for it. The lines are too blurred, and there is too much subjectivity and personal taste involved. Illustration is not a higher art form than graphic design nor is abstract art higher than illustration. Each form has its place in our culture and media.
On the power of persistence: I have an affirmation that I am a “great, warrior artist”. When I tell myself I’m a great artist, that negates the possibility of my denigrating the quality of my own work. When I say I’m a warrior, it means I keep persisting without any whining. No whining allowed!
In the case of “Michellin Pop”, I am pleased witht he art on many levels, AND I blew it on the squared edges: they are distinctly off. The framer and I have tried a number of solutions, and today, when I thought we finally had it licked, (this was attempt #4!), it turned out that the framer’s assistant matted the art far too tightly, covering up small portions of the edges. I don’t know what he was thinking, but once again, this piece will stay at the framers for a while until it comes out as right as it can be, considering that it once had off kilter edges that have been straightened out in a way. The whole thing will still be “off” a bit, but in this case, that’s not so bad, and the square edges will conform to the mat, and all in all will have a clean look, which is what I feel the art needs, as opposed to “floating it” with no mat, and showing the deckled edges of the watercolor paper. Whew!
The warrior persists, and abides!
Phone: (415) 927-0912
- Going back in time March 11, 2014
- Abstract watercolor art February 12, 2014
- If I’m influencing young minds, does that make me an elder? February 11, 2014
- The Ketubah: Not Just for Jewish Wedding Ceremonies Anymore January 23, 2014
- a few words on this comic strip December 31, 2013