Christopher P. Stephens, Bookman

Chris Stephens has been a book dealer since 1965 - earlier if you count childhood buying and selling.

Stephens has sold major collections to university libraries all over the world. He has operated appealing bookstores in Mt. Carroll, Illinois, Hastings on Hudson, NY and several in NYC, NY. He is a wholesale dealer to other bookstores all over the world.

Chris loves books.

Stephens now maintains a lively internet operation out of his new home in Scranton, PA.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Conversation With Patricia Lowy - Graphic Designer & Artist

"I started working at William Morrow as a production assistant. Every week I had to type up a production report. And I didn't really know how to type. I was supposed to file all this stuff - manuscripts, cover art, production galleys, bound galleys, individual pages.
"It was totally boring but I had to support myself while I was in school."
Where was she going to school?
"Pratt had a special graduate program in graphic design. All the teachers were professionals in the field, so the courses were conducted in the evenings and weekends. It sounded great but many of these professionals had considerably more talent as artists than as teachers.
"There are professional artists that are also good teachers. They're rare. Milton Glaser is one example. I took a course from him at School of Visual Arts. He's an amazing graphic designer and he's an amazing teacher. A really great teacher. The Pratt program didn't have teachers like that.
"A better opportunity to learn came my way. Cynthia Basil, art director of Morrow Junior Books, took me on. I became her assistant and she taught me everything. She was great.
"Cynthia was quite a character. She chain-smoked Camels. She collected toys - all these old tin toys with moving parts. Her apartment was full of them. She never married. In a way, she never grew up. Maybe you need that Peter Pan characteristic to excel in junior books.
"In publishing, at that time anyway, you had to change publishers to get much of a salary increase. I moved to E.P. Dutton. Riki Levinson was a very talented art director at Dutton. Later I went Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich. There I designed for adult as well as children's books."

What does designing books without illustrations entail?

"The designer makes decisions about the title page, the chapter openings, the whole way a book looks. The layouts are designed in pencil on tissue paper. Everything is ruled carefully. There weren't computers at this time. All work was long hand.
"In the 1970s and 80s publishers spent a lot of money getting type set. Now that's done more easily on computers. It's a big change. Then they hired retouchers. Now they use photo shop."

Patricia moved to McGraw Hill where she was the design supervisor. She worked on text books, which required quite a bit of design attention. "I earned more money but the work was dry.
"I left and became a free lance design consultant. Much more fun. My studio was above Shakespeare & Company. It was a convenient location. Dan and I lived nearby. Every publisher I'd worked for gave me work.
"One project was for William Morrow. I was designing a book by Charles Silverstein. My 5th grade teacher was named Charles Silverstein. He was a great teacher - memorable because you have so few really great teachers as you grow up. I wondered if it was the same person. It was! I telephoned. He wasn't phased in the least - he was thrilled to hear from one of his former 5th graders. He'd left teaching. He'd become a psychologist and had written several books, one of which I designed."

Patricia Lowy closed down her studio and her consultancy to devote more time to her sons. She remains a graphic designer and artist. Often her artwork blends unexpected combinations of paper and subject matter, or of emotional impact and technique. Some are drawn from an unusual physical perspective. All, even the ones of inanimate objects, burst off the page with bold vitality.
I especially admire her charcoal drawing that's behind Lowy in the photos. The decorative floral pattern, sort of like wallpaper, is a soothing screen you see at first glance. At second glance you see the body bags.

Patricia Lowy is always interesting to talk with. I might have badgered her too relentlessly for this particular conversation about her work in publishing. I appreciate this conversation though. I appreciate all of them.

NYTimes article by Vivien Raynor - Ms Raynor has a keen sense of self-importance but as an art critic she still has a distance to go. read paragraphs 5 and 6


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