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The peek in the SpiderBaby Archives vaults continues with more Johnson State College work — and a glimpse of what-was-to-come, with a related Kubert School years artifact to share with you today…

I was very active in the theater department during my two+ years at JSC. Here’s another high-concept Dibden Theater performance I designed and executed the program booklet for, William Price’s “A Medium of Exchange.”

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Since there’s no date on the program, I’ve again no reference point for when, precisely, this was on stage — my guess would be fall 1975-spring 1976, judging by how my lettering skills had improved. It was definitely after the Johnson Dance Company program I showcased yesterday, but likely during the same college year (note the crossover between stage manager and the performing dancers in the two shows).

Note, again, Ken and Becca’s seminal inspirational role — as I said, they were the heart and soul of the dance program and the theater scene at JSC during my two+ years there.

srbjscmediumofxchange3aBill Price — aka William A. Price III — was an omniscient presence at JSC at the time, with his hands in the theater department and almost all the communications and media on campus. Bill was the main man behind the launch of the college’s FM station (more on that in a later post).

Bill, his fiance Ann (Vagianos) and I became pretty good friends, though my involvement in this project was still an aspect of my relationship with the techies in the theater scene.

Sokrates Jost was among the best of the techs during this period at Dibden, but I can’t recall who ‘Trio’ might have been (my guess would be John Mabry, Spedelstein and Soko, but what do I know?).

As you can see, pretentious nom de plumes were the order of the day. I mean, “Bisected Bison Deviation Studios” as a penname for Bissette? Ah, well, what do you expect from a Frank Zappa/Captain Beefheart fan in his college years?

It was in fact my love for Zappa’s venerable collaborative partner Cal Schenkel — the man who cartooned/painted/designed almost all of Zappa’s album covers and related printed media — that informed the use of collage in some of these JSC theater posters and programs. That influence is particularly prevalent in the next JSC event booklet I’ll be sharing here… but I digress.

As I say, Bill and Ann and I became good friends. We stayed in touch after I left JSC to move to faraway Dover, NJ to jump into the grand educational and life experiment that was the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon & Graphic Art, Inc. Bill and Ann saved my life, sort of, during my worst-ever week in New York City (that’s another story for another time), and they visited my first wife Marlene and I when we were living in Wilmington, VT in the Chimney Hill development, where both Maia and Danny were born.

That said, among my fondest memories of time spent with Bill and Ann was their marriage in October of 1977. I was, in fact, asked by Bill and Ann to design their wedding invitation –
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This was drawn during the summer between my two semesters at the Kubert School (it was, at that time, a two-year program; it has since expanded to three), and I had learned much in my first year at the school.

Compare this invitation art to the crude work I’d done while at JSC (see yesterday’s post): thanks to Joe, the Kubert School classes and all I’d gleaned from my teachers and classmates, I was now working with pen, brush and ink instead of markers and fine line pens — living lines instead of dead, inert lines. A real personal and creative gestalt marked the time between the “A Medium of Exchange” program and this wedding invitation.

My lettering had improved immeasurably, too, thanks to classes under Hy Eisman at the Kubert School. My lettering on this invitation is the best I was capable of at the time, though I would never, ever be an adept letterer — see Tyrant, which I lettered stem-to-stern, but still couldn’t achieve the uniformity of technique my classmate and lifelong friend Rick Veitch perfected; such is life, one must know one’s limitations, while continuing to work at refining skills.

I was also enjoying the first year of creative romance with Duo-Shade, the venerable toned illustration board that had two variant shades of gray imbedded ‘invisibly’ in the board itself until they were brushed with one of two chemicals that came with every purchase — brush on the ‘white’ lidded chemical, and a light gray would manifest (visible here as a single line pattern). Brush on the noxious smelling chemical from the ‘black’ lidded jar, and the darker (cross-hatch) pattern would emerge.

I loved working with Duo-Shade, and would use it for years to come in my earliest professional comics gigs.

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And speaking of romance — well, though I can see my hand pretty clearly in this artwork, I doubt anyone else would associate my name with the butterfly imagery that characterizes this piece.

In later years, my own wedding invitations were hardly this romantic (involving, as they did, chimps for my first marriage, and ‘the marrying dead’ for my second).

But this was for Bill and Ann — and as I say, we were good friends.

(This archival artwork is ©1975-77 SR Bissette, renewed © 2009 SR Bissette, all rights reserved.) 


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