Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Happy Birthday, Giam!

Cheers, Paul!
You may not know the name Paul Giambarba or his nom de plume Giam Barba (unless you were reading my old blog when I wrote about him two years ago), but he is a talented artist, illustrator, cartoonist, photographer, designer, and writer; an expert in graphics, typography, printing, publishing, and anything having to do with commercial art in its mid-century Golden Age; a professional's professional. And today he turns 80.
Paul served as Polaroid's first art director for 25 years, beginning in 1958. He designed the classic angular rainbow-striped graphics and packaging that instantly identified the Polaroid brand and established it as "younger and hipper" than its "stodgy" competitor Kodak--a strategy studied ever since and put to profitable use by companies like Apple today. He lived and worked in Europe in the 1950s, where he produced some terrific sketches and amazing poster art, while his more recent watercolor work captures the beauty of his beloved Cape Cod. He also continues to draw elegant and incisive illustrations, cartoons and caricatures.
Paul was an enthusiastic supporter of Mom's Cancer whom I got to know on a cartoonists' bulletin board. In October 2006, Paul visited family in my hometown and we met for lunch. We had a great, wide-ranging conversation about, well, everything. He couldn't have been more generous or encouraging with his time and advice.
Anyway, a bunch of cartoonists who frequent that online watering hole hatched a secret plan to draw and post cartoons today in celebration of Paul's birthday. Below is my contribution: a shamefully accurate rendering of what was going through my head during our lunch. Be sure to check out Paul's website sometime--it's a treasure.
Happy Birthday, Paul! And thanks.


Paul Giambarba said...

Brian -- You have reduced me to tears, even if it's easy to do to a bleary-eyed old geezer. Many thanks for your kind words. You're much too generous.

ronnie said...

Brian, you're truly blessed to have had the opportunity to meet so many of the greats! (What's especially nice is that you KNOW you're blessed.)

Your cartoon is funny, and your drawing of Mr. Giambarba is particularly nice - he looks very warm and amiable.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Giambarba!


Brian Fies said...

Paul, thanks for visiting. You're the best. I still think you're not a day over 65; I figure you just started working at Polaroid when you were 10.

Ronnie, thanks. "Appreciative" is the word. I have so much respect for anyone who's figured out how to do this for a living. Add to that a person who's made genuine contributions to the field, tells great stories about the good old days, still does first-class work, and welcomes newbies like long-lost relatives, and, well ... then you've got someone like Paul. It's an honor just to meet them; really getting get to talk with them is as good as it gets. I hope I have opportunities to pass it on.