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In the late 1970s and early 1980s, I designed and served as the art director for two magazines. The first one, Glass magazine, which was originally known as Glass Art magazine, was published in Oakland, California, before it relocated to Portland, Oregon. The magazine was at the forefront of a burgeoning art form and industry, with several glass producing factories emerging in the Northwest at the time. Simultaneously, I myself had become part of a group of exhibiting experimental stained glass artists living on the West Coast, our work collectively gaining recognition across the country. Simultaneously, a movement of blown glass art was emerging, and one of its most prominent exponents was Dale Chihuly.

There were two essential reasons for the prominent role played by the Northwest of the US: in the region, gas that was required to operate glass making furnaces was relatively cheap, as was the cost of operating printing facilities which were connected to the lumber industry.

In no time at all, Glass magazine was transformed into a classy coffee-table quarterly, which utilized the latest printing techniques, such as covering a photo with a transparent glaze showing off vibrantly saturated ink colors. Thus, the cover seen here featuring colored marbles became the centerpiece of a promotional campaign, which I coined, “If we could, we would make the magazine itself out of glass.”

Soon afterward, the publisher sold the magazine, just as it was gaining international recognition. However, the new publisher fatally abandoned the high production values that had become key to the magazine’s promising future. Refusing to accept this short-sighted cost-saving compromise, I quit and returned to LA. The magazine folded after only two more issues.

Back in LA, I returned to stained glass design and creation, at which time I engaged in the creation of my most ambitious artwork in that medium, “Les Routes de La Grande Odalisque (The Large Brain).” Then, around three years later, a friend informed me of a new Hollywood-based magazine covering rock music that needed an art director. This provided the opportunity to apply my prior magazine experience to an exciting new challenge.

Once again, I was in a position to build up a magazine with a small circulation, while operating on a shoestring budget. Just like I did at Glass magazine, I creatively pushed the envelope. Taking advantage of a town loaded with young talent, I met with ambitious photographers and illustrators and hired recently graduated art school students who had graphics design skills. As computer graphic design programs were yet to be invented, everything was designed on sheets of cardboard incorporating printed photographs, handmade graphics, hand-drawn illustrations, text from typewriters and stick-on lettering. Every page consisted of some or all of these elements, which had to be cut and pasted together. The work was incredibly strenuous. Once I spent three entire days with my staff slaving without any sleep, in order to meet a deadline.

Using as a visual model a panoramic motion picture screen, I applied the idea of utilizing the entire space of a two-page magazine spread, just as I do now with these web pages, filling the screen with horizontally shaped images. The two full-screen background images on this page are examples of pages I designed for Rock magazine.

Back then, I executed this concept in the same way that I often designed stained glass artworks. My just-graduated, art school-trained, workers thought I was crazy when I projected onto the office wall a panoramic backstage image of David Bowie at an outdoor arena. On top of the large background, I projected other photos as small insets, which visually told the story of Bowie’s “Serious Moonlight” concert tour. Next to these smaller images I then placed text, also right on top of the background photo.

My young staff had never seen anything like this before. The conventional way that they had been taught in school dictated that both text and photos were to appear against a neutral white background. 

The photos I had to work with for a cover article about David Bowie’s 1983 “Serious Moonlight Tour” were offered to me by his personal tour photographer. He showed me a collection of 35mm slides he had taken and generously said that for no fee I could use whatever photos I wanted. My choice for the magazine’s cover changed everything. The animated image of Bowie singing at an outdoor stadium reminded me of action shots that would have been perfect for Sports Illustrated magazine. However, this broke with a previously mundane consistency of Rock magazine’s cover design – a standard still pose of a well-known artist placed before a solid-colored background. After the cover was designed, the publisher rejected it, insisting that Bowie’s facial expression was unflattering. Worse, his hair was not nicely combed!

At that moment I put my foot down. “Either use the image or I quit!” I adamantly exclaimed, as I stomped out of the front office door. 

The magazine had a very small circulation and I knew that something bold had to be done.  Here I had the best of David Bowie’s tour photographer’s photos at my disposal and at no cost to the magazine. No way was I going to blow this golden opportunity to take the monthly publication to the next level.

After I cooled off, I returned to the office a couple of hours later and the publisher relented. Days later, a handful of hot-off-the-press issues were placed in the magazine rack of a 7/11 convenience store next door to the office building. Within no time every issue had sold out, convincing the vast company chain to sell the magazine in all of its stores across the US. 

The result of this sudden overnight success, Larry Flynt made a half of a million dollar investment in the magazine. The publisher rewarded me by informing me that the art director of Rolling Stone magazine wanted my job, as he offered me a humiliatingly small raise and I resigned.

The publisher bought a Maserati, leased an expensive home in the Hollywood Hills and threw wild parties. Just as had happened with Glass magazine after it was sold, Rock magazine lasted only a few more issues. Another great opportunity went up in smoke. 

The former publisher of Rock magazine, Jeffrey Jolson-Coburn, died in 2012 at the age of 55, the same year that I returned to LA from Poland. The cause of Colburn’s death was said to be unknown. One thing I did know: he lived in the fast lane and abused drugs and/or drinking, as have so many in the Hollywood rock scene, resulting in early tragic deaths. Bowie reportedly died of liver cancer, which was also attributed to self-abuse.

The other thing I know in looking back on my life, is that from free-spirited California to an Old World former communist country undergoing extreme growing pains, attempting anything bold, original and cutting edge is a challenge that requires unwavering perseverance and faith in oneself. Though many things did not turn out as I would have hoped, I am a survivor, creativity always my one uncontrollable addiction, my ongoing education stemming from the realization that there is something invaluable to be gained from all of life’s lessons.