Pablo Ferro: AIGA Medalist interview
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As a long-time member of AIGA and newly elected member of its national board of directors, lynda.com founder Lynda Weinman was invited to attend the organization's annual design awards gala in New York City last fall. A few days before the event, she spent some time getting to know some of the AIGA’s key members and touring the organization's offices and archives.
Lynda's journey introduces us to the professional association for design, through the eyes of some of the most talented and influential designers of our time. Lynda visits AIGA's National Design Center on Fifth Avenue, home to the breathtaking design archives (dating back to the 1920's) as well as this year's premiere of 365: AIGA's Annual Design Exhibition. She also touches down at New York's School of Visual Arts and at Sterling Brands, the largest brand consultancy in the country, located in the Empire State building. Those interviewed include executive director Ric Grefé, national AIGA president Debbie Millman, former president Sean Adams, and editor Steven Heller from Voice: AIGA’s Journal of Design.
Pablo Ferro: AIGA Medalist interview
Lynda Weinman: Pablo, thank you so much for joining us and congratulations on your 2009 AIGA medal, a very great honor. Pablo Ferro: Oh, thank you! Lynda: What did the award mean to you? Pablo: I'm so happy that they are able to recognize artists all over the world, and I think that's a great thing to do, because artists like Vincent van Gogh never got appreciated and he was great. Lynda: So true. Pablo: Yeah. Lynda: Have you been recognized very often? I mean is this happening to you more-and-more later in life or has it always been the case? Pablo: It's been happening since I went into the industry, in the 50s.
Strangely, you know, when I was going to high school, I picked up a Preston Blair book to know how to animate, and I shot my own little film to show how I animate. So when I went to the animation studio with the commercial, they didn't want to see anything that I did, and they said, have you got anything else? So I pulled out a comic book that I did with real design, real people, which I was challenged to by my students saying that I only could draw a cartoon.
I said I could draw the other stuff too. So they looked at that, and they said, did you do the inking? I said I did the writing, the pencil, the inking. They said, okay, you're hired. And I went into the ink and paint department. But I showed Stan Lee the comic book that I did, and the ending was too shocking for him. He said he couldn't print that. But will I illustrate some for him? I said sure. But my interest wasn't really in doing realistic comics; it was more in motion.
But I did three stories for him, and I took the money and I bought equipment to do animation. Lynda: What cinematic styles are you most known for? And talk about how you came up with them and what they are. Pablo: Being an animator, that's 24 frames per second and that taught me about movement and I put that experience into still photography which -- that's the first time I used the quick cut. I made a still photograph looked like it was live, in the movement and quick cutting to it, in the animation stand. Then I took that stuff further and I started doing it with topography, then I started doing with live action.
And that's when it became very popular, when I did it with live action, because all the commercials, which mainly shot live. So that's when they took off. And I was able to take a minute spot and make it into 30 seconds, which I did for England. England had 30 seconds; they didn't have minute spots. So then America then became 30 seconds, no more minute spots. Lynda: So how did you migrate a career from working in advertising into working on feature films with someone like Stanley Kubrick? Pablo: Well Stanley, he saw my commercials and he liked the style.
It was completely different than he has never seen before. Then he called me up to meet him because he wanted me to do the trailer for Strangelove, he wanted that style. And of course he being such a charming person, he talked me into staying there for about seven months, working in the movie, because he had other ideas for me. Not just the trailer, which I didn't realize until I started working with him.
Well, Stanley is a wonderful person and very caring and he cares about you and he likes-- like me he likes to work. So when I first met him it was easy. And I heard people complaining about him, but I said I never saw it. People don't like to change things because sometimes we work on an idea and we put it together and we clayed it, and we look at it and said, "That's not such a good idea." "Let's change it," and then we go through and change it.
Lynda: So, you've been an innovator in so many different ways throughout your career, and it seems like almost every project that you do, you have a very original kind of perspective and original flavor that you bring to it. Where do you get your inspiration and why do you think you have been able to constantly work outside the box like that. Pablo: Well, I am not afraid to make a mistake, because usually the mistakes are really the best things that could happen to you.
You just have to recognize it and think positive. Because we all make mistakes when we get involved in doing things. So you have to pay attention to those. Don't throw them away. To me, I always like to do something different that I haven't done before. Lynda: It's great advice about making a mistake. I think a lot of people get very -- they might get successful at one style and then kind of stay stuck in that style, but that's never been in your career.
Pablo: No, I have to have fun. If it's not fun, I'm not interested in doing it and repeating myself, it's not a fun. Lynda: Exactly. Do you have any advice for young people who are starting out -- young or old people who are starting out today? I mean, you can start out at any age, which is the beauty of -- Pablo: Oh yeah. Lynda: -- the arts, but --? Pablo: Right, well, one thing is that, like children, like my son Allen, they always start -- They draw in the beginning, but they stop after a while.
I never stop, so I think whatever you like to do, don't stop doing it. Because it's going to get you places that you couldn't imagine you would be in. Like myself, I remember in the 60s I would be listening to the Rolling Stones. I never thought that I will do a movie with them. Lynda: Wow! That's right. Pablo: And there I am talking to Mick Jagger and all that. So this is amazing, and a filmmaker like Stanley Kuberick.
To me, it's still a mystery that I still enjoy because I don't know what's coming next. Lynda: That's the best advice at all. Do what you love. Pablo: Yeah, because when you come up with an idea that nobody has seen before, it's quite a feeling. Lynda: You sound like you've always experimented with different setups and mediums and media, but do you utilize computer technology at all with your work now? Pablo: Oh yeah, yes, my son and I'd -- he has been working with me since the 80s.
We work together on and off and things like that. Well, with me the money that I make, the same thing I did with comic book for Stan Lee. I take that money and I buy whatever new equipment is there. Every new machine I usually have. Lynda: It doesn't surprise me! And before we close, tell us about the red scarf. Pablo: Well, originally it came in the 60s where New York City was very cold and a friend of mine, she knitted one of them for me. It was a longer one, and I liked it.
Quite a lot and I have never taken it off since then. Even my sister, she is very good in crocheting, she made a whole bunch of them for me. So I have -- Lynda: So you have a wardrobe of them. Pablo: Yeah. Lynda: Interesting! Pablo: If I want to wear a wider one, I have a wider one. If I want to wear a longer one, I wear a longer one and I wrap it around. Lynda: Well, thank you so much for being part of this interview and congratulations again on your award. Pablo: Oh, thank you. It's my pleasure.
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