Peter Cusack Profile
posted: January 1, 2007
My father and his brother, my uncle, are very serious artists and when I was about six, I remember coming home from my grandparents’ house and I think my father must have felt like it was time for me to start drawing, because we passed an art store and he pulled over. He said nothing when he got out of the car and went into the store. My brother and I were both sitting in the back seat, and after about 20 minutes, Dad came out with two cartooning books, two pads, and two pencils. He still said nothing, got into the car, gave us the pads and the books and we drove off. We really had no idea what this was. But ever since then I've been drawing.
As I got older, in grammar school, every morning I would take out a sheet of looseleaf paper and fold it in half, horizontally, and that was going to be the day’s “piece”. I'd usually start out with a character in a scene, and I spent all day working and working on it. I remember struggling with noses at one time, and I would erase the nose so much, perfecting it, that I would rub a hole in the paper. And that's something I still struggle with: the fear of making a mistake and then working it so much that I kind of erase a metaphorical hole into a piece.
As I got into my teens, art dropped out of my life. I had no idea what I was going to be; I really had no direction. You know, I was just kind of the basic Yonkers kid: drifting, drinking, and hanging. I didn’t get onto the art track until I had gone to college, which I hated every second of, and after graduation went to work in the production department at Consumer Reports Magazine for five years. I was pretty unhappy, drifting along, not really liking my job or the people there, when I decided I was finally going to do something that I enjoy. So I started going to the Art Students' League. I was about 28.
After a little while I left the League and began studying with Andy Reiss, an artist out in Brooklyn. He turned me on to his teacher, Ted Jacobs, who had a small school in a medieval village in France, and I went to study there for about eight or nine months.
Leaving France was very, very difficult; I'd begun to find myself there, and I didn’t want to return to home. And once I got back here, I had to start making money again, so I was waiting tables and I went back to the Arts Students’ League. It was a very difficult time in my life, being at the League, waiting tables, longing to be in France, longing to continue my studies with Ted.
I didn't know how I was going to make painting work for me, so I decided that maybe I could go into illustration. But I didn’t know anything about illustration. The only thing I knew was, illustration was in a magazine. I had no idea who illustrators were.
My first illustration job was for the New York Press. I sent the art director some subway drawings, and said, “How about doing a piece about the people of New York with my subway drawings?” I didn't hear anything for a year, and then he contacted me and said, “I just found your letter underneath the pile of crap on my desk. How about doing some drawings for the Press?” I was thrilled.
You know what's been great about illustration, is that it's given me an artistic vehicle. It has a destination: it's on a set of tracks that I felt gallery or fine art was not. I enjoy thinking about concepts and putting together a narrative. So I'm enjoying the shit out of it. If I don't ever get another job again, it’s not going to matter; I just love to draw. In a way, I'm working like I did when I was a kid in grammar school, starting out with a figure and creating a scene, doing my picture for the day on a folded piece of looseleaf paper.