Larry Ross Profile
posted: February 26, 2007
"I really started drawing when I had rheumatic fever when I was five or six years old, and I had to spend the whole summer inside. I remember looking out the window and seeing all my friends playing out there. So, that's when I really started drawing because I was all by myself. We didn't have a TV, and we barely had a radio and it was downstairs. So, there weren’t all these artificial forms of entertainment. And here I was at home for hours by myself as a five and a half year old, and basically had to entertain myself.
"Another incentive back when I was sick, was my father would come home and read me the comic strips. I lived for that. When he was a little bit late, I'd be like, “When is he gonna be here?” You know how a kid is: five minutes late seemed like five hours. It was the highlight of my day. Then I started drawing cartoons and comics and I would show him my little drawings when he got home. So, that was all part of it.
"It wasn't so much that I always knew I was going to be an artist; it was more like I didn't know what else I could be! I always did my own thing, but people never knew if they were cartoons, or they were real drawings or they were illustrations or what they were. My stuff never fit into an easy slot.
"Right out of Pratt I got a job as an assistant art director in an ad agency. When they needed an illustration, I would end up doing it a lot of times but sometimes we hired an illustrator. If it was a job I was art directing, I usually wouldn’t be happy with it and I'd end up doing the illustration anyway. So, I started realizing that that was what I liked doing, more than being an art director. So I left the job.
"It was in the mid-60's and I became part of that whole thing of being an individual and expressing yourself and not working for the Man and that kind of thing. I didn’t care if I made a lot of money. I mean, obviously I had to survive, but it's amazing how cheaply you could live in those days in Brooklyn. So, when I went out on my own, I wasn’t really that much afraid. I mean, as far as my work and as far as my lifestyle at that time, I didn't live a lifestyle that really was oriented towards money. It was a lot more important to me to do a neat drawing than to make a lot of money. I already had some stuff in my portfolio and I started doing a lot of work for underground magazines and upstart magazines that would last a year or something. And within the first year I was in the New York Times.
"I like to come up with new concepts and I'm never satisfied; like I'll do ten concepts for one little magazine article and Lord only knows if I could chose which one is the right one. So thank God for art directors, because they can say which one is going to run. I suppose I like the challenge of it .
"I also get lot of pleasure out of the process, though I often have mixed feelings about the final result. But I love the process. I like when I don’t know what I'm going to do when I start out, and I let the drawing tell me what to do as I go. Like when I just put a line down and see what else will come along. And there's no guarantee that it’s going to be good in the end, either! You kind of have to go with it.
"Insecurity is a driving force for me, too. I'm constantly trying to prove myself. Like that thing I was saying about ten concepts for one article. Why don’t I have the confidence to just say, “Look at this – this is great! Let's do this!” Even though I work for the pleasure of working, at the same time the insecurity just keeps me going. I guess maybe if I was too confident then I wouldn't feel like I had to continue doing it."