Steven Ray Wallgren, A Condensed Graphic Autobiography

My first recollection of desiring to be an artist of some sort was in my 3rd grade class. I created a drawing of the Golden Gate bridge for a class project. I remember the teacher being very impressed with my interpretation. I recall the drawing was of looking through the first tower to the distant second tower, a crude one point perspective. It was then I realized I didn't see the world like everyone else.

All through my Junior high and High school years, I gravitated towards art classes. I believe it was my high school art teacher who told me I was a "natural." He said it was like i didn't need to work at creating art, it just came so easily. My first attempt at a graphic design project was not as smooth though. whs79 I was commissioned to create the commencement cover for my high school graduation. This was the first time I've ever experienced any sort of color printing or using an X-acto knife of any kind to create color separations and it showed (see example).

Also, in my senior year of high school, I was given the creative freedom in my English class to make an 8mm movie. Of course it was a Sci-Fi thriller (The Star Wars Craze). It had spaceships, scratches on the film for an electric shock effect and an explosive ending. Even though we never finished the project, I gathered invaluable knowledge of what it takes to make a film and the roll graphics plays in the creation of a film.

In Junior college, increased my skills as a graphic designer, learning about the printing process, using a graphics camera, and creating a master by pasting up an art board. It was around this time that computers were becoming an important part for the graphics industry. I had an opportunity to help a friend out with a project by crudely inputting a graphic by plotting out points and lines with a crude device. He must have been impressed because it was that very friend who got me an interview for a job at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC).

xerox parcWorking at PARC was like being a graphics kid in a computer candy shop. I had access to all kinds of goodies from 42" wide plotters to video editing switchers. If you're not familiar with PARC, it was the birthplace of the personal computer. John Warnock, founder of Adobe Systems, just left PARC when I arrived. In fact, when I first started creating graphics on a computer, I used a program called "JaM" (short for John Warnock and Martin Newell). It was the precursor to Postscript, which Adobe created for computers to communicate with laser and inkjet printers. One of my first "fun" projects was creating the PARC logo with JaM. While at PARC, I worked with some of the most influential scientists in the field. I even earned an "Award in the Support of Research" from some of those same computer scientists.

Around this time, Apple, who "borrowed" the Graphical User Interface (GUI) from Xerox, came out with the Apple Macintosh and all us graphic designers are glad they did! Also, around this time, there was this little thing called the internet being developed! It was a glorious time and place to be a computer graphics designer. Well, the tools were still crude but, the promise was there. My boss at the time insisted I go back to school and get my B. S. Degree and so begins my chapter at San Jose State University.

I had a wonderful time at SJSU. I learned about the principles of Photography and Illustration. This also strengthened my resolve to stay in computer graphics. One of my class projects was to enter an international poster competition. eiffel towerIt was held by the French wine industry to celebrate the Eiffel Tower turning 100 and my submission placed second! The promoters liked my solution so much, they used my poster on their conference flyer (even though I got the fruit basket instead of the first place trip to Paris).

After Graduating College, I got married, had a son, became a freelance graphic designer, moved to the mountains and adopted a bunch of kids. Life was never the same. So this is my story to the best of my knowledge. I'm sure I left out a few minor details.


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