Small-town boy makes good with pen and ink

Small-town boy makes good with pen and ink
Roert E. Lee High School Classmates Al Herndon, Linda Hudson Clark, Roland Kerby, Grace Shediac Carlisle, Ken Fallin, Sharon Brown Moran, Leslie Freeman and Peggy Harrrell Jennings

It would be more accurate to ask, “Who was your neighbor?” because caricature artist Ken Fallin never looked back after graduating high school in 1966. The Resident caught up with him after a Show and Tell presentation in October at Theatre Jacksonville.

The Resident: Where in Jacksonville did you grow up?

Fallin: We lived in Murray Hill, just across Cassat Avenue. Ramona was my elementary school. I took art classes at Lee High School, but I didn’t think I had any special talent.

The Resident: Besides the fabulous caricaturist Al Hirschfeld, were there other influences in your young life which led you to your present vocation?

Fallin: Cartoons and MAD magazine were my early influences. I was always doodling, but I never imagined I’d be an “artist” when I grew up. It was just something I did for fun.

The Resident: You went to Parsons, I understand – then what?

Fallin: I first moved to New York City in 1967 to become an actor but was discouraged by the realities of life as a struggling actor. I moved to Boston and attended Emerson College. At the same time, I studied at the Art Institute of Boston. I moved back to NYC and studied illustration and cartooning at Parsons. I had some cartoons published and was encouraged to try to make a career in illustration.

The Resident: I want to know how you got the courage to go to NYC and actually live out your dream. Who encouraged you? Did your parents support you?

Fallin:  I was young and ignorant when I first came to NYC. I thought I knew what I wanted, but I didn’t really know how to get there. The reality, as opposed to the fantasy in my head, was very frightening. However, I loved NYC and decided to stay and hope for the best. My parents neither encouraged or discouraged me, as they didn’t understand me or my ambitions.

Linda Purl, Ken Fallin and Sarah Boone (Photo by Rachel Clifton)

Linda Purl, Ken Fallin and Sarah Boone (Photo by Rachel Clifton)

The Resident: You obviously maintain friendships here – at least on social media. Do you visit often?

Fallin: No, until now, my last visit was for my 50th class reunion in 2016, which was great!

The Resident: Jacksonville may seem rather provincial compared to NYC. Care to comment on that?

Fallin: I do consider myself a New Yorker, but I am proud and happy that I spent my early years in Jacksonville. There are a lot of cultural things, beautiful areas and interesting people in the city of my birth.

The Resident: About your art – are the caricatures mostly commissions?

Fallin: In 1987 I was hired as a freelance artist to do a weekly drawing for the arts and leisure section of the Sunday Boston Herald. This was my first work as an illustrator. I started getting small assignments with local ad agencies drawing everything from animals to politicians.

In 1989 I landed a national print ad campaign for American Express. The experience was very encouraging, and the money was amazing! I got a larger assignment for AMEX drawing caricatures of chefs and restauranteurs all over the county which were published as full-page ads in newspapers and magazines.

In 1994, I moved back to NYC and my agent got me an assignment illustrating for the Wall Street Journal and this led to me becoming a regular contributor and I still draw for the paper. I have done assignments for The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Hollywood Reporter, and The New Yorker.

In 2010 I was nominated for an EMMY for an animated ad I illustrated for CNBC. I have four posters in the permanent collection at the Albert and Victoria Museum in London. There is a permanent exhibit of my work at New World Stages in NYC. I do lots of cooperate assignments as well as private commissions. The theater is my first love and for the past 10 years I have created drawings of plays and musicals in NYC for Broadway World and Playbill Magazines.

The Resident: And who are a few of the celebrities that you have worked with?

Fallin: Sir Patrick Stewart was a pleasure to meet. He bought several of my drawings of him; he is a fan of caricature. Some others I’ve drawn and others who own my work are Bette Midler, Carol Channing, Frank Langella, Warren Buffet, Liza Minelli, Dame Judi Dench, Madonna, Matthew Broderick and Barbra Streisand.

The Resident: You’ve done some cool things and met some amazing people. 

Fallin: I’m just a simple boy with a simple dream.

The Resident: How did it feel to perform at Theatre Jax after all this time and have so many of your old, ah, former classmates there to see you?

Fallin: It’s all really emotional. Unexpectedly emotional. I love being on that stage again after so many years. It’s a special place for me.

By Peggy Harrell Jennings
Resident Community News

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