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 Arthur (Art or Artie) Saaf  (1921 - )

About: Arthur (Art or Artie) Saaf
 

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Lived/Active: New York      Known for: comic book art, interior penciling and inking

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:

From his own memory, in his own words, as told to his son:

Art or Artie Saaf did comic art from the early '40's to the early '80's, -during the Golden thru the Bronze Age- working with all the greats (among others) such as Nick Cardy, Will Eisner, Vince Colletta, Alex Toth, Frank Frazetta, and Dick Giordano.

Youth and Education, Pre-WWII

Arthur “Artie” Saaf was born on December 4, 1921 in a cold-water flat’s “hall” room in Brooklyn, New York City. The family home was located at 234 Reid Street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant district between Hancock and Jefferson streets. His mother Anna was of Swedish ancestry and his father Hermann was of German ancestry, and “Artie” had a brother and two sisters.

He fondly remembers the location of the police and fire departments on Quincy Street, while not so fondly remembering being bedridden at 4 years old with rheumatic fever for almost half a year before partially recovering. Artie’s mother, in a separate statement, said his father “Hermann was a bakery delivery carriage-driver for Manhattan Pie Company using a horse named ‘Tony.’ …. Arthur had a bike and it was stolen….It was made up from all picked up parts into a great bike….Arthur picked up newspapers with a homemade wagon made from carriage parts. We got 5-10 cents a hundred pounds.”

During grade school at P.S. 26, his first introduction to art and drawing was in the second grade, completing a class project of “Animals in the Field,” and his reading the comics of Roy Crane’s “Captain Easy.” He attended Alexander Hamilton High School, graduating in the upper third of his class.

In the 30’s after finishing his public schooling, his first job was as a “Page” (message boy) in Wall Street, and then at the Stock Exchange Desk where he proofread bonds for the American Bank Note Company on Beaver Street. This was during the Depression, yet the task was so important that he received, for that time, the princely sum of $12.50 per week.

During his youth, he developed his art skills on his own and started working in comics in 1941. He built his own drawing table from instructions in a Mechanics’ Illustrated magazine.

World War II
Up to and including the beginning of the War, the comic industry was centered totally in
New York City at the Comic Studio, run by Jerry Eiger. There were no fully original stories being written and comics were created primarily by re-doing the old and by using cutouts and re-written copy. Now, the industry had a new market because the service members needed entertainment that they could easily obtain and carry with them. The industry created the “new comic book,” with stories that had a beginning, middle, and an end. Artie remembers the Orson Welles movie “Rosebud” as having a great effect on Comics due to its composition and Roy Crane introducing four-color comics.

Artie attended the Pratt Institute from January 1941 to April 1942, his major being Pictorial Illustration. He also attended the School of Arts and Mechanics for 1 year and the Art Students League for 2 ½ years. The instructor he most remembers was Mr. Trafton at the School of Arts and Mechanics, “and,” he recalls, “a good one, I might add”.

During the War, he was working on stories such as "Kaanga" and "Camilla," and working at Wings Comics and McFadden Publishing. He also went to work at Fiction House at 8th and 34th streets in NYC owned by a Southern family from Atlanta, Georgia. The demand for good artists, thanks to the reception by the troops, increased quickly. He freelanced at night “ghosting” (which is doing the artwork of a strip that someone else got credit for) for characters such as on a newspaper daily strip called HapHopper, by the well-known Washington correspondent, Drew Pearson. Artie continually “walked” the new studios, showing his samples and becoming increasingly known as an excellent talent, doing “lettering” and “still and figure” work in most of the new studios.

Post-War 1940’s thru 1960’s

When the war ended, there was a slowdown in the industry but Artie was able to obtain work at such firms as “Timely Comics,” “Dell Comics”, and doing work on the new “Archie” type comics and autobiographical comics such as The Clown of Baseball.

In 1954, Artie went to work for the Kudner Agency as Assistant TV Art director, creating the “storyboards” for the commercials on “The Jackie Gleason Show.” In 1956, he did work for the Dancer, Fitzgerald, and Sample Agency as a TV art director.

In 1958-59, Artie left the Agencies to work on his own as a freelancer, because he said, “the pace was too fast, and I wanted time to think about what I was doing.” From 1959 through the late 60’s he did his work for such agencies as Donahue and Coe; D’Arcy; Benton and Bowles; McConnell-Eastman-Canada; Dancer Fitzgerald and Sample; and Thompson-Koch.

His TV visual and storyboard work were primarily ads and included: Post Cereals; Crest; Zest; Liquid Prell; Personna; Parliament cigarettes; Yuban; Maxwell House; Life Savers; Cue toothpaste; Texaco; Minute Rice(Canada);Royal Crown Cola. Moreover, he was still doing his comic work!

Though he did comic work only intermittently up to the early 1990's’s, Artie did other work, such as illustrations for “Highlights for Children” magazine. He wrote and illustrated columns for newspapers and magazines concerning the outdoors and worked with the Audubon society and Game Commission in his state on conservation-related topics. He did advisory work to High School Conferences on careers for budding artists. He created artwork about local historic sites in his neighborhood and continues to create

works for his family and friends, while enjoying his garden and grandchildren.

 


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