All of us have those mentors that were unselfish in taking the time to teach us what college could not, in taking the secrets of years of experience that would become the most important ingredient to our achieving success in our careers.
Well, mine was a creative department unlike any I have been part of since the beginning of my career. Its leader was the Executive Creative Director and Creative whisperer, John Howard. John assembled a talented group of thoughtful and skilled persons who loved teaching and mentoring us young know-nothing college grads like myself. This career experience became the foundation of my beliefs that led me from an “I’ll do whatever you need groundhog” to owning my own agency. This group taught me to listen, allowed me to make mistakes, and to learn valuable lessons. This group taught me that quitting was not an option, that nothing replaces hard work, and that mediocracy was not personally acceptable.
This tribute is about one of those mentors that John hired, Ken Sutton. Kenny was a creative designer who was the “Ninja” of line art, a term and career most of you reading this have probably never heard of. It was a very diligent and detailed skill few could do and Ken became the master of it. He was never afraid to share his award-winning secrets and admired by all his peers.
Ken was a true wizard; he could take the simple image of an ugly product and turn it into a beautiful work of line art. Using his Rapidiograph pens, he would execute flawless moves on frosted Mylar. He drew from one line to the next, connecting curves and creating perfect crisp circles. His exploded views of the most complicated technical drawings were flawless.
But as technology advanced, it introduced the graphic artists to software that took a career and years of mastering into the world of forgotten casualties. Personally, I am an avid promoter of technology and have welcomed the progress that can deliver ideas and results for clients in a day that would have taken weeks to accomplish. The software allows me to deliver a professional product in the world of line art when needed. But it never provides the same master quality of a Kenny Sutton.
Those days of artistic craftsmanship seem to have disappeared and have become a forgotten skill. Technology has allowed us to accept mediocre over brilliance. The only differences are those of us who have been exposed to that difference.
But the real inspiration for this story is when I was informed that this giant of a man who stood only 4-feet 9-inches tall had passed away on July 17, 2017.
I began to reminisce about Kenny standing in his perfectly fitted suit he purchased in the boys department at Kaufmann’s department store. Underneath was a starched white shirt with a black tie, all top off with a fedora hat. The picture was professional pride at a time when loyalty and dedication were rewarded and admired by his employer and fellow artists.
The worst part of this is that with all the wonders technology has given us, it took the most important ingredient away. It took the ability to look into one’s eyes and see them sparkle when you said “Wow, that’s amazing, Kenny.” The human smile, the passion, the dedication to perfection, the reward of acknowledgment you feel when someone presents you with works of magic is the missing piece now. The human spirit is the most rewarding of my career when you work and achieve something together. It is the satisfaction in having created a tangible product from a blank sheet of paper.
I will miss Kenny, but most of all, the world will miss something far more important, a spirit that has become more endangered each day — a kind soul.
Ken Sutton – The Residual of the Technological World