This Fine Artist Was Once A Milkman, Printer's Apprentice, and Art Director For Ed Wood
Chatsworth's Chet Collom is featured this month at Metrolink Depot Art Widows.
What is the difference between fine art and illustration? To Chatsworth artist and art teacher Chet Collom, it’s not so much a difference as a matter of degree.
“There is a lot of crossover because illustration employs many of the techniques used in fine art,” he says. “When you illustrate a story or do commercial or product art, it’s the medium and the way you use it is that’s important.” One of those mediums, for example, was the black and white line art he saw in old newspapers.
If anyone should know about illustration and fine art it is certainly Chet Collom. After supporting himself as a milkman and working as an apprentice in his father’s print shop, he became an illustrator after World War II. Collom attended at the Glendale School of Allied Arts where he learned anatomy, perspective, painting, and virtually all the basics he still teaches to this day. His motto: “You have to know the rules before you’re allowed to disobey them.”
Collom started his own art studio in Los Angeles while running errands for many other art studios; this gave him the opportunity to learn about the commercial field. He eventually ended up at Stevens Biondi diCicco, one of the top studios in the 1950s. Then he continued as a freelance illustrator in the 1960s painting covers for paperback book and movie one-sheet lobby posters. He was very happy with the results because he could control the print quality; having worked in a print shop, he spoke the printers’ language.
In the interim, Collom married the love of his life, Sally, and started a family. Collom started working in TV at a time when fewer New York magazine publishers were hiring artists. Once he worked as Art Director on a project on which the writer was the low budget movie producer Ed Wood, a man renowned for his quirky personality.
Collom told about the time Ed Wood came to work wearing a see-through angora sweater with an obvious brassiere beneath it. When Collom asked him why, Wood’s reply was: “Would anyone notice me if I didn’t?” Wood then turned to Sally and said: “I like your pink sweater; when you’re through with it I’d like to have it.” “And he was married at the time,” Collom mused.
In the early 1970s Collom opened a gallery on Ventura Boulevard where he taught, sold paintings, and continued his commercial work and fine art. Simultaneously he began studying fine art with the famous Russian painter Serge Bongard, one of whose students was actress Tippi Hedren. That was also when he and Sally became real estate agents.
Throughout the month of November Chet Collom will be the featured artist at the revolving display of local artists on view in the windows of the Chatsworth Metrolink Depot. Collom’s paintings have hung in the White House and in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. For a free catalog of Collom’s works, phone him at 818-993-8716 or write to him at 20102 Lemarsh St., Chatsworth, CA 91311 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.