Whatever happened to mentors?

Whatever happened to mentors?

Just last month I spoke with a gentleman named Cecil that had known my great grandfather Nels, a well respected packaging label illustrator way back when.

It turns out that he and Nels had had quite a close relationship, with Cecil crediting Nels with encouraging his creative skills and helped lead him to a rather successful life as an art director, for which he is now retired. Cecil shared quite a few stories of their adventures and conversations over the years. It seemed Nels had left quite an impression on his life for which he is very grateful.

To put things in perspective, my grandfather, Nels’ son, is now 94 years old. So that puts Cecil in his 70′s. My great grandfather was not only a talented commercial illustrator, but an accomplished painter as well. If you ever visited my parent’s house, there are many of Nels’ paintings gracing the walls. Some of which I have in my possession now.

I guess what I’m getting at, is in my 22 years as an art director and illustrator, I’ve never really had what I would call a mentor. Not that I hadn’t met or worked with anyone talented or that I respected enough–there are plenty of those that I can recall. I had plenty of great instructors in design school, for which I keep in touch with a few occasionally. It’s just that I think that I hadn’t worked anywhere for any length of time to create that bond with someone. A good deal of my career has been as a self-employed or freelance designer.

In my grandfather’s day, he worked for the same label company for nearly his entire 40+ year career. We definitely don’t have that kind of commitment to anyone or anywhere any more. It’s a shame, really. Working with someone for that long, you have to have built a tremendous respect for the others talents. It’s a lot like a marriage.

Such is the current generation of our business. I certainly wonder how that will evolve into the next generations of people in the design business. What do you think?

I’d like to hear your thoughts.