Before a publication becomes a publication, before it goes to press, it passes through the hands of the graphic artists, or the pre-press production people. They’re the ones who prepare and lay out the components – the stories, pictures and ads – in some orderly, presentable fashion.
In my 35 years as editor and publisher of Acadiana Profile, I worked with a total of about a dozen such artists on a daily basis and came to truly appreciate their unique contributions to the publishing process. Some were steady and constant in terms of their work and personalities. Others were high-strung, temperamental, emotionally volatile – which is not uncommon for creative people.
I learned early on that managing graphic artists is like no other form of personnel management. Special care and feeding are required for this unique breed. If you manage too tightly, you can stifle creativity and encounter resistance in ways you never thought possible – which, now that I think of it, is an act of creativity in itself. If you manage too loosely, you’ll never get to press on time.
In this business, we live under deadline pressure – the pressure to perform well in a timely fashion. In my experience, deadlines brought out the best in some and, as you might imagine, the worst in others. Some thrived and seemed to thoroughly enjoy it when we were driving hard to close out an issue and get it to press. Others seemed to come unraveled, to falter under the weight of having to produce at a level that was out of their comfort zones.
The technological revolution in pre-press production eased the pressure somewhat, making it possible to do in minutes some jobs that used to take hours.
This revolution occurred midway in Acadiana Profile’s 45-year history, particularly in the late 1980s and early ’90s, as the artboard and the T-square gave way to the keyboard, the mouse and the monitor.
The tools of the trade changed completely, though the essence of the trade did not. That is, tools are just tools. The tools don’t make the artist. The sharp eye and fertile, creative mind are the artist’s real stock and trade.
The magazine’s first art director was Al Esteve of Jeanerette, an Army veteran and graduate of the Kansas City Art Institute. He did the heavy hauling for us for 17 years, from 1968 through 1985.
For a short while in the early years, George Rodrigue of New Iberia contributed on a freelance basis, producing ads for something like $10 an hour. Rodrigue, now of “Blue Dog” fame, went on to a highly successful career as a painter and today doesn’t sit down in front of an easel to do an original piece for less than $50,000.
But, back to Al Esteve. He was a fixture at Acadiana Profile, beginning when my dad started the magazine in 1968-69. Al produced thousands of editorial pages, hundreds upon hundreds of ads, and dozens of maps and other artwork. He would show up for work early, read the newspaper, line up his work on his artboard, then punch in only when the clock struck 8. He was conscientious, disciplined in his craft and personal life and was a true master of pre-press production. Technically, his work was very near perfect. What a joy to work with a guy like that!
Among his notable accomplishments, his enduring masterwork was the pre-press production of the Louisiana Acadian flag. Using a rough sketch from USL’s Dr. Tom Arceneaux (the creator of the flag), Al produced the camera-ready artwork needed for the mass production of the flag. And, boy, was it mass-produced, being used over the past 45 years by scores of businesses, many municipalities and, of course, on the cover of Acadiana Profile for more than four decades.
Al was joined in the art department by my brother, Steve Angers, in 1972 while he was still at USL studying commercial art. Even today, Steve speaks of Al with great respect and gratitude. Al was Steve’s mentor and may have taught him as much under his tutelage as Steve learned while getting his college degree.
Steve became another Al; we sometimes even called him “Al Junior.” Not only was his work technically excellent, but he brought an abundance of fresh, new ideas and an artistic flair to the magazine that made many editions true works of art in the 1970s and ’80s.
Steve worked with Al for about 12 years. Shortly after Steve left the magazine to pursue other business opportunities, Al retired. A few years later Steve started Angers Graphics and moved back to the building that had been occupied by Acadiana Profile, at the corner of University and McKinley in Lafayette.
With Steve and Al both gone, we hired a few short-termers who were followed by Tom Sommers – a quiet, steady, mild-mannered worker like Al. Tom worked as art director for eight years and was followed by two other guys who ran the art department for about a year each.
In 2000 Jonathan Russo came aboard. His work, like Al’s, was technically near-perfect. About the only difference was that Jon did his work on the computer rather than on the artboard. Jon worked for the magazine for 11 years, until it was sold to Renaissance Publishing in December of 2010.
Taking over from Jon was Jenny Hronek, and from Jenny was Sarah George. Sarah is the latest in a long line of artists who have taken great pride in the graphic excellence of one of the longest-running regional magazines in the nation.