Seymour Schachter Illustrates Success

Seymour Schachter’s parents were from the old country. They told him he’d never make a living doing art.

Seymour Schachter, in his Westport studio.

Seymour loved to draw and paint.  At 8 he won a national art contest — for adults.  Yet when it was time for college, in 1978, and his parents said he could go to art school only if he paid for it himself, he ended up at Boston University’s school of business.

But he showed his artwork to the dean, who made a deal with his art school counterpart.  They waived all business electives, so Seymour could take art courses.

After graduation he landed a high-paying job selling eyeglass frames around the world.  It was a dream job — “for anyone else,” he says.  Driving to an important meeting in France, all he wanted to do was paint the countryside.

He quit cold turkey — and got a job in a Hackensack mall art supply store.  But he was so successful — doubling sales in 1 month — that he caught the eye of the chain store’s president.

Through a series of similarly fortuitous meetings, legendary creative director Hazel  Spector asked him for a storyboard.  He had no idea what a storyboard was — but he stayed up all night, and created a great one.

That led to more offers.  One company requested 25 panels; they’d pay $40.   Hey, it’s money, Seymour figured.  He tried not to act surprised when he received $1,000 — $40 for each panel.

Continuity hired him as head artist.  His 11 years there “were better than any art school,” he says.  His work was critiqued by the best in the business.

Seymour Schachter, with a few of his product labels and designs. More line the shelves behind him.

Seymour’s ability to switch styles — from cartoons to superheroes to photo realism — proved invaluable.  In 1995 he formed his own company, and never looked back.  He crafted a career as an illustrator for Fortune 500 companies.  He’s drawn national ads, and designed some of the most popular product labels in the world.

Subway, Pepsi, Fruity Pebbles, Tropicana, Arm & Hammer, Sierra Mist,  Ragu, Skippy, Newman’s Own, Goldfish — all are Seymour Schachter clients, and Seymour’s artistic creations.

So was Joe Camel.

In 1984 — just 24 years old — his team drew the already-infamous cartoon character on cigarette tins and matchbox covers.

But Seymour felt conflicted.  He called the American Cancer Society, and offering his services at a lower-than-usual rate.  They asked him to draw posters.

“It was my way of balancing my conscience,” he says.

When his father died of a brain tumor, Seymour gave up doing cigarette ads altogether.

Eighteen years ago, Seymour and his wife Jamie began house-hunting.  She worked in Milford, so they searched for someplace between there and New York City.  Several friends suggested the “beautiful little artists’ community” of  Westport.

They knew nothing about it.  But they fell in love with the “nice beach, nice people and nice houses,” and bought a place off Cross Highway.

To his surprise, Seymour learned that the area teemed with promotional advertising companies like MCA, Ryan Partnership and Catapult —  huge firms with national accounts.

“We stumbled into an artists’ colony,” he says.  He’s been busy ever since.

Seymour Schachter is a successor to earlier generations of Westport illustrators — men like Harold von Schmidt, Steven Dohanos, Hardie Gramatky, Bernie Fuchs and Howard Munce.  For a century — starting in 1902 — they drew ads, book and magazine covers, product cans and boxes, putting this town on the international art map.

Impressed with Westport's DARE program, Seymour Schachter created this model -- and cardboard cutout. It sports a Westport Police badge.

They even spawned a noted correspondence course, Famous Artists School, located where Save the Children is now.

In the last 20 years, computers and the internet have taken work away from illustrators.  The world is changing in many ways, and commercial art has not been spared.

But, Seymour says, “for the few of us who can draw Flintstone characters standing around a Christmas tree, there’s still a lot of work.  And this part of Connecticut is still the place to get work.

“I hope to remain an illustrator as long as I live.”

27 responses to “Seymour Schachter Illustrates Success

  1. Tom Feeley

    What talent… I’m jealous… always wanted to draw cartoons since comic books and Walt Disney.
    Way to go Seymour !

  2. So he helps the giant food corporations sell the least nutritious food in the supermarket to kids?

    Not to be harsh on Schachter, but there’s a reason American children continue to be get obese off this processed food (no, he’s not making the food, but still)

  3. The Dude Abides

    Nice article. Tremendous talent. But SAM, it is not the kids that are buying the sugar ridden products but do/will suffer. It is a far reach to blame the artist. Try the manufacturer who doesn’t even use real sugar any more because of cost or the supermarket that put it at child’s eye level? With 65% of America obese, maybe we ought to have a “WAR” on what we eat in this country. Oh I forgot, Sarah and her negativists, object to the First Lady even suggesting what our kids eat.

    • The First Lady was on the board of a company that sold junk food. She was well compensated. Blaming “giant food corporations” for the poor eating habits of children is absurd. The “giant corporations” don’t hold the kids down and shove junk food down their throats. Why can’t Americans assume resposnibility for their own actions instead of whining about how the devil made them do it. BTW Uncle Sap subsidizes the production of the sugar in the food you want to avoid. Beware the food Nazis.

    • Mr. Abides: I fail to see how increasing the demand for healthcare will lower the costs of healthcare. The effort to control costs will lead to rationing. The trial balloons have been floated; no mammograms for women under 50, no surgery for men with prostate cancer over 65. Soon the list will expand just as it has in every country with government run healthcare. In addition, doctors are opting out in anticipation of further reductions in medicare reembursements being enacted in yet another efort to control costs. Those doctors and patients who can afford to will move oustide of the government run healthcare system. Everyone wil be covered, but there will be no services available. There are fine ways to exploit this lunacy, watch. Everyone wants the “free” ice cream. It is not going to be there; time to get the second passport, buy the ranch overseas, and stock up on enough food and gold coins to last a few years. There will be blood in the streets.

  4. The Dude Abides

    I am sure every politician’s wife is conflicted on donations. Name of the game. Yet, in the early 80’s (with excess food supplies here in the States) the food manufacturers decided to add additives to processed food to add to their flavor to increase demand. As a result, obsesity levels have sky rocketed ever since. So while I am leary of any advocate preaching what I eat, I think the producers share some blame. BTW, WalMart (the largest retailer of foodstuffs) has stated that they will gladly stock organic foods if their customers would buy it. Lot of variables but I agree on the personal responsibilty. I also would like to see sanctions by the government for individuals on SSI with obesity related issues that refuse to diet or exercise.

    • The contents of any foodstuff are listed on the lable. If you see HFCS, you can avoid it. I would like to see Uncle Sap get out of the healthcare business and stop trying to coerce behaviors deemed appropriate by some sanctimonious meddlers. Penn and Teller, had a show this week in their Bullsh!t! series in which they lambasted the food Nazis. Very funny. BTW the life expectancy for a child born in 2008 was the longest on record, HFCS or no HFCS.

      • The Dude Abides

        As long as potato chips are cheaper than potatoes, folks will buy
        the crap. And the kids can’t read the labels nor care. Since the government is shelling out for these tubbos
        on medicare and SSI, I am not sure why they can’t tell them what
        to eat. Life expectancy in the United States??? My understanding
        that we rank 24th in the world in longevity. Eating ourselves to death.

        • I have never seen a five-year-old drive himself to Mickey D’s for a Happy Meal. Have you? I have never seen a six-year-old drive herself to Stop and Shop and load up a shopping cart with junk food and then pay for it? Have you?

          If the obese can’t collect, then why should they be forced to pay in? If you are going to deny the obese medicare, what about alcoholics? How about people who smoke dope? What about people who ride bikes without a helmet? How about people who don’t practice safe sex? What about people who engage in any risky behavior? In fact, why not deny medicare to everyone who is sick? Using your logic, the government can force people legitimately to do just about anything. Maybe we should just let everyone pay for their own medical care. If obesity is increasing and life expectancy is increasing at the same time, there must be something in the water or some other factor driving life expectancy upward. BTW the international life expectancy comparisons are apples and oranges.

          • The Dude Abides

            Agreed on the kids. The parents are lard bellies too, most likely, but not always in this heliocopter children rearing nation. The private carriers restrict applicants if they smoke. Why not if they are overweight? For someone who hates people going to the “public trough” I am surprised that you are holding the libertarian line on this one. Welfare now has limitations. Why not medicare and especially SS disability which is a joke. Hell, for that matter, make every teacher in America run a 15 minute mile each year to hold their tenure. You would see some changes then and most of the amoeba butt women that predominate the teaching arena in many areas might be a better role model for their kids. 65% obesity level. We are eating ourselves to death. Your mortality statistics are questionable.

          • Which mortality statistics?

          • I have a choice whether or not I get private health insurance, at least I do until Obamacare kicks in. Medicare taxes are coerced. I think that private carriers should be able to demand any terms they want, however every health insurance company is regulated as to terms and conditions so they cannot. The government forces the healthy to subsidize the unhealthy thereby rewarding the behavior you would like to change. If the government did not mandate that everyone pay into the Medicare Ponzi, then it too could set arbitrary standards for coverage. If individuals were responsible for providing their own healthcare, they might not eat as much junk food. An equally big problem is alchoholism. I don’t see Uncle Sap coming down very hard on drunks. Why should my tax dollars support drunks? How about those who contract AIDS through sexual activity or by other voluntary activities? Why should my tax dollars support them? Where and how do you draw the line with respect to that behavior you will punish and that behavior you will not? The Libertarian position does not embrace Medicare or the regulation of insurance companies much less the government regulation of personal behavior that in and of itself poses no threat to others. The consumption of food and or drugs is among that set of personal behaviors.

          • The Dude Abides

            You stated that a kid born in ’08 will live longer. How do you figure that??? Mortality tables (hardly apples/oranges) state that America ranks 24th in such death rates. My argument is that one can eat whatever one wishes. However, there need to be sanctions for those who are obese or smoke or are drunks. In many cases, the private carriers rate up such health care applicants and I am not sure why the government can not have similar requirements. BTW, years back when a dumb judge determined alcoholism a disease, they were lining up for benefits. With my former brother-in-law, they gave him retroactively benefits of which he went out to buy a car. Just what a drunk needs. Since, they have redetermined their definition but deemed him manic/depressive. $850 a month. Crazy.

          • I think you misinterpreted the mortality statistic. Maybe I was not clear. The life expectancy for American babies born in 2008 is higher than it has ever been for American babies. America’s ranking among other countries may not have been changed. However, there are many articles describing the different methods for estimating life expectancy in each country. The differences are substantial. I prefer the cancer survival rates , which are more uniformly measured, when evaluating healthcare systems. Using that standard America ranks among the top three. And you can live to be 100 without ever seeing a doctor, but you can’t be judged an cancer survivor without seeing a doctor.

            As to the other issue, there is a distinction between Medicare, which is compulsory, and private insurance which is not. If Medicare were voluntary, then I would be more inclined to take your approach. BTW under Obamacare no one will be denied insurance remember? If you have a preexisting condition, obesity, alchoholism, cancer, AIDS, a gunshot wound, drug addiction,whatever, you will be covered. The requirement that no one be denied insurance was part of the ploy that helped Obama sell his scam.

          • John McCarthy

            Emma, hard to tell, because you don’t use your real name, but which company do you work or shill for, Coke or Pepsi?

          • The Dude Abides

            The principle behind ObamaCare was to enroll as many individuals in the insurance pool so as to lower the cost. Massachusetts has nearly 98% under Romney’s instituted plan. The problem is that neither plan deals with cost. With health care amounting to 17.8% of GDP, we better do something. 70 Boomers, such as you and I, will bankrupt the system They predict 2024 as now the bust year. And many of the diseases treated by Medicare are related to overweight and lack of exercise.
            You may be right on cancer survial rates as a good indicator. I see that even pancreatic (at 6%) is getting better. But facts are facts. If the average American male lives to 78.2 years and the French man lives to 80.2 years, we are behind. And I am not sure how anyone can predict how long a life a newborn in ’08 will live? And infant mortality rates in the States are not very good comparatively. This #1 rage is a crock though.

        • John; I shill for personal responsibility and freedom of choice. I realize that these concepts strike terror in the hearts of sanctimonious meddlers and food Nazis. When those who post here resort to ad hominem arguments you can be pretty sure their arguments are intellectually bankrupt.

  5. I just loved this story, Dan! I first read it because I figured that Seymour was the son of Joe & Irma Schachter, who knew my dad and mom well. But then I figured out that this talented, creative, funny young man (yes, only 51) and his wife found Westport on their own. His life story gave me such a lift, and his illustrations and artwork are terrific.

    Only problem is that the link to his own company (seymour-s.com?) isn’t valid. I’d love to see what else he has done. And it thrills me that with people like Seymour Schachter, Westport will continue to be an artists’ colony like it was when I moved her as a toddler in 1946.

  6. The Dude Abides

    Linda: Did you know Bud Sagendorf of “Popeye” fame back then???

  7. Great work Seymour!! We’re proud to know you.

    The article is about a great artist who lives in Westport.
    Others: lighten up. Unhealthy life styles of the rich and famous has been what America has become. How sad! How many of you who are stockbrokers have never recommended MCDs because…. and oil and gas companies… etc. etc.

  8. Great work Seymour!! We’re proud to know you.

    The article is about a great artist who lives in Westport.
    Others: lighten up. Unhealthy life styles of the rich and famous has been what America has become. How sad! How many of you who are stockbrokers have never recommended MCDs because…. and oil and gas companies… etc. etc.

  9. I heard that some of his paintings are so moving that they have actually made people weep.