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Cartoonist Frank Galasso honed his craft at CCRI
Feb. 27, 2012
If you have been in Rhode Island long enough, you are probably already familiar with the work of illustrator Frank Galasso.
His editorial sports cartoons capturing (and sometimes gently lampooning) star athletes and iconic moments in sports appeared in The Providence Journal from 1992 to 2007, and his drawings of Rhode Island landmarks, neighborhoods and towns can be seen on display throughout the state.
Although he did not graduate from the college, dropping out when his work began being published in newspapers, Galasso attended the Community College of Rhode Island from 1979 to 1981 and again in 1987.
He credits his art professors at CCRI with sharpening his skills and helping him get started as a professional cartoonist and illustrator.
“I went from being a barely average student in high school to being an excellent student at CCRI because of the atmosphere there,” Galasso said, “and it certainly got me into the field I’m in now.”
In 1987, Galasso was a 27-year-old student double majoring in art and music. He had worked for his father’s painting company and as a janitor with the state of Rhode Island, drawing for fun in his spare time but never having been published. Art Professor Don Gray, who also worked for The Providence Journal, took an interest in Galasso and his work.
“He seemed to like what I was doing and it was good encouragement,” Galasso said.
Early in the semester, Gray asked Galasso what he planned to do with his art. Galasso said he would like to be a sports cartoonist like Rhode Islander Frank Lanning, whose work he had imitated as a boy while learning to draw. Gray then gave Galasso a special homework assignment: Draw some sports cartoons and bring them to class. Galasso brought in a cartoon of Larry Bird, and many other works would follow.
The Evening Times in Pawtucket began running Galasso’s cartoons and he quit school in 1987 to devote time to his art.
“I started getting published and I was working [at my father’s painting company] and I didn’t have time for everything,” Galasso said.
“It was too tempting. Once you get the taste of being published you don’t want to stop.”
Galasso began syndicating himself, sending out four or five cartoons every week to newspapers throughout the country, and he was regularly published in 36 of them.
The Providence Journal began publishing his cartoons in 1992 and hired him into the art department in 1997. In 2000, the Journal published a Galasso cartoon about that year’s “Subway Series” World Series between the New York Yankees and New York Mets on the front page – a rare feat for a cartoon.
Galasso also drew political cartoons, which are a regular feature of newspaper opinion and editorial pages. He credits his mother for his interest in politics and remembers watching television news broadcasts with her when he was growing up.
Galasso worked on the Journal’s staff until 2002, when he became a freelancer again. He also has been a freelancer for the New York Post sports section since 2000.
Galasso has won numerous awards from the New England Press Association during his career, but his work no longer can be seen in Rhode Island newspapers because, he said, editors believe sports cartoons are old-fashioned. Once a mainstay of American newspapers, sports cartoons are now a rare sight, and there are only a few sports cartoonists left in the country, he said.
He said that there should still a place for sports cartoons in media because, in a digital age, they offer something unique and different.
“You see all the same photos in all the sports stores,” Galasso said. “It’s the Bruins holding up the Cup over and over.”
He added, “If you grew up with [sports cartoons] you still enjoy them and if you’re young you enjoy them be- cause they’re new and different.”
Galasso’s art occasionally can be seen in newspapers throughout the region and on local news website golocalprov.com, Boston Red Sox fan site Boston Dirt Dogs, and the website for Boston’s WBZ television. However, he has mostly gone into business for himself, offering his unique artwork for sale.
When Galasso left the Journal staff, he began creating poster-sized drawings of Rhode Island landmarks, starting with Rocky Point in 2000. He since has created a Rhode Island poster showing unique businesses and locations in the state, posters for Cranston, Narragansett and Federal Hill, and several to commemorate sports events such as the Boston Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup victory.
“We have a very unique state,” Galasso said. “We have things that no other state has, and people are crazy for them.”
These posters require considerable time and research and Galasso writes the captions himself. When he can, he relies on the technique of projection that Norman Rockwell used: projecting a photographic image onto his easel to serve as a guide. He finishes the works with colored pencils and watercolor paint.
Galasso also is a musician, writing and performing with his band Five22. The group’s song “Come to Papi,” about Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, received radio airplay and was used during David Ortiz Night at Fenway Park in 2006.
Today, Galasso is working on the score for the local film “Irish Whisper,” to be shot in Boston this year.
Galasso has launched a product line of prints and mugs bearing his artwork and plans to expand into T-shirts. You can see a collection of his artwork or place an order at www.frankgalasso.com.