An interview with Paul Kratter

Paul Kratter worked with NFL Properties for several years, producing artwork for magazines, book illustrations and the second variation of the Los Angeles Raiders Damac poster. I contacted Paul with regards to the work he did for the NFL under David Boss, and he was only too happy to answer my questions, so many thanks to Paul for a great interview.

Illustrated NFL: When did you start doing illustrations for the NFL and how did the work come about?

Paul: I started freelancing at NFL Properties soon after graduating from Art Center College of Design in 1980 and continued through 1985. One of my instructors, Mike Gaines set me up with David Boss.

Illustrated NFL: Did you only work with illustrations, or did you have any other work for the NFL - ie, branding work such as logo development/team colour work etc?

Paul: Only illustrations.

Illustrated NFL: What was it like working with David Boss(NFL Properties Design founder)? Was there much interaction with the NFL design team; Boss,David Johnston & Amy Yutani?

Paul: I worked mainly with David Boss and sometimes with other art directors, but not the other two.
David was the BEST art director I ever worked with. He was a photographer and part time artist and gave us a lot of freedom. He could be critical of work, but he was always right. He took suggestions and gave us as much freedom to come up with dynamic illustrations.
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Illustrated NFL: Roughly how many works did you submit to the NFL/NFLP, and what were they mainly used for?

Paul: I estimate I did 100 illustrations in my years there. Some of these were Game Day covers, magazine articles (some might have 5-6 illustrations), individual team art, invitations, and book illustrations.

Illustrated NFL: With what materials and media did you mainly work with, and what sizes were usually used for your paintings?

Paul: I worked mainly in full color, using acrylics and watercolors, but I also did a number of black and white pen & ink drawings. Some covers were 24x18, but much of the work was smaller (11x14).

Illustrated NFL: Were there any special requirements within your brief? For instance, my research has shown that players were not meant to be immediately identifiable, or manufacturer logos or the like. Did you have to abide by anything similar?

Paul: Yes, we tried to hide the numbers so you couldn't tell if it was a 6 or 8, etc. Often I would have a players arm obscuring a number or a fold would hide it too. We left off logos too. Sometimes we tried not to make a player identifiable.

Illustrated NFL:Were you given reference photographs to use, or were you given a free choice as to your subjects?

Paul: We usually had free time to spend in their archives to find the photos we needed...and there were thousands. Sometimes if I was illustrating a certain game or player, we had to use limited photo reference. We might have to change certain features to get the best image.
I did a large painting for the Superbowl for the Forty Niners vs. Cinn. Bengals. The painting was a large gatefold in the book titled; The Super Bowl, by Pete Rozell and pub. by Simon & Shuster 1990. David Boss gave me this game to illustrate. No restrictions. I worked on a blueprint with all kinds of highlights and a few memorabilia (a game day ticket and pin) painted in acrylic to showcase the whole game day experience.
Many other artists illustrated each of the Super Bowls.

Illustrated NFL: It must have been a real thrill to be involved in this kind of work and having David Boss over you.

Paul: I can't say enough about what David meant to us and to me. He gave many fellow Art Center artists a break to work for the NFLP right out of school. The first job he gave me was a Game Day cover and I remember getting all the the photos and material I needed, shaking his hand and walked out to the elevator, as if I really was a professional. If fact it was one of the first jobs I received. I stepped in, the door closed and I let out a huge scream of YES!

 

Many thanks to Paul again for sparing the time to talk to us and giving us such interesting and useful information.