Some kids are born with a silver spoon, Gerard Baldwin was born with a pencil.
He could draw a straight line before he knew how to walk. Color and form are as much a part of his life as breathing. From an artistic clan that goes back to Felix the Cat and Snow White, artistry runs deep. Baldwin is of Irish descent. Blarney is his mother tongue; creativity is his second language.
Gerard Baldwin's formal art training came from the Chouinard Art Institute (now California Institute of the Arts) and the Instituto Allende in Mexico. David Alfaro Siqueiros was one of his mentors.
Baldwin began his apprenticeship in animation at UPA studios. Taking two years out for the Korean War, assigned to the NSA.
Baldwin returned to his apprenticeship and began a rapid rise in the world of animation that spans more than fifty years. He has been animator, director, writer, and producer. Some of the animated films that are a showcase for Baldwin's talent include Mr. Magoo, Bullwinkle, George of the Jungle, Yogi Bear, the Grinch, Aladdin, the Flintstones, and the Smurfs. Baldwin is the recipient of numerous awards including more than one Emmy.
Although Chuck Jones (Bugs Bunny) and Hank Ketchum (Dennis the Menace) dedicated a working life-time to their role as cartoonists, they never stopped drawing and painting, nurturing a more serious side to their personalities. So has it been for Gerard Baldwin. He never planned to be an animator. He dreamed of being a great painter. Making animated cartoons would be only a temporary commitment. He kept on painting but animation is exhausting work.
One morning while shaving, Baldwin had the sudden realization that he was not Pablo Picasso. It was not too painful. Perhaps the realization was a blessing, It is hard playing a genius when you are not one. Baldwin settled, to use his words, "for being occasionally brilliant," and plunged into an intense and continuous effort to be the best animator he could be. His first job as a director was in 1959 on Jay Ward's Rocky & Bullwinkle show. He worked on and off for the Ward Studio through 1967.
In the following decade Baldwin went from series to series, from prime time special to prime time special, from commercial to commercial, as a happy hired gun.
His longest stint was with Hanna-Barbera, from 1979 through 1985, where he produced and directed the Smurfs, the highest rated children's television series on television.
He continued producing and directing in Los Angeles until 1989 when the Baldwin family moved to Houston. Baldwin intended to retire but that did not happen. As a long distance free-lance director, there was less work but there was also more time to draw and paint. "Painting," Baldwin says, "is closer to writing poetry than it is to film making" and whereas making an animated cartoon is a collective effort, when painting you are quite alone ... not like conducting a symphony, but more like whistling in the dark."
Out of the many paintings Baldwin produced during the 1990s, inexplicably, there emerged 13 paintings based on animation characters from his past. These paintings of Papa Smurf, et al, are placed in what might be called a "real world" environment, they have an edge - a dark side. Hiding in a cave Fred Flintstone has reason to be afraid of a real Tyrannosaurus Rex; behind a tree Yogi Bear and BooBoo keep well out of sight of the hunter in the dell below. The man is wearing a red hat and cradling a rifle. Without getting too deeply psychological, perhaps these odd paintings represent nothing more than simple catharsis.
... Gerard 2006
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