Like Mad Men but a lot more fun—that’s how Anderson Artists Guild member Garret Hamm describes his 40-year career in advertising. “Almost everything I saw on that show I’ve seen happen—but so infrequently,” he said. “But there was so much more laughter and fun. I made a living for 40 years and never worked a day in my life.”
Ohio native Garret graduated from the Central Academy of Commercial Art in Cincinnati with a focus on design. At his first job, he created print ads for agricultural and manufacturing companies. Over four decades, he worked at 12 agencies in Ohio and Chicago. He did a lot of product work for Proctor and Gamble, including packaging design, as well as for companies including Amoco, Gerber, McDonnell Douglas, and Oscar Mayer.
By the late 1980s, he focused mostly on television commercials, including Bob Vila’s spots as a spokesperson for Craftsman tools. “You never knew from assignment to assignment what you might be charged with selling,” he said. “I did a lot of branding advertising, selling the entire brand.” His role was the visual design, and he collaborated with a writing partner. Then he hired an outside production company and traveled around the U.S. shooting commercials. Afterward, back home, he’d edit it down to 30 seconds and present it to the client before heading off for the next project.
After retiring in 2000, Garret spent several years working independently on advertising for Sears before finally hanging up his hat. In 2013, he and his wife moved to Greenville, lured by the milder weather.
In retirement, Garret took some art classes and discovered a passion for oil painting. “I’m not a fast painter, so oil suits me,” he said. “I can think about it and change things. It gives me more flexibility.”
His approach is realistic—“I tend to try to visually tell a story,” he said—and he uses both memory and photos as sparks. “In my old job, I traveled a lot, and I got to take pictures when not working on set,” he said. “I have a huge pile of snapshots of different things that interest me. I have a lifetime of subject matter. But every time I take a drive, I discover something new. I can walk out my front porch and see a painting.”
Garret was part of a three-person show at the Anderson Arts Center last June, and he will be the guest artist at Bay 3 in the Anderson Arts Center on Friday, Aug. 2, from 5:30-7:30 p.m.