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Artist sons describe their famous dads

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The sons of two local artists reflect on what it was like to grow up with their famous fathers.

My brother Trace and I grew up in a house that included our father’s studio where he created men’s fashion illustrations for national commercials.

The kids whose dads commuted envied us, but our dad’s tireless commitment to making a living kept him behind closed doors for most of the day, only going out for dinner or for the occasional visitor, so we didn’t see him so much in the summer, when he would take a few months off to drive us across the country or to camp at Lake George. He loved to retrace the route he took as a young man driving to California from Boston in a Model A Ford to work on “Snow White” for Walt Disney.

We didn’t appreciate him back then, but as president of the Westport Artists Club in the 1950s some of the world’s greatest illustrators and cartoonists – like Hardy Gramatky, Stevan Dohanos, Tracy Sugarman, Dik Browne and Howard Munce – often visited and sat on our furniture and breathed our air.

I don’t think either of us received an art lesson from him because his remarkable work ethic often kept him busy 24/7, but I think it’s fair to say that instead of lessons, he passed on his work ethic and the belief that the only thing you really own is your reputation.


Growing Up with Cartoonist Dik Browne, by Chance Browne

My father, Dik Browne worked in the basement of our home in Wilton, producing his comics “Hail and Law” and “Hagar the Horrible”. It was a space he shared with a washer, dryer, and sometimes a clothesline.

Dad produced thousands of comic book trips there and he worked day and night. It became a common joke in our family to warn visitors that there was a “strange man drawing pictures in the basement.” But what he was really doing was creating magic.

I have always been fascinated to watch him draw. He knew what he wanted on the page and the lines seemed to fall from his pen. Things appeared on paper so beautifully that it confused the mind (it did mine, anyway). And daddy worked fast! He had 14 deadlines per week, so he had to keep a laser beam on the drawing board. It was not an easy task: our house was a social center, a meeting place for many people of different ages, and there was a lot of distraction.

Dad was able to stay focused on the job with extraordinary discipline because he loved what he was doing every second he was doing it. I really think even he was amazed by his talent.

Who couldn’t be? It was pure magic.

Miggs Burroughs has been a permanent resident of Westport and a full-time graphic designer since 1972. He is a co-founder of The Artists Collective of Westport and a member of the Westport Arts Advisory Committee, among other accomplishments.

Ann Chernow has been a Westport resident since 1968. Her work has been exhibited locally and around the world. Chernow is an honorary member of the Westport Artist Collective, a member of the Westport Museum committee and other arts organizations.

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