Gerry Andrea waited with charcoal in hand as the eighth wonder of the world was announced on Good Morning America. The public chose the Grand Canyon. Without a moment’s hesitation, he began sketching. The artist had less than two hours to capture the landmark’s majesty in the final portrait of a nine-foot mural while working a few feet away from the cameras— and suffering a heart attack.
“I started experiencing chest pains a couple days before but didn’t realize the severity of it,” said Andrea. “After the show, I was rushed to St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital where doctors told me I was having a heart attack.
“I probably should have sought help earlier but I had such a desire to complete the mural; you know, that feeling that the show must go on… Each wonder had such a serious cultural or ecological significance to the world. I was completely dedicated to finishing it.”
Creating art under pressure is nothing new to Andrea. He has been working as a graphic artist at ABC News (New York) for the past forty-five years. Over his career, he has designed images projected over the shoulders of popular news anchors, sketched famous courtroom scenes, created illustrations of the world’s most influential leaders and devised creative ways of using art to deliver news. He has also done work for sports, soaps and other programs and channels affiliated with Disney, ABC’s parent company.
Andrea’s depiction of the attempted shooting of Pope John Paul II earned him a News and Documentary Emmy Award. The following year, he was nominated for another Emmy recognizing his illustrations of the Falkland Islands War. Storyboards he produced for the opening of the World Figure Skating Championships won his creative team a Sports Emmy Award.
Before distinguishing himself as a broadcast artist at ABC, Andrea worked on numerous freelance projects and interned at the Brooklyn Museum, which provided him with a place to paint. He has designed artwork (paintings and drawings) used on the covers of popular magazines, including Fortune, Esquire, Scientific American and The New York Times, as well as album covers for Columbia Records and RCA. He has published commissioned portraits of Arturo Toscanini, Fritz Kreisler, Rachel Carson and Giacomantonio. His art can be found in permanent collections across the United States and in countries in Europe and Asia. He has also exhibited work in more than 20 major group shows and ten one man shows.
“One of my favorite places to show work was the Waverly Gallery in the Village,” reminisced Andrea. “Kenneth Lonergan actually wrote a popular play about this gallery. It was located on the corner of Waverly and McDougall and the owner used to leave the lights on in the gallery overnight so passers-by could see the art. It would draw people in off of the streets. Not because of trends in the art world or the name of the artist but because they loved the art itself. That was most gratifying to me…”
Regardless of whether Andrea is working on illustrations for breaking news about upcoming elections or a fine arts painting of legendary jazz artists, his ability to master basic drawing can be found beneath the charcoal, pastels and acrylic paint. He polished this skill as a student at CCS during the late 1950s.
“My mentor taught us how to develop basic strength in our work through drawing"
“We studied ‘The Natural Way to Draw’ by Kimon Nicolaides but rather than take a reactionary approach to art, as instructors at many art schools did back then, Sarkis encouraged us to find our own direction,” said Andrea. He was strict but treated us like professionals and demanded self- improvement.
“The location of the college provided a serene, peaceful environment tucked away in the industrial landscape of Detroit. Architecture of the buildings combined with the central patio and fountain provided the ideal setting to handle the steady hard work our instructors expected.”
Over the next few years, Andrea plans to keep working for ABC while also continuing to create his personal artwork. He is preparing to show at a new gallery near Carnegie Hall in October.