We were saddened to hear that one-time Bark contributor Dugald Stermer passed away last Friday at the age of 74. Stermer was the art director of Ramparts magazine (1964-1970), the highly influential counterculture publication that contributed to the wave of New Journalism and inventive, powerful design and illustration. As an illustrator, Stermer became known for his classical drawings, ranging from Jerry Garcia to endangered animals and flora. He was the rare, gifted artist who used his creative talents for the public good. Stermer walked the walk.
Back in 2001, when The Bark used exclusively illustration for cover art, we sought out Stermer, hoping that he might find kinship with a fledgling indie magazine, and give us permission to use a drawing he had stowed away in a drawer. He insisted that he create a new drawing, a portrait of Spenser, his daughter Megan’s dog. A week later he sent us the drawing, an exquisite likeness of a grinning, bandanna-wearing mutt. “Spenser” was written in the artist’s trademark hand lettering below, and surrounding the portrait were references to Spenser’s proposed lineage—Chesapeake Bay Retriever? Poodle? Irish Wolfhound? It was both delightful and delicate in its rendering. We were honored to have Stermer’s work grace our pages.
As I read his obituary in the New York Times, and in more personal blog tributes and comments, one passage rang true. In a 2010 interview, Stermer was asked about his career. “As [San Francisco advertising legend who introduced Stermer to Ramparts] Howard Gossage used to say, ‘The only fit work for an adult is to change the world.’ He said it straight-faced, and while other people might laugh, I always have that in the back of my mind. I don’t walk around with my heart on my sleeve, but I do feel that using our abilities to make things better is a pretty good way of spending a life.”