October 10, 2013

A Good Man

I lost a dear friend this week.

My former art director, Tye Gregg, led the life I want to lead. He was a good man to his family, and he was a good boss to his employees. He was very good to me. He fought for me, shielded me, gave me every tool I needed (and a bottle of Valpolicella every Christmas), hand-picked me without a resume or an interview. We shared an affinity for the nature outside our windows, for birds, for optimal light conditions. For travel, weekends, the fall and time spent away. We both held dear a common belief that the most important time was time spent outside the office.

I worked hard for him, under the guise of working hard for myself and my betterment as a designer. I worked for him – and with him – for a dozen years. Formative years, as a hot-headed 23-year-old fresh from college, to an equally headstrong thirty-something who can still bristle when told what to do (stubborn, I think, appeared in every performance evaluation he'd ever given me).

But I became stronger as a designer each year, and Tye was very much the reason why. He held the reigns loose, let me grow up, stumble, figure things out, watching as I increasingly took on larger challenges until eventually we developed a kind of quiet rapport and trust that only comes after years spent together. 

I sometimes wonder whether I effectively returned the many favours he'd given me, that I took advantage of his gentle nature and hands-off approach by so often toiling quietly at my desk, producing work with little input. He'd listen – my God, he'd listen – as I sussed out my mental blocks and creative challenges while seldom reaching out for his take. I'm 38 years old, realizing I had precisely the mentor I needed – and still need – while so rarely seizing the opportunity. This remains one of my biggest professional regrets.

After his retirement, we didn't stay in touch like I sorely wish we had now. We met on a couple of occasions, and they were fun times. I so very much wish that Tye could have met my daughter Scout, that he knew I hope to inspire her with many of the qualities I observed in him. He left a message not long after her birth, containing the last words I received from him:

Just got back from Waikiki to find out about the the great big birth of your daughter. Congratulations to you and Kerry! What an amazing event this is. I hope all goes really well as a new threesome and she will fly like a bird into the future. She certainly has massively creative parents to coach her beginnings. Wow! Poppa Jeope.

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