NEWINGTON - Humor is a key element in Raul Grande‚Äôs art and life.
The retired fashion illustrator and cartoonist is going to be 90 years old this January. He finds this very funny.
‚ÄúI make myself laugh, especially when I draw cartoons,‚ÄĚ the Wethersfield resident said.
With three daughters and three granddaughters, the family patriarch‚Äôs sense of humor is a coveted asset.
‚ÄúMy grandchildren especially, they say I‚Äôm funny,‚ÄĚ Grande points out, a huge grin spreading over his face.
‚ÄúMy kids all enjoy it so I keep doing it.‚ÄĚ
It was during a lunch at the Newington Senior & Disabled Center recently that he was captured by Ann Garbiel and Peggy Smolack, the facility‚Äôs informal curators.
Soon after, the ladies went to Grande‚Äôs home in Wethersfield to pick out pieces currently on display in the center‚Äôs lobby.
‚ÄúWe have a real talent here,‚ÄĚ Garbiel said of her discovery.
The exhibit will be up until at least the end of this year. Rolling into January, the volunteer art committee may just clean the glass display case and leave the work inside untouched.
Grande would like to teach a volunteer art class at the senior center, but is recovering from a wrist injury.
‚ÄúMaybe soon,‚ÄĚ he said.
He is a Peruvian transplant, one of 12 children and a graduate of the Escuela de Bellas Artes in Lima, Peru. After a short stint as an art teacher and eight years at La Chronica newspaper, Grande moved to Hartford in 1957.
He studied the English language intently while working long shifts at the Underwood Typewriter factory. That‚Äôs how he landed a job at an advertising company in Wethersfield, which propelled his career.
‚ÄúThere was an ad in the Times for a cartoonist and I studied the newspaper the night before my interview,‚ÄĚ he recalled. ‚ÄúThey tested me exactly on what I had learned the night before. I was lucky.‚ÄĚ
Grande moved to New York City where he became art director of The Topps Company. He went on to work as a freelance artist after the company closed, illustrating for big fashion names like Robert Hall, the Interstate Department Store, Steigers, Sage Allen, G. Fox and Lord & Taylor.
In 1985 he got a job in advertising at The Hartford Courant, where he worked up until he retired in 1999.
‚ÄúI have a grandfather who said, ‚ÄėNo matter what you‚Äôre going to be, be good at it. If you‚Äôre going to sweep the floor, make sure you are the best sweeper.‚ÄĚ
Nowadays he draws for fun.
‚ÄúI go upstairs, close my door and relax,‚ÄĚ Grande says. ‚ÄúI love it.‚ÄĚ
He was married to his wife, Rosa, for 57 years before she passed away in 2014. The artist is proudest of his family.
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.