Herm Auch

 My first grade teacher started me on my career path when she told me I would grow up to be an artist. I loved to draw Reo trucks, and filled many pieces of paper with them when I should have been working on reading, writing, and arithmetic.I had two younger sisters -- Barbara and Carolyn. While they spent their free time playing with their dolls, I rode my bike, listened to the radio, and drew pictures.

At the age of 10, I started working in my father's grocery store after school and during summers, sorting bottles and stocking shelves. When I was 11, I had an accident with one of the store's machines and lost my left hand. My life changed after that. I had to learn to do everything with one hand. Even simple tasks like tying shoes became a puzzle I had to figure out. Even though losing a hand was a traumatic experience, in some ways it was the best thing that ever happened to me. It forced me to try harder at everything, from school studies to sports. I devised ways to practice baseball skills, by pitching balls against a target on the back wall of the store, and swinging at a ball hung from a tree branch. I worked so hard, I became a better player with one hand than I had been with two.


I developed as an artist in high schooI, painting sets for school plays, and doing drawings for the yearbook. A family friend commissioned me to do a landscape painting, which was the first time I had been paid for my art work. The summer before my junior year, I worked as an plate-making apprentice for an offset printing company, which taught me a lot about the printing process.

I threw myself into high school sports, playing football and baseball, and running indoor and outdoor track. My quarter mile relay team medalled in our heat at the Penn Relays in Philadelphia. In my senior year, I made the All County first string football team as a center and the All County baseball team as an outfielder

When it was time for college, I followed my teacher’s prophecy by enrolling as an illustration major at Rochester Institute of Technology, graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. In the summers between college years, I worked for an art agency where one of my assignments was illustrating a book. During my senior year at RIT, my thesis was a study of a loose style of illustration that had been used years ago. The art directer of the Gannett Rochester Newspapers was taking a course from one of my RIT professors and saw my work. He asked me to cover a hockey game for the newspaper. From then on they asked me to work weekends. When I graduated, the paper asked me to stay on.


In 1966, I met Mary Jane Springer, who soon became my wife. Within a few years, we had two children, Kat and Ian, and moved from our house in the city to the small farm in the country where we still live. For a number of years, I had a weekly editorial cartoon called Herm Auch’s Rochester. It dealt with local issues and politics. A Rochester mayor once told me that I made his nose too big in my drawings, and MJ was always complaining about the fact that I put her in many of my cartoons, always exaggerating the size of her chin. Here she is running a fictional diner called MJ's Hash House, reassuring the customer that the coffee won't give him cancer. Apparently that was a scare at the time.

In 1975, columnist Dick Dougherty and I were assigned to ride across the country on bicycles, writing and illustrating the BikeCentennial series. We followed the Bikecentennial trail, which was meant to be ridden from west to east so the wind would usually be at the rider's back. We rode in the opposite direction, setting up a series of stories about how the country was settled. In our three-month odyssey, we found fascinating stories of real people from coast to coast. I served as the photographer and illustrator for the series and Dick wrote the stories

One day I saw the first MacIntosh computer at a store and realized it could do the daily newspaper maps and charts much faster than we had been doing them in the past, so I bought it and brought it home. MJ thought the computer was a ridiculous expense, but soon she started writing stories on it. From that point on, I focused on mastering the computer and working with  computer software companies, developing drawing and ad composition programs for newspapers. By then I had convinced Gannett to buy computers for the Rochester art and advertising departments. I started using the computer for more and more complex tasks, specializing in informational graphics.

MJ had a number of published children's books under her belt by then. I made my first venture into children's illustration by doing the pictures for her book, I Was A Third Grade Science Project. After forty years as a newspaper graphic artist, I retired in 2000 to pursue a new career as a children’s book illustrator.