Cal Massey

At age 83, artist Cal Massey has been busy drawing or painting for 79 years. "I've been drawing every since I was 4 years old," said the esteemed illustrator from his Moorestown, N.J. home and studio. "I paint almost every. I'm still very active. It's a labor of love and it's one of those things that with this kind of blessing when God gives it to you and you don't use it with great respect then God take it away from you. I've been using it ever since I discovered it when I was 4 years old."

Massey started drawing by tracing newspaper comic strips held up to the window of his childhood home in Upper Darby. When he graduated from the Hussain School of Art in Philadelphia in 1950 he immediately landed a job with Marvel Comics. "When I came out of school, I supported myself illustrating comic books for three different publishing companies," recalled Massey. "That's where I met Stan Lee."

In addition to advertising agencies in Philadelphia and New York, Massey created illustrations for the Saturday Evening Post. Eventually, he joined the Franklin Mint as a designer and sculptor creating over 200 designs including the Mint's first commemorative medal honoring General Arthur MacArthur. Massey joined a world league of 13 artists to design the 1966 commemorative medal for the Summer Olympics in Atlanta titled, "The High Jump." The medal remains the only medal that feature an athlete of color.

Throughout his career, Massey has focused on representing the African-American community with inner strength, pride and determination. One of Massey’s most popular works, "Angel Heart," was inspired by the lack of Black angels in traditional artwork. Another of his popular paintings is called "Patriots of African Descent" which depicts the continued feeling of nobility and spirituality in Massey’s work.

"It's very rare to find a Black artist that made his living entirely through his gift," explained Massey. "I've met so many artists that are struggling all the time. There are groups of artist out there that have their own little categories, and they would put you down and try to separate fine art from commercial art. There is no difference: Art is art. You can’t give it name and claim one is not art and one is art. Even a little baby that picks up something and makes a mark on a two dimensional surface makes a piece of fine art. The gift is creative. The whole function of life itself is to change — Obama proved that — so in art, music, performing arts and visual art is changing all the time. Everything is being recreated into a new kind of way of looking at thing and doing things."

Massey also credits his longtime marriage to fellow artist Iris Massey as a source of inspiration. "Art is an expression of how I feel," said Iris. "I like to reflect hopefulness, joy and color in my work and I always hope that on seeing it, others will feel this also."

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