Pete Sanfaçon was born in April 1959 in Rochester, New Hampshire, where he lived with his parents and his two brothers and two sisters until 1980. He graduated from The Art Institute of Boston in 1980, majoring in illustration. Within five months after leaving college he got a job as a technical illustrator at a photovoltaics R&D and manufacturing firm in Massachusetts. In 1987 he accepted a technical illustrator position at a Massachusetts computer chip maker. Mr. Sanfaçon is still with that company today, where he now manages a team of nine editors and illustrators. He is a diehard fan of the Boston Red Sox and has been to more than two dozen KISS concerts since 1977.
Much of Mr. Sanfaçon's youth was spent drawing on large, thick, drawing pads and on the back of large wall calendars on the living room floor. He enjoyed coloring books, most of them were either cartoon characters or superheroes, but he also had a Beatles "Yellow Submarine" coloring book in the late 60's.
A Jon Gnagy Learn to Draw kit, given to him by an astutely observant aunt and uncle, was his first exposure to real drawing and shading, and was the first time he'd seen or used a kneaded eraser. Drawing has always been a big part of who he is. Mr. Sanfaçon didn't take art in high school until his sophomore year but he quickly made up for lost time and received high grades for all of his artwork. Much of it—dating back to 1974—is available for viewing right here at Sanfaçon.com. Mr. Sanfaçon had to be taught to respect his own artwork in those early days when he would fold his homework in half in order to carry it to school inside a notebook.
It was during those days in high school art class that Mr. Sanfaçon first experimented with all types of media. He enjoyed the variety and the challenges it presented, but he always returned to his first love: the pencil.
From 1977 to 1980 he attended the Art Institute of Boston (AIB). Being away from home and hearing negative critiques on his art for the first time caused his self-confidence to take a nose dive, so much so that when it came time to choose the major on which his studies would be focusing during his second year, he chose graphic design over illustration.
On Thursday, December 15, 1977, Mr. Sanfaçon took an all-expense-paid trip to New York to see KISS for the first time at Madison Square Garden. This trip was the prize in a contest sponsored by Strawberries Records in Boston and included refreshments enroute, two nights' hotel accommodations at the Holiday Inn in Midtown, and two 9th row seats. This show was the second of three sold-out shows at the Garden while KISS was experiencing the very pinnacle of their worldwide success. During the band's 90-minute set Mr. Sanfaçon managed to catch a drumstick thrown into the first few rows by drummer Peter Criss. This concert experience served to catapult him from just a typical, avid fan of the band to obsessed fan of the band; a "KISS freak," if you will. It was a rare ocassion when something other than KISS was heard blasting from his dorm room (on 8-track). He was eventually nicknamed "KISS Pete" by those who weren't simply frightened away.
In the fall of 1978, during the first semester of his second year at AIB, Mr. Sanfaçon quickly realized that he lacked any real aptitude as a graphic designer and his grades suffered accordingly. He soon began drawing portraits of KISS on his own time. It eased his anxiety over his failing grades and his inability to 'get' design, and it helped rebuild his faltering self-esteem. A classmate had commented on how great he thought the drawings were and asked why he wasn't an illustration major. In early 1979, after a frustrating semester, Mr. Sanfaçon decided to listen to his heart and transferred out of Design and into the Illustration department. He proceeded to spend the next 15 months leading up to graduation honing his craft as best he could.
Sunday, May 18, 1980 marked two historical events: the eruption of Mt. St. Helens and the day Mr. Sanfaçon took his newly minted diploma back to New Hampshire to contemplate his future.
During the summer months while at AIB Mr. Sanfaçon worked as a landscaper. "Landscaper" is a euphemism for someone who mows lawns all day in the scorching heat for minimum wage. In July 1980 Mr. Sanfaçon took a couple of days off and drove to Boston in an effort to show off his portfolio at a prestigious advertising firm and get hired on the spot. The receptionist asked, "Do you have an appointment?" to which he answered, "Uh, no." His visit to Boston was, therefore, brief and uneventful.
In September Mr. Sanfaçon was contacted by his older brother, Mike, about an opening for a technical illustrator at Spire Corporation where he had been working for two years. This interview went much better. Mr. Sanfaçon left Rochester for good on October 4, 1980.
He spent the next six years creating charts, graphs, and technical drawings for proposals and monthly reports. In those days technical illustrators used technical pens, drafting tables, and tracing paper. While at Spire he continued to draw on his own time, first touching up the KISS portraits he had done in '79 and '80, then creating new artwork, much of it for co-workers. An associate of his manager was kind enough to give him an informal portfolio review. This gentleman ran a small design firm northwest of Boston. He advised Mr. Sanfaçon to focus on his strengths and not to belabor or "over-draw" each piece.
Mr. Sanfaçon created artwork for a monthly ski club newsletter for another co-worker, and he created several spot drawings for a darts enthusiasts' magazine his manager published. His manager left Spire in 1982 and he and Mr. Sanfaçon stayed in touch, eventually doing some preliminary concept work on an illustrated book of adult nursery rhymes. The book, however, was shelved after only a few meetings.
In 1985 Mr. Sanfaçon began what would become a 15-year commitment to creating original gag (or "panel") cartoons. Some of the early ones were rather crudely drawn and decidedly unfunny, but he was enthusiastic and motivated, and he had little doubt that he would eventually find his niche. Later that year he began developing a cartoon book idea centering on heavy metal music fans. Fists in the Air was briefly shopped around to publishers but once it was clear he would have little chance of getting it published, Mr. Sanfaçon began to focus his attention on creating a music-themed comic strip called Jimmy Riff. The project was abandoned after two full-page strips were created and published in a KISS fanzine.
In 1986 Mr. Sanfaçon accepted a position as a graphic artist at Visual Image Productions across town from Spire. In addition to very tedious film processing and slide mounting, he created original cartoons for slide presentations and portraits for company promotions. It was during this time (1986-1987) that Mr. Sanfaçon experienced his most prolific creative period since leaving AIB, producing close to a dozen detailed pencil drawings in just a few months [1, 2, 3, 4].
In October 1987 Mr. Sanfaçon began a one-year stint as a temporary technical illustrator at a local semiconductor manufacturing company. He produced his only self-promotional piece to date [front, back] during the spring of '88. This promo was mailed to select agencies in the Boston area but received little if any positive response and Mr. Sanfaçon was far from enthusiastic about following up the mailing with a phone call. After a year of temping he joined the full-time staff. In 1988, after four years of creating cartoons, he assembled what he deemed to be the best ones into a manuscript and began shopping it to publishers around the country. In March of '89 Mr. Sanfaçon accepted a proposal from a subsidy publisher and in 1991 1,000 copies of the first edition of Freaks, Geeks & Chicken Beaks were released. Working with his editor/publisher over the next two years was a very frustrating experience for Mr. Sanfaçon, and he vows to steer clear of vanity publishers forever.
Mr. Sanfaçon has been entering at least one illustration at the Rochester Fair every year since 1992, winning First, Second, and Special awards. His very first entry at the Fair was a drawing of New Hampshire's Old Man of the Mountain in 1977, which was sold to a family friend for twenty bucks. Mr. Sanfaçon entered two of his early KISS portraits in 1979, winning two First Place ribbons, but made no other entries until 1992. His 2002 portrait of Nomar Garciaparra won Second Place - Professional overall.
"Never forget: This very moment, we can change our lives. There never was a moment, and never will be, when we are without the power to alter our destiny. This second, we can turn the tables on Resistance. This second, we can sit down and do our work."
On June 30, 1993, Mr. Sanfaçon met the members of KISS for the first time outside the studios of Boston radio station WBCN. He was able to obtain autographs from drummer Eric Singer, lead guitarist Bruce Kulick, and bassist and co-founder Gene Simmons, chatting with Gene briefly before the band was hustled into their limousine. The following night, at a listening party at Avalon, he was able to meet each member of the band and have one of his 50+ KISS scrapbooks signed.
In 1995 KISS published a coffee table book entitled KISSTORY. This book chronicled the complete 20-year history of the band (at that time) from its inception in 1973. Mr. Sanfaçon, with the assistance of a KISS fanzine publisher, had sent more than a dozen original drawings to the band the year before for inclusion in the book. Eleven of his KISS portraits made it into KISSTORY. None of the original artwork has ever been returned. Fame does have its price.
During the summer of 1998 Mr. Sanfaçon began developing a comic strip called Scarred For Life, which featured a dog named "Lenny" and a sarcastic rabbit named "Jack." Scarred For Life evolved into three distinct phases over the next two years, culminating in a month-long daily feature on the now-defunct Comicsedge.com (Tribune Media Services) in November 2000. After fifteen years of cartooning, Mr. Sanfaçon put down his Sharpie marker for good to focus on his pencil drawing.
Over the next two years Mr. Sanfaçon continued working 9-to-5 as a supervisor while wondering just what he wanted to do with his art. He found himself gripped by depression and indecision. Working on a drawing seemed simple enough but determining just what he would draw was such a daunting mental exercise that Mr. Sanfaçon found every excuse imaginable for not getting down to doing the work. Once a new drawing was finally begun, there was no way to know when—or if—it would be finished. He had been working off and on—mostly off—on a book about pencil drawing techniques. He hadn't spent much time drawing and this outlet had at least kept him thinking about drawing.
On March 31, 2003, he picked up The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and his life as an artist was changed forever. After reading the first third of the book and learning about Resistance, Mr. Sanfaçon dug out an unfinished drawing of a Corvette that had been lying dormant for months and spent ten minutes working on it. Those ten short minutes launched a series of very productive daily drawing sessions, something he had not taken the time to do since 1987. Over the course of the next twelve months Mr. Sanfaçon produced thirteen detailed pencil drawings on subjects ranging from historic homes to baseball players to state landmarks to members of KISS.
In 2005 Mr. Sanfaçon completed a portrait called Navajo Boy (from a 1905 Carl Moon photograph) that won Best of Show at the 2005 Rochester Fair in September. Paul With Guitar Under Leg was featured in the National Drawing Show, South Shore Art Center, Cohasset, Massachusetts, December 2008–January 2009.
Mr. Sanfaçon continues rebuilding his portfolio while battling that fire-breathing dragon known as Resistance every single day.