This article is an introduction to a most unique artistic individual.
He is represented here via photos I shot of him during the 60s and early 70s, along with some memories about his fantastic talent and remarkable personality.
Also, here are some of Peter’s artworks - which I either bought from him when he and Florrie Duguid (now Florrie Bramley Hill) moved to New York City in 1967, or he gave to me later.
In the 60s, she used Florence. More recently, she uses Florrie which is the Scottish contraction of Florence.
Peter in the classroom at
Massachusetts College of Art.
Peter at the Longwood Towers, where he worked nights to put
himself through college and earn his Bachelor in Fine Arts degree.
Florrie Bramley (Peter’s wife), Bill Skurski (friend and business partner),
with a bit of Peter’s artwork on the wall.
Undergraduate school (MassArt), during the mid 60s in Boston, was not a happy place for me. I survived largely due to friendships with fellow students Cheryl Daye Wooten, Bill Skurski, Peter Bramley, and with the exemplary teachers Harris Baron, Dan Kelleher, and Art Hoener.
Intaglio (the newsletter)
I (as lead photographer) worked with Bill (as editor), and Peter (as art director) to resuscitate the “Intaglio” our student newsletter, which had been dormant for many years.
While we thought we were editorially gentle, the very dull Dean of Men took umbrage at the comedic, irreverent tone of our journal, and, specifically, was peeved at several articles critical of our college’s lack of facilities and byzantine rules.
On our December cover — our third issue — there appeared the bearded Karl Marx wearing a Santa hat. There apparently was a scandal. Bill told me that not only was the Dean upset, but, because we were a state-owned college, the state legislature held hearings.
To stop us from running the newsletter - which was paid for by students, not the school — without appearing to be a censor, the Dean dreamed up a new (dare I say “byzantine”) rule for the newsletter staff; only those with the highest grades would be able to afford the time not studying to be on staff.
So, Bill and Peter (with only A-minus averages) were unilaterally dumped by him, and Gail Burwen (with all A-plusses) volunteered to be the new editor. While the extra-dull Dean was totally happy to get the riff-raff out of the newsletter biz, he did not realize that Gail was Bill’s sweetheart. So, the entire staff, (under fake names or signing with initials), was back on the newsletter.
Peter was artistically talented, friendly, and possessed a rich sense of humor. It showed no matter which medium he picked up.
Acrylic-painted Paper Mache on wire.
Here is one of his ink and watercolor works. Peter provided the title/description:
“Herman Melville had a horrible experience in a
chowder house one afternoon, and shortly thereafter
wrote Moby Dick. Most of his friends answered to the
name of Ralph, which probably had much to do with
the simple plot and character development.”
India ink, with Doc Martin water color.
Here are more of Peter’s artwork:
India ink mechanical pen.
India ink mechanical pen - proposed “Cloud Comix” cover.
After inking the above image, Peter cut out the
middle and placed a special part of his body in
the center for me to photograph. I also shot
the version shown here, which contains
Larry Bergeron’s face.
India ink, real live face.
Clay, with toy metal ax.
Acrylic-painted clay, with dried flowers.
On April 13, 1965, a bunch of us Mass Art students went for a day to visit what was known then as the Industrial School for Crippled Children at 241 St. Botolph Street in Boston. (It is now the Cotting School in Lexington, Massachusetts.)
Peter and friendly monster.
Chicken wire and paper. I don’t know who made the monster.
Bill Skurski reading one of his stories about an
elephant who had a great flex-i-nose. Next to Bill is
fellow art student and guitarist Larry Burgeron.
Peter listens to Bill’s story. The Easter
eggs are rotten, in case the story falls short.
Peter being beat up by balloon wielding child, while fellow
art student, Elizabeth (Reeves?), encourages the pummeling.
All he did was stand there. Well, maybe he looked
a little funny when he said something silly.
Here are photos I shot of Peter dressed up like Groucho Marx at a 1965 Halloween party in Boston:
“Say the secret woid, and divide Peter amongst you.”
On April 3, 1966, Peter and Florrie got married at the Unitarian Church in Andover, Massachusetts. I used a regular 8mm silent movie camera to capture this footage. In it you can see very quick glimpses of their friends: Roy Mandell, Alan Finneran, Tom Diamond, Gail Burwen, Bill Skurski, Signe Haynes, Bill Rathburn, and others.
The guy who leads Florrie down the isle is her father.
The sermon used quotations from Gibran’s “The Prophet.”
Peter and Florrie later had two boys, Gareth (who can be seen in the Cloud gag photo below) and Lymond.
The Move to New York
On January 1st, Peter told me that Ros and Harris Baron had convinced him he had to move to NY City to market his talent. He was very excited and set things into motion.
On the 9th, Peter had his big going-to-NYC-sale. That’s when I bought the witch seen above.
On January 11, I got this note from Peter:
I used the money from Peter having sold
my book to buy more of his art and books.
On January 12, 1967, Peter and Florrie moved to New York City. Bill Skurski and Gail Burwen (Bill’s wife) had already moved.
Peter, Bill and Gail soon founded Cloud Studio. They provided an alternative-culture design studio that often used comics in commercial art projects.
Click here to see the Cloud Studios archive, maintained by Bill Skurski. It contains art work from Brad Johannsen, Albert, Bill Skurski, Dennis Hermanson, Stephanie, Gail Burwen, Peter Bramley, Michael Sullivan, Tom Hachtman, Joey Epstien: Cloud Comix
At that time, I briefly worked with Peter, Bill and Howard Bloom (Cloud’s representative) on a magazine project, called “Trylus,” that didn’t get off the ground.
Peter’s proposed Trylus cover art.
In 1970, the National Lampoon hired Peter and Bill as art directors for their first few issues. They continued for about one more year, and Peter and Bill continued to contribute comics and illustrations through 1973.
Bill sent me this gag photo of the Cloud Studio crew. I was told that this, or a similar photo, may have been used in a Lampoon issue:
Demian (me, in regulation cop-type sneakers), Lisa Sullivan, Tom Diamond, Gail Burwen (Bill’s Wife),
Florrie Bramley (Peter’s wife, here pregnant with Lymond),
Gareth Bramley (Peter and Florrie’s son), Peter Bramley,
Bill Skirski, Howard Bloom?, ___? (even though not cop-regulation, they are real shoes, not sneakers).
photo: Michael Sullivan - August 13, 1970
In time, Peter produce many illustrations for Fortune, The East Village Other, “Sesame Street,” “The Electric Company,” Boys’ Life, Playgirl and The New York Times, as well as book covers for Random House, Knopf, Simon & Schuster and Doubleday.
Peter also worked in movies, as an art director and actor, for two adult exploitation productions: “It Happened in Hollywood” (1973), and “The Carhops” (original title “Kitty Can’t Help It”) (1975). Florrie also worked (under the name Florrie Bramley) on “It Happened in Hollywood” as a make-up artist and set painter.
Cloud Studios frequent photographer collaborator Michael Sullivan, worked on “It Happened in Hollywood” as an actor, assistant director, set painter, props, headgear and bicycle fabricator, as well as second camera operator. In “The Carhops,” Michael was an actor and co-art director.
Peter Made Friends Easily - Lots of Them
Peter may not have realized it, but he showed me, in his everyday actions, the secret to making friends.
Witnessing him at work at Cloud Studios was instructional. He would be hunched over his drawing table — penciling or inking — at the same time as he was chatting with an endless flow of visitors.
The visitors would be spouting off their favorite philosophy, and Peter would encourage them by his reactions. He usually did not contradict or argue with them; he just let them talk.
When he did have a contrary opinion, he never said it in a confrontational or challenging way, and often said it with humor.
It was Peter’s welcoming of diversity that brought friends to his studio — magnetized them really — and thereby he developed a strong social network.
Whenever I visited the studio, I knew there would always be a group to chat with, many of whom brought food or drink and the latest music on a 33.3 record, or on a tape cassette, to share.
I left NYC in the early 70s, and eventually lost touch with Peter and the Cloud crowd. I’m glad I saved his artwork, for it reminds me of his amazing personality, his brilliant, artistic talent, and how lucky I was to have known him as a friend.
Peter Alan Bramley
August 8, 1944 - April 12, 2005