It’s hard to believe how much emotion a simple little text can carry.
Yesterday I woke to one that carried the weight of the world. Just as I was getting out of bed – moments before dropping my feet to the floor to make the mad dash around the apartment in order to get the kids up and ready for a crazy busy Saturday – I remembered I had dropped my phone on the floor before laying my weary head down to sleep the night before. Usually it takes me a good 5-10 minutes of rousing myself to waking life before I’ll check the phone to see if anything pressing came floating in while the world slumbered. It’s usually a big fat ZERO which is just fine by me. I’m not THAT popular.
Not wanting to crush my precious iPhone under my full body weight, I reached down and made a motion to deposit it on the dresser but something caught my eye. A quick, direct text that stood up and sucker-punched me.
“I just got a message from Allison Hartter. Her husband Sean died yesterday.”
Sean Hartter was an artist.
Sean Hartter was a friend.
Sean Hartter was a husband.
Sean Hartter was a Dad to two boys – now young men.
Sean Hartter was just 39 years old!!!
I called Andi and got some of the details. Sean died from complications surrounding his asthma – a sudden, cruel attack that ripped the world of this unique artistic talent.
I’ve only met Sean, face-to-face, a handful of times. I could probably count the number of in-person interactions through the sum total of all my fingers. That’s what distance will do to ya’. But I’ve interacted with him plenty online and his fingerprints are all over this site. More on that in a moment.
I met him, of course, through Andi as he had, long-ago, married one of her longtime best friends. That was before I was in the picture. Andi and Allison share a friendship that has spanned decades and miles and remains as strong as ever.
Over the years, as we had tossed open our doors at the holidays or special occasions to invite a vast menagerie of friends far and near, equal parts treasured and dear – Allison, Sean and their two boys Gabe and Griffin have often taken the huge trek from the South Shore to come ring in the celebrations alongside us. As is par for the course at those big events, you never get enough time to really engage everyone for as long as you would like – but Sean and I would always connect on our shared interests for a few moments – both of us being big fans of genre fare (sci-fi, horror, comics, etc).
I always promised him “you guys need to come out when the house is not so full so we can just chatter on and on about this stuff and let the hours melt”. Sadly, that occasion never came.
That didn’t stop us from connecting though.We live in a great age where technology shrinks the map to pocket-size – and over the years, Sean would always pop up in an Instant Message or on Facebook and the next thing you knew, an hour or two was ripped from the day in the blink of an eye. It’s all text on a screen but in those correspondence back and forth – Sean got me thinking and laughing and vice-versa – and I detected the big heart that this guy had beating within. From the little scraps of info Andi passed on over the years, I know Sean had a rough childhood. Life was cruel at times – horribly so. But he lived on, he persevered and he poured his energies into his family and his artwork.
Sean was an artist with a striking visual design all his own and a deep love for genre works. I read the following tribute to him, published yesterday by a friend on the West Coast (a guy who Sean had never met in person but who had become very friendly with thanks to the world-shrinking powers of the Internet) and I thought this summed up Sean’s distinct vision perfectly:
“His style was striking and powerful in it’s low-fi roots. It screamed of a yearning and love for the nostalgic. His alt-posters felt like those you’d uncover in an old, abandoned movie theater projection room. Cinematic treasures you wanted to hang on to and never let go. The alternate casting choices (like Robert Mitchum as Michael Myers) signaled a deep and encyclopedic knowledge of film history that could humble even the most learned of filmmakers.”
The full post can be found here.
Sean was instrumental in the redesign of this site. One day, completely out of the blue, he sent me a graphic for a new logo. I sent it along to my other Sean – my longtime bestie and this site’s web design genius – who incorporated the logo into The Ed Zone’s new scheme giving us a striking banner and identity.
Last year, I pulled the old proverbial ‘tap on the shoulder’ and roped Sean into helping me sell my annual April Fool’s Joke – asking if he would design a fake book jacket for my April 1st Book Deal announcement. Sean’s work sold the illusion and led many a follower to set their mobile phone alarms one year forward reminding them to not believe another word I ever said to them again. Couldn’t have done it without him.
Back in the old days of this site, I used to run a recurring series aimed at recapping and discussing each new installment of the TV show LOST. We built a pretty good community here and although he never commented – Sean was a frequent reader. When that show was coming to a close, Sean mocked up an amazing riff on those old ‘Choose Your Own Adventure‘ books – one that I posted here, others posted elsewhere and eventually LOST creator Damon Lindelof tweeted to his hundred thousand plus followers under the banner – “Proof that we WERE making it all up as we went along“.
That would not be Sean’s only brush with greatness.
While not his only focus, some of Sean’s most popular pieces envisioned alternative movie posters – (imagine Halloween directed by Alfred Hitchcock). These posters, of which he has designed seemingly hundreds, have spread virally – bringing his work to some surprising destinations. You can peruse them here.
Over the years, Sean has actively marketed his designs and posters; using the web to push his work further and further out there. This pioneering spirit has found his talents showcased in a number of different venues and websites – and have even been framed and hung in the offices of Dark Horse Comics. A number of niche production companies had contracted him for cover and poster assignments and he collaborated on a children’s book a couple of years ago with author Jason Shannon. Three Things About Animals… And Only One of Them’s True can be found on Amazon and a follow-up is due later this Spring.
What makes his death so cruel is that Sean was on the cusp of a true big break. He was set to fly to Los Angeles this week to appear at Entertainment Weekly’s Capetown Film Fest. Capetown is EW’s imprint that focuses specifically on genre entertainment – comic books, sci-fi, fantasy, horror, animation, video games, etc. It has a significant visual presence on their massive national website and is the place to go to read up on the big summer flicks, like Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness. This year’s fest kicks off with a screening of Iron Man 3, includes a Scott Pilgrim screening with the director and stars in attendance along with a screening of director Edgar Wright’s maiden effort, Shaun of the Dead, and also features appearances by Terry Gilliam, Kurt Russell, Leonard Nimoy, Neil Gaiman and others.
Sean had been commissioned by the site to design some special rare edition posters that could ONLY be won at the festival – including his takes on Return of the Jedi, JJ Abrams’ Star Trek, Scott Pilgrim and others. Sean was going to be on site – signing the posters – and was reportedly thrilled to be given the opportunity. In addition, he had a number of meetings set-up on the Wes Coast to discuss some exciting new career opportunities. In essence – this was HIS BIG BREAK!!!
That Sean died 5 days before his big break – before his world truly expanded – simply put – SUCKS!!! Here was a guy who early on got dealt a real tough hand, who persevered and kept pouring his heart and soul into his art – doing it for the purest reasons possible (simply because it’s what he loved to do), and then when all looked like it was starting to happen – that the world was tuned into another great talent – he was struck down.
Life can be cruel and inexplicable.
Sean was an artist – maybe not the starving kind but certainly not one with a massive 401K plan either. His death leaves his wife Allison and two sons coping with not only the loss of their dear husband and father – but also a huge economic hole. He was on the cusp – ready to breakthrough – who knows what reversal of fortune that may have brought – but now they are left broken-hearted and wondering how they’ll move on in the days to come.
A fund has been set-up in Sean’s honor to help pay for the costs of his funeral and help provide for his family in these tough days. If you’ve ever stopped by this site and enjoyed what you’ve read here – if you’ve spied The Ed Zone logo looking to see if there is something new to read – and if you are able to do so, I ask that you give a little to the fund, if you can. A little in abundance certainly means a lot.
I knew Sean a small amount of time and yet he made his mark…
On this site.
On my life.
The least I can do is pay this little tribute back to him. To remember a life that could have lived so large.
You can donate to the fund by following this link:
Sean Hartter. Rest in Peace, my friend.