The Dick Kramer Story
Dick Kramer is known today as the premier tactical artist in the United States, lending his incredible skills to the world of law enforcement by bringing their strength and struggles to life on his drawing board. But who is Dick and what's his story? How did he get into drawing, and how did he reach the pinnacle of skill he sits at today?
All stories have a beginning, and Dick's story begins in New Jersey. Born in Newark, New Jersey in 1938, Dick spent his early childhood in the small town of Nutley, New Jersey. His taste for drawing dates back to his youngest years; as a child, he gained a reputation in school for putting off his work in favor of his art. This went over badly with his teachers and his family, and he was constantly in trouble for not doing his work. But in Dick's mind, drawing was his true calling!
On his 17th birthday, Dick quit school and joined the Navy. "It was one of the best things that ever happened to me," he says. "I owe the Navy my life." Dick realized the mistake he had made in pushing aside his schooling and finished his education in the Navy. At 19 years old he became the youngest in the Pacific Fleet to achieve the rank of Petty Officer 2nd Class. He received an honorable discharge after 4 years and returned home to Nutley, New Jersey with a new focus.
When he came home, Dick proposed marriage to the love of his life, Ginny. She said yes and the two embarked on their life together. "We have been married for 57 years and she is still my girlfriend," Dick says. "I am a blessed man."
Dick began attending the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Art and later transferred to the School of Visual Arts in New York City to complete his art education. He worked for a while at a chain store doing pen and ink illustrations for their advertising and later decided to freelance. He knew he was taking a big risk and money became very tight, but Ginny was very supportive. "We had $78 in the bank, four kids, and I quit my full-time job… Ginny has always been behind me, no matter what was happening," Dick remembers.
After some tough times, Dick found a new opportunity at ITT Avionics Division, a defense contractor. He spent 8 years as Art Director there but began to feel out of place in the corporate world. It just wasn't for him, and he returned to freelancing. The Kramer family moved to Florida for 8 years, and then out of nowhere, a new chapter opened. "That's where my entire life changed," Dick says.
A Dream Come True
Dick was approached by John Meyer, then the head of Heckler & Koch Training Division. He commissioned Dick for some artwork for a new poster advertising H&K's training facility in Sterling, Virginia. For the commission, Dick drew a series of seven vignette drawings of SWAT Officers in action. H&K paid him for his drawings and he moved on to other work, unaware of the new direction his life was suddenly about to take.
The H&K poster was distributed worldwide, and with it, Dick's career launched to new heights. "…The receptionist at H&K threatened to quit," he says. "The telephone lines lit up with SWAT Officers from around the world wanting to know who was doing these drawings and how could they get copies. That was the beginning of our fabulous life." Dick drew the first four of several hundreds of sketches, and as he puts it, "The rest is history."
Now, Dick and Ginny have traveled all over the world and made lifelong friends in the SWAT community and corporate world through commissions. The Kramers' business is split halfway between corporate commissions and online print sales. Dick makes regular appearances at tactical tradeshows such as the annual SHOT Show in Las Vegas, NV at which he recently signed hundreds of prints for enthusiastic fans.
A Future Filled with Art
Dick was right all along: drawing is what he was born to do, and he loves every minute of it. The military and SWAT worlds are his favorite subjects, and he and Ginny have a deep appreciation for the dedication of these officers. "Ginny and I admire and pray for all of the fabulous people we meet in our business," he says. "They are the brightest, bravest and best that our Nation has to offer. Our hearts break when a Police Officer or young Warrior dies in battle. We are all poorer for the loss of such wonderful young men and women. I feel honored to be so close to them and what they do. Every day they place their lives on the line so that we can enjoy the lives and freedoms we have. God bless each and every one of them and their families."
When asked when he will stop drawing, Dick replies that he wants to die at the drawing board. Life without his art is unfathomable to him. "I hope God will grant me many more years of drawing the people that Ginny and I love so much," Dick says. The SWAT and military communities hope for the same, as no one captures them as well as Dick Kramer.
To buy a print of Dick's work, or commission work from him, please visit http://www.dickkramer.com/.