It was 1958 when Neil Jansen graduated from what was then Ringling School of Art and Design with a certificate in commercial design. There were 450 students at Ringling that year, and though the campus was less than 30 years old at the time, it had a profound impact on Jansen’s life and career.
Jansen came to Ringling College following a year at Pratt Institute, “which was too regimented for me,” he said. Jansen first learned about Ringling College from an ad in Good Housekeeping, but what impressed him most once he arrived was the faculty, “most of whom were successful working artists,” he said.
Following college, Jansen volunteered for the draft and joined the U.S. Army. After a year of teaching art at Fort Dix, he was sent to Korea, where he was assigned to special services. There he created visual aids for officers illustrating methods for teaching equipment repair in the field. While in Korea, Jansen continued to paint, holding evening art classes in a makeshift studio for anyone interested in learning.
When he came home, Jansen began a career in marketing and advertising that took him to Madison Avenue in Manhattan. He began doing magazine paste-up and design, followed by five years as art director for a division of Mead paper. In that role, he created point-of-sales displays for a variety of companies, including the National Distillers Products Corporation. He became National Promotion Manager for 11 of its brands, sparking a career that spanned 25 years.
When the liquor division was sold to Jim Beam Brands, Jansen went to work for Ledan Displays. He created displays in all of the major department stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, and Bergdorf Goodman.
Jansen moved to Rose Hill Plantation in Bluffton, South Carolina in 2012. Today, Jansen continues to paint in a small studio he had built. “At 84, painting brings me as much joy as it ever did,” he said.
Because Ringling College had such an impact on Jansen’s life, he has left a planned gift to Ringling College of Art and Design in his will, “hoping to help the next generation of artists as they start out on their own journeys,” he said.