I was deeply saddened to hear from my former colleagues at Salon that Bob Watts, who served as Salon’s art director for many years, passed away early this morning after a long fight with cancer. (Joan Walsh’s remembrance is here. And here are other remembrances from Salon people.)
I knew Bob from his start at Salon as a photo intern in 1998, but worked closest with him during the dark years after the dotcom bubble burst, when Salon’s prospects were dim and budgets were slim. Some of Salon’s editors fought their own guerrilla battles against our financial woes by spending money they didn’t really have, and it was my job as managing editor to try to reel them back toward reality. I never had to do that with Bob: at the end of each month he’d calmly deposit the art department’s report on my desk, and it was so reliably in order and under budget that, I confess, I took to reviewing it less and less closely over the years. It could simply be counted on, as could he.
Stereotypes paint the artist as undisciplined and indulgent. Bob wasn’t a stereotype; he was the real thing, and so he approached his work with care and consideration, balancing his own abundant inspiration with the needs of the people around him, working fast on ridiculously tight deadlines to create consistently delightful images.
He must have produced, literally, thousands of Salon cover images over the years, each one a witty or moving or beautiful little time capsule. I will miss them, as I will miss him.
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This is quite sad news indeed. While I didn’t work directly with Bob while I was at Salon, I did have the pleasure of chatting with him on occasion and assisting him with editing some photos at one point during a crunch time.
Bob struck me as a really nice guy and he always seemed to be smiling.