It's not a job, it's an adventure
The career of Anthony Anthamatten is not one you could easily plan. Through a series of life events that may be described as fate combined with an enormous amount of work, enthusiastic energy, and conviction, has managed to do amazing things.
UI/UX Designer, Software Developer, and Information Technology Architect admits the road less travelled is hard to find.
Your career began at an early age. How did you get started?
Truthfully, it was about being in the right place at the right time and asking the right questions. But the longer version of the story is when I was 17 years old, I earned the rank of Eagle Scout from the Boy Scouts of America and they had an opportunity at that time for new Eagle Scouts to spend the day with a mentor in a career of your choice.
I chose television because I volunteered at a local cable access station since I was 13 years old. And television fascinated me, and still does. So I spent the day at WMC-TV with a dear gentleman named, Dick Hawley, who was their morning show host and a pioneer in television from the 1940s. I wore my boy scout uniform and toured the station and they invited me to appear on the noon news broadcast, which for a 17 year old nerd like me, was a big deal.
But where my career began was asking one question. At the end of the tour, Mr. Hawley said, “Well, I guess that’s it.” And I asked him, “How do they hang those graphics beside you when you are telling a story?” Dick was surprised by the question and took me to the art department where I met Tom Foster, the art director of WMC-TV.
Tom, who is a real artist and amazing illustrator, spent two hours with me as I peppered him with questions. He was surprised I knew so much about graphic arts and I worked on my high school newspaper and annual staff. I was a photographer with my own darkroom. I’m sure if you asked, Mr. Foster, he remembers that day with this nerdy boy scout who seemed pretty smart. After that long discussion with him, he offered me a job to clean up the art department because it was a total mess and I jumped at the opportunity.
I still remember the first time Tom let me do one of the graphics for the news. It was a hubcap (and the worst hubcap in the world). But I was so proud that was my hubcap on the nightly news. The rest is history.
You grew up in Memphis. Have you been to Graceland?
I have been to Elvis Presley’s home many times, often with celebrities who wanted to visit. When I was a little boy, we would drove by Graceland at Christmas. There were blue lights leading up the driveway toward his home with Christmas lights in the trees. It was fascinating to see. To think what he did in his career before passing way at 42 years old is amazing. One of the coolest things to see if you visit Graceland is the suits he wore in the 70s.
Graphic Designer and 3D Animator
Yes. How it began was before there were computers to do layout or graphics, that was really art you did black cards with a hot press and cut out colored paper. I know how to use an Exacto knife and typeset the old fashioned way or design a graphic with cut paper so you can understand a story in two seconds
In 1986, WMC-TV purchased a graphics computer called Art Star. I was a sponge on that machine. I must have spent tens of thousands of hours learning it. And it also had a 3d animation feature which was amazing at that time. But I will never say I do 3d as good as Pixar. That is a very complicated process to do what they do.
In the early days of my career, I was 17, 18, 19 years old. I didn’t make any money. I remember buying my first sofa from Goodwill for $75 and my rent was $275 a month. So I needed a second job to make ends meet. I had been a fan of music and played drums since I was 13 years old. And I was offered a chance to be the happy hour dj at a club down the street.
Studebakers was the most popular club at the time, but it played 50’s, 60’s music. Here I am at 19, not even old enough to drink. And I am the dj for an older crowd. I was the worst dj and they wanted to fire me the entire first week, but the guy who got me the job said, “Give him a chance”. A lot of those old guys who were customers helped me and taught me that old music and I am still a fan of the great 50s and 60s music and those crooners today.
Saturday Night HotMix
I produced a mix show called Saturday Night HotMix for WMC FM100 in Memphis for three years. It would take me from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM to put the three hour show that aired at 9:00 PM. I would usually be djing Saturday nights. I remember once I pulled up to a stoplight and a group of kids were jamming to my show. They had no idea the producer was in the car next to them. I waved and enjoyed seeing them have a good time.
You built the company GrafxLab when you were 25 years old?
Looking back it is almost hard to imagine how I accomplished that. It was 1992, the internet wasn’t even out there yet somehow, someway I had the vision to know where this was going. I quit all my jobs, television, Ardent, DJ, my radio show and sat at my dining room table for a month in a bathrobe and wrote a business plan. Here I was, a young guy with a vision but certainly no investors, walked into a bank with a business plan. They gave me $30,000 to start the company with nothing to back it up but a dream.
I bought my first camera, a Pentax 1000, when I was 13 years old with money I saved from mowing lawns. When I began working in television at 17 years old as a graphic artist, I was also the still photographer for the station. I’ve photographed many celebrities from Mohammad Ali to Vanna White.
I enjoy photographing musicians and people, but the photography I am most well known for is the artistic portraits I create for women.
That is one of the favorite things I do. The easiest way to explain my role as a user interface and user experience designer is understanding the user of software, websites, etc. and communicating it with cool graphics and making their life simpler using the product.
I began writing software in the early days of learning 3D animation in 1986. I have been a enterprise software consultant since 1997.
My pen name is Tony Gray. It’s easier than Anthony Anthamatten. My first novel, “Double Crossed : Play the Hand You’re Dealt” was released in 2020. The follow-up novel, “Double Crossed : Vengeance” is scheduled for release soon. And I am also working on another novel, a romantic mystery, “Black”.
Music is a hobby for me. It runs in the family. I am a singer/songwriter. I play piano and drums. My uncle Tony Rossini recorded on Sun Records at the same time as Elvis Presley. My brother Warner is a fantastic guitarist and my brother Joseph is a great drummer also.
That is something I do for fun. Occasionally I will do an open-mic night. If you read my Double Crossed novels, they are pretty funny. I do the stand up stuff to keep my wit sharp. Nothing like a live audience to tell you if your jokes are terrible.
"I wonder what Mona Lisa was thinking in that painting? Hurry up Leonardo, I have been sitting in the same position for days. I can't feel my butt anymore." -Anthony Anthamatten
I simply wish to be a thoughtful person and always remain humble. Life can be very difficult. If I am able to make someone laugh, jam to a good song, or lift them up when they are down, that to me is success.
I have kept an old pair of shoes to remind me of the roads I have traveled. May they always remind me to think of others and the roads they have travelled to.