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Celebrating Illustration, Design, Cartoon and Comic Art of the Mid-20th Century

Hard Boiled McGinnis

Monday, February 27, 2006

I've got this really nice book called "The Paintings of Robert E. McGinnis" by Arnie and Cathy Fenner. In the introduction by Al Fick we are told McGinnis painted over 1200 paperback book covers! That's not to mention his many movie posters ( the James Bonds are certainly memorable ), western paintings, adventure illustrations for every major magazine publisher, hardcover dust jackets, record albums, commisions and personal work.

A quote from McGinnis in that introduction: "All I want to do is paint."

This week's images are courtesy of Ken Steacy - many thanks, Ken!


  1. It's nice to see that McGinnis once knew how to paint hips on a woman. For the past 20 years, his female figures have become so elongated they look more like mutant spiders than women. But these earlier paperback figures you have posted were actually rather attractive. It just goes to show that, as much as we complain about the role of an art director, it helps to have a second set of eyes to help an artist retain a sense of proportion.

  2. I know this is a pet peeve of yours, David. I like this more realistic proportion as well - but if McGinnis chooses to stylize his women to suit whatever inner eye drives him, and he has his client's go-ahead to paint as he pleases, I'd hate to see an art director or anybody else in the commercial art food chain dictate to him how he should proportion his figures.

    If the work was lacking in competence and that second set of eyes provided a corrective measure that would genuinely improve the work, then I say more power to the AD... otherwise, hands off the skinny spider-girls! ;-)

  3. Leif, you and I are treading on the very dangerous territory where our taste in art may be difficult to separate from our taste in women. (An artist once said. "I can't tell if I like curvy lines because I like women, or if I like women because I like curvy lines.")

    Far be it from me to criticize McGinnis if he has a thing for emaciated, anorexic, preying mantis-type girls whose bodies have become hideously distended as if they were extruded through a drinking straw. Some guys like that. Or, maybe McGinnis has astigmatism like El Greco.

    I agree with you that an artist should have autonomy so that his or her personal style can flourish. At the same time I think if an artist lives and works in isolation too long, without feedback from critics, art directors, clients, or other human beings, he or she can stray pretty far from the path. Now that McGinnis is at a stage in his career where he doesn't have to answer to anybody, I kind of wish he did. (Remember, Hemingway wrote that what every writer who works alone needs most is a built in bullshit detector.)

  4. LoL, David! As always, you're points are well argued and you have the finest quotes from the most respected sources to back them up. But wasn't it Voltaire who said, "I may prefer zaftig gals but I will defend to the death McGinnis' right to paint anorexic, drinking straw-extruded, stick-figure women!"...?

    Yeah, I'm pretty sure that was Voltaire. ;-)

  5. Leif, I am not planning on mentioning this little exchange to my wife, and I hope I can count on your discretion as well.

  6. Anonymous3:52 PM

    Hey Leif,

    I finally managed to track a copy of that book down myself (maybe a month ago). I've been looking for it for years.

    Where did you stumble across it?

    Bill Angus

  7. You have my word, David. ;-)

  8. Bill; I ordered it at the time from the Previews catalogue at my local comic shop. I had no idea it was tough to come by... but of course in retrospect such things are probably printed in fairly limited runs. Good to hear you found one!

  9. Anonymous2:08 PM

    Knowing you're a fellow steeltown resident... what shop do you call home?

    If you don't mind my asking, of course.

    Bill Angus

  10. Heck no, Bill - I don't mind you asking at all. I work from home ( 139 Flatt Ave ) and have done so for the last six years. before that I worked out of a studio in Yorkville which I shared with five other illustrators. before that I was at Ogilvy & Mather in Toronto for about ten years.

  11. 'The Eigth Circle' is one of my faves of McGinnis. Nice to see the original cover layout.

    Fun blog, keep on postn'.

    P.S. enjoy your flikr site with the old Cooper Studio stuff too.

  12. Thx Dom - be sure to keep an eye out for the next issue of Illustration which will have an article on the Cooper Studio by my friend Neil Shapiro





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