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

"Thanks to... Mitchell Hooks"

Tuesday, February 28, 2006


From McGinnis Paintings.com:
"Arriving in New York, I went to work at Chaite studios in the company of Frank McCarthy, Bob Peak, Mike Hooks, Jack Thurston and, briefly, Bernie Fuchs, to name only a few; a rich learning experience, but I was doing routine studio work with little direction. One evening after work I met Mike Hooks on a street corner with his agent, Don Gelb. He suggested I show my work to Don. Don took my samples to Walter Brooks at Dell. I was assigned two covers and my book cover career began. Thanks to the generosity of Mitchell Hooks, a great artist and gentleman."

When I put together these posts, one of the first steps I take in researching is to do a simple Google Image Search. "art by Robert McGinnis" turns up 601 hits. "Art by Mitchell Hooks" returns 39.

Again from McGinnis Paintings.com:

"As with many young artists, there was a point to which one can look back and say, 'That made a difference.' Bob attended a lecture given by Coby Whitmore, another Buckeye, and by then an established star in New York. This was the impetus for Bob to come to New York."

My Google Image Search of "art by Coby Whitmore" returned 14 hits.

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!

Who drew this?

Sunday, February 26, 2006


And who drew this?

What about this? Who drew this?

And how about this? Its so great - but the identity of the artist who drew it will probably never be know. That's sad...

I love these old ads done in 50's cartoon styles. Sometimes the illustration was just a minor supporting element in an otherwise photographic ad, but still, those tiny anonymous cartoon illustrations had so much character and vitality that they deserve closer examination.

That's why I've created a Flickr set called Ads w/ Cartoon Elements. I'll be adding to it regularly so if this is your sort of thing too, you might like to go check it out (and maybe bookmark it).

BTW, I'm not alone in my love of this kind of stuff... there are other folks on Flickr who share my passion and are adding their own scans. Take a look at Mid-Century in Print, The Retro Kid, Vintage Advertising and most recently, a new group called Allan & Todd's for a pleasant trip down Memory Lane. A great way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.

"Mailing it in"

Friday, February 24, 2006


If that expression had existed in the 50's in its current context, Whitmore could fairly have been accused of "mailing it in" on this assignment. Short of asking the artist himself (and that won't be happening) its hard to imagine why this series for Cosmopolitan came out looking so crude. Especially when you consider Whitmore's love of sports cars and auto racing.

"I prefer the scream of a racing engine to the music of Tchaikovsky", says Whitmore in a Ladies Home Journal profile, and as if that weren't enough, the artist owned and raced a Jaguar XK 120 and was partners with an ex-WWII fighter pilot, John Fitch, in developing a concept car called the Fitch Whitmore LeMans Special.

With the opportunity to paint not just a beautiful girl but a beautiful car as well, one has to wonder what the heck happened.
By now you might be wondering why I would even consider using this series for Today's Inspiration. True, its not terribly inspiring work. But I guess my appreciation for Whitmore's other better work makes me want to examine both the highs and the lows of his career. Also, this accompanying piece from "The Race" presents an interesting curiousity: the similarity between the composition of the Cosmo piece and this other, more accomplished work from around the same period for Saturday Evening Post.
Two shots from the same roll of photo reference? You can see these images at full size in my Coby Whitmore Flickr set.

David Stone Martin (1913-1992)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Its thanks to blogging buddy and artist extrodinaire, Drazen Kozjan, that I first heard the name David Stone Martin. I've said it before but one of the wonderful things about sending out Today's Inspiration is the education that I get thanks to the good and knowledgeable folks on the list.

Born David Livingstone Martin and educated at The Art Institute of Chicago, DSM began his career as a graphic designer. He worked as an assistant to Ben Shahn, designing murals for the Chicago World's Fair. During WWII he was an artist correspondent for Life magazine.

But DSM really hit his stride in the fifties, when he is said to have designed and illustrated over 400 album covers, mostly for jazz artists. You can find a small sampling of that work here. His work has been shown at the Met, the MOMA, and the Art Institute of Chicago, among others.

In Praise of Magic Markers


Not exactly an auto racing illustration, but close enough to qualify - and it gives me the opening I need to talk about something that has been a powerful influence on my career: the magic marker.

From the now defunct Magic Marker website:

" In 1952, inventor Sidney Rosenthal developed and began marketing the first felt tip marking device. A chubby, squat glass bottle to hold ink with a wool felt wick and writing tip [this describes the unusual appearance of the first magic markers], Rosenthal named his new marking device Magic Marker because of its ability to mark on almost every surface..."

I got into the business just as these odd little bottle markers were disappearing. But who knows how many illustrators in how many ad agencies in the decades between the 1950's and the 1980's breathed in the heady combination of cigarette smoke and benzene while frantically scrubbing out "renderings" to provide the art directors and suits anxiously hovering over his shoulder with the visuals they needed to sell their ad concept to the client waiting in the board room?

Today, with the arrival of computers, tablets and software like Photoshop and Painter, the term "marker renderer" has been shortened to just "renderer". Outside the industry ( and even within it ) the artists who continue to ply the trade remain largely anonymous. But I am steadfastly convinced that, as a group, renderers are among the most proficient and least appreciated commercial artists. I count myself lucky to be a minor light among some truly great illustrators.

To all of them ( and you know who you are ) this one's for you!

Bill Motta

Monday, February 20, 2006


I'm sure there are car enthusiasts who are also TI readers who could tell us quite a bit about William A Motta. Unfortunately I was not able to find out very much about the artist from searching on the internet. I know he is retired from being the art director of Road and Track magazine. He is the V.P. of the Automobile Fine Arts Society and a member of the National Acrylic Painters' Association.

There are a few nice examples of Motta's more recent work at this link

Stan Galli (1912- )


According to Walt Reed's "Illustrator in America" Stan Galli was born in San Francisco and had a variety of jobs as a young man trying to survive through The Depression. He eventually saved enough to get an education at the California School of Fine Art. His art career afterwards was interrupted by service in WWII, and though he returned to a partnership in a San Francisco art service after the war, he found the business aspects didn't suit him. TI list member Bruce Hettema mentions Galli as having worked for his company, P&H Creative, so I wonder if this might be the art service mentioned, but in an earlier incarnation? He chose instead to become a freelance illustrator, a decision that proved to be very rewarding.

Galli had a long and successful career illustrating for many major American publications, but perhaps most notable is his key role in a long campaign for Weyerhauser Timber. Galli did over fifty paintings for the company on the theme of conservation and brought in other artists like Fred Ludekens and Bruce Bomberger to produce ads as well.

Galli is in the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame and his work is in the U.S. Air Force Art Collection.

You can see a few examples of his work in my Stan Galli Flickr set.

100 posts!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Wow! This is my 100th post... that didn't take long!

I don't usually post on the weekend but I've noticed quite a bit of traffic on Saturdays and Sundays and I had this interesting Robert Fawcett contribution, courtesy of Mike Vosburg languishing in my email for some time now so I thought I should really share it with you:

"Hey Leif,

Wasn't sure how to include all this on your blog...so you get stuck with it.

Did you know that Fawcett illustrated some things twice. Enclosed is a copy of
"The Anniversary Party" as a line drawing only done for Reader's Digest.
I'm
also enclosing a copy of two similar drawings for Adventures of a Young Doctor-
one done for Colliers, the other for RD. He also did the same "My Brother's
Keeper", though the illustrations there were all different from each other.

Best, Mike"

Thanks Mike! I know from looking at the number of views my various Flickr sets get that Robert Fawcett receives more traffic than any other illustrator I've uploaded. I'm sure all the RF fans who visit Today's Inspiration will appreciate you taking the time to share this with them as much as I do!

Atomic-Age Love

Friday, February 17, 2006


I've got to admit, I was born just a bit too late to really appreciate the cold war fear of nuclear war. But I bet if I had been a young parent in the mid-fifties, this short tale of atomic-age angst would have had me out in the back yard digging a bomb shelter.

Actually, the author does a good job chronicalling the minutae of a typical 50's suburban housewife's day, never more than hinting at the nagging sense of impending doom she is struggling with. Only in the final paragraphs, as she and her husband prepare for bed, does she confront her fears - that the worst will happen and they'll all be blown to smithereens.

Leave it to "reassuringly big and blond" hubby Jim to bottom-line it for her: "O.K.," Jim said. "Suppose it were to happen. The bombs and the missiles and all hell breaking loose. It would be a shame to remember this sort of life and realize that we'd never valued it enough."

Who knew the big lug was such a philosopher?

Mike Ludlow, who illustrated the piece, is one of my favourite artists from this period. In fact, I'm pretty sure his was the first scan I ever sent out to the then tiny TI mailing list. You can see a nice sampling of his work in my Mike Ludlow Flickr set.

Next week: Auto Racing!

Selfish Love

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


"He was a commercial artist who'd had a good run of luck, and he'd decided he could now afford something long dear to his heart - a solid year of painting and experimenting without feeling the need to sell anything." Now that's something the rest of us can envy!

Cliff and Betty head off to a remote little town and a rented cottage where they immediately insult the locals with their brusque city attitude. Suddenly their selfish desire to be alone turns into a miserable sense of isolation. Things are finally resolved when Cliff needs rescuing from a pond where he has fallen through the ice trying to rescue a duck. Yup, I said "a duck".

The moral of the story? Don't selfishly hog your love, your neighbours need some lovin' too. Either that or let the dumb duck freeze already. Sheesh!

More art by Lynn Buckham here.

What's it all about?

Why did I start the Today's Inspiration blog? Cat Morley of Designer's Who Blog asked me questions, and I answered them for her special Illustration Edition of Creative Latitude.

Love Stinks


What, you thought it was gonna be all sweetness and light? All sunshine and roses? Just ask Fran and Johnnie. One minute you're planning the wedding and the next, Diana comes home on the train from New York City and you're holding your head in your hands.

Told from Fran's point of view, things don't exactly end happily, but she at least comes to realize that she was holding Johnnie back, that things could have been worse had they actually married - and there's the hint of a budding romance with the best man, who's actually more her type.

Dorothy Monet turns in a serviceable job on the art chores. I have never found any information on the artist and only about half a dozen examples of her work, mostly for Woman's Day and Good Housekeeping in the early fifties. Monet's work was always very competent, if somewhat pedestrian ( so why would I choose her for Today's Inspiration, right? but hey - I'm working on a theme here ). I am, however, very fond of this mid-1940's cigarette ad she did.

"4"

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Four jobs I’ve had:

1. Paper boy. I made $33 a week. At age 11. In 1970's dollars. You do the math.
2. Feeder, waterer and poop picker-upper at an animal research lab in our local university hospital. Really, I'm still doing this job... nothings changed in twenty-five years except the location and the type of animals.
3. Tobacco primer. "Ya picks yer nose - ya prime tobacco."
4. Freelance illustrator. All I ever wanted to be, all I ever hope to be.

Four movies I can watch over and over:

1. Bladerunner
2. Jean de Florette
3. The Big Lebowski
4. PeeWee's Big Adventure


Four places I have lived:

1. Hanover, ( at the time West ) Germany - where I was born.
2. Brampton, Ontario - thankfully in the one tiny neighbourhood that had any character in an otherwise souless, faceless, sprawling suburban wasteland - and that's where they put an art school, if you can believe it!
3. Langton, Ontario - where this city kid spent two teenage summers as a farmboy.
4. Hamilton, Ontario - my beautiful here, now and always.

Four television shows I love to watch:

1. Lost
2. Six Feet Under
3. The Office
4. Dead Like Me

Four places I have been on vacation:

1. New York City
2. San Diego
3. San Francisco
4. Annapolis

Four of my favorite dishes:

1. Roast Duck as made by my mom
2. Schnitzel Pusta from The Black Forest
3. T-bone Steak ( keep your New York Porterhouse - the "T" is truly the king of steaks - for real carnivores only )
4. Chef's Special #6 from the Hunan House - Garlic Shrimp - they're like candy!

Four websites I visit regularly:

1.The ward-O-matic - a really good writer disguised as an animation director
2.Illustration Art - a really thought provoking teacher disguised as a lawyer
3. Royal Academy of Illustration & Design - four really good illustrators disguised as four lazy good-for-nothing bums
4.Mr. Ess's Ghettoass Studios - a really good musician/composer disguised as a teen-age boy ( my son )

Four places I would rather be right now:

1.The cottage we rent each summer in Haliburton - I just know it must be beautiful and serene up there right now.
2.Southern California - ok, its a complete contradiction but I HATE winter and have had just about enough!
3.Arizona/New Mexico - everything I've ever seen or heard about this part of the US makes me want to go live there. Right now.
4.In my time machine back to ten years younger and twenty pounds lighter.

Four bloggers I am tagging: Ben, Cameron, Kagan and Steve - because laughter is the best medicine and these Love Doctors will cure what ails us. Plus they share a studio and a blog so you'll only need to go to one site to read all their answers to this meme!

Puppy Love


Happy Valentine's Day!

You can find more art by Bob Hilbert in my Bob Hilbert Flickr set.

Vintage Valentines


Back in the day, before celebrity endorsers like SpongeBob SquarePants and those annoying Bratz grrls got in on the Valentines racket, we kids used to exchange cute little punched out cards by anonymous artists featuring generic little animals and children.

Oh, how I prayed the little girl with the long, straight chestnut-coloured hair two rows over and two desks up in Mrs. Macelraighth's grade 1 class would "Be My Valentine".

Well you too can relive those glorious days and fond memories over at Dan Goodsell's A Sampler of Things. Go check it out!

I've been tagged!

Monday, February 13, 2006

What's a "meme"? I don't even know how to pronounce the darn thing, why're you asking me?! Nevertheless good buddy Ward Jenkins, the evil genius behind The Ward-O-Matic and co-conspirator of Drawn! has tagged me to participate in a meme where I reveal a bunch of things about me in groups of four.

So tomorrow my Valentine's Day gift to you will be my answers - aren't you lucky?

War-time Love


In case you're planning on hunting down this 1944 issue of Good Housekeeping to read this whole story, I must warn you - I'm about to spoil the ending. Although you can't see it coming from Al Parker's illustration for "Call Me Biscuit", this short, sweet tale is about a lovely young lady who charms the old newshounds at the local paper with her sunny ( if somewhat dopey ) disposition. Little could they have guessed that she doesn't want to burden them with the knowledge that her beau is fighting the good fight overseas. Only after she's gone and a crumpled letter to her true love is discovered do the crusty old codgers truly come to realize how precious The Biscuit was.

Whew - I'm getting all misty.

Looking more like Al Dorne than Al Parker, the artist still manages to hint at the cleverness and experimentation he will become renowned for a decade later. Examples of that later work can be found in my Al Parker Flickr set.

Tricky Love

Friday, February 10, 2006


There's some really snappy patter in this amusing love story. Its a bit reminiscent of one of those great Cary Grant romantic comedies - no doubt intentionally so.
"I want to learn to cook all your favorite dishes, Joe. What do you like best? Carol asked. Joe said promptly, "Canned beans"

Now that's funny!

Cooper studios alumnus, Len Steckler, does a terrific job on the art chores for this piece. I love everything about it: the contemporary look ( for the times ) of the furniture, the little details like the partially peeled and forgotten orange and the pattern on the blue cushion, Carol's modern, short hairstyle and her kicked-off shoes, the dropped cushion...

Steckler's style is like a blend of Joe De Mers and Joe Bowler, just as proficient but because he was less often called upon to do these editorial assignments ( or perhaps chose to spend his time on more lucrative advertising work? ) he is not as well known or appreciated... or so I had thought.

It turns out that Steckler has had a diverse and successful career outside of the typical mainstream illustration market as a photographer and director/cinematographer for both film and television. You can find out more about Len Steckler at his own website.

You can find the full size versions of today's scans at my Flickr.

Yesterday and Today

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Yesterday was a bit of a milestone for Today's Inspiration: the ol' site meter rolled over the 10,000 visitors mark around noon. Very gratifying! But even more thrilling is to have received the honour of being featured today on Designers Who Blog. I hope new visitors who wind up here for the first time as a result will find the experience enjoyable. Welcome!

This might be a good time for me to highlight once again that the full size scans of the images posted here - plus hundreds of others - can be found in my Flickr sets. Also, many other mid-century enthusiasts have contributed scans of book covers, albums, packaging, and any other printed material you can think of at Mid-Century In Print. Kid-related visual ephemera that will blow your skirt up and set your mind reeling is available at The Retro Kid.

If you're a regular TI visitor and have never checked out Designers Who Blog, here's your chance to experience one of HOW's top 10 sites to see.

A special thanks to Linzie Hunter for recommending Today's Inspiration to Cat Morley for DWB. Thanx Linzie!

The Folklore of Love


"Raise a game rooster to eleven months old.Kill and draw before the body cools. Cut the heart out and swallow whole as fast as it can be removed, blood and all, and if she don't choke to death she will be married in eleven months." Yeesh! I think I'd rather stay single!

The editors at Collier's chose Joe Kaufman to illustrate this article on the folklore of love back in 1956. By then Kaufman had already exhibited his work at the Society of Illustrators (in 1945) and the Art Directors club (in '43).

Kaufman is an author and illustrator of many children's books including Busy People, How We Grow, Work and Learn, About the Big Sky and others.

Born in Bridgeport, Conn in 1911, a member of the Society of Illustrators and the Author's Guild, Kaufman resided in New York as of 2004, the last year in which I was able to locate information on him.

Songs About Love

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Nothing could be more romantic than wooing your baby in the woods at dusk while Henry Mancini, smiling like a maniac, wanders around in the periphery, snapping twigs under his feet, right?

An odd concept for an album cover, to be sure, though it probably made perfect sense at the time.

I've come across several covers by this artist and still can't figure out who it is. With all the flair of a doctor writing a script for the druggist to fill, this guy ( girl?) manages to reduce letterforms to an indecipherable scribble. I must have the soul of a cataloguer, because this frustrates the hell out of me.

Recognize this signature? Or care to make a good guess? Your suggestions are welcome.

Forbidden Love

Tuesday, February 07, 2006


"Mr. Barstow, who taught Latin and otherwise acted like a drone, had a secret passion.. one the school board would have looked upon with distinct disfavor"

Its not what you think. That misleading teaser had me thinking those 50's Cosmo editors were willing to broach the topic of teacher/ student romance, but it turns out Mr. Barstow's sweet on the newly arrived Typing and Office Practice teacher, Miss Wells. Hey, I had to find out!

This illustration, by the undisputed master of "the clinch", Jon Whitcomb, is especially refreshing for being so atypical of much of his work. Take a look at my Jon Whitcomb Flickr set for some examples of what I mean.

Also in the same issue of Cosmo is another installment of Jon Whitcomb's page, where the artist amuses us with anecdotes from his work day.
This time, Whitcomb relates how a new model brought in to pose with her handsome counterpart was unable to fake a passionate kiss. Whitcomb says "I stood in front of Miss A. and demonstrated" how to kiss Mr. R.

Now that sounds like a particularly amusing scenario! You can read the whole thing here. Click the "All Sizes" tab for the largest scan.

Superficial Love

Monday, February 06, 2006


As we begin the countdown to Valentines Day, I'll be posting images related to love. Here's a killer piece by Coby Whitmore when he was in his prime. What fascinates me about this type of piece is, not unlike porn imagery, the man is reduced in relevance to nothing more than body parts ( in this case hands ) so that we may better focus our attention on the superficial beauty of this "glitter girl".

Interesting to note the derisive tone of the bold copy at lower left.

You can find about thirty more images by Whitmore in my Coby Whitmore Flikr set.

Friday Morning Round-Up

Friday, February 03, 2006

I've got a bunch of loose ends that need tying up before the week ends so lets get right to 'em...

Art vs ART

Over at Illustration Art blog, David Apatoff has been posing some fascinating thoughts on the nature of art. I encourage you to read and comment!

M. Erath update

Remember a few days ago, that album cover by "M. Erath"? Well the other day I got a call from Margaret Erath in Arizona and it turns out she did do that cover! We only spoke briefly but she has promised to write to me with details about her career - which I will post here.

Scott Caple where are you?

I received an email from Pete Lewis looking to get in touch with Scott Caple, who commented a while back on Pete Hawley. Scott, email me at lpeng@cogeco.ca and we'll hook you up with Pete.

Star Wars Fan?

TI list member Krazy Ken Steacy has a MOUNTAIN of Star Wars stuff and its all got to go! I mean to THE BARE WALLS! He's willing to part with these valuable collector's items at CRAZY LOW PRICES! Is Ken CRAZY??? At these prices, HE MUST BE CRAZY! If you need more Star Wars stuff in your life, email me and I'll put you in touch with Ken.

What's not to love...


...about James Bond in an underwater knife-fight with an army of scubadiving henchmen?

We're even willing to forgive the impossibility of him holding his breath, countless fathoms below the ocean's surface, for countless minutes, while overpowering countless opponents because - hey - its James Bond.

If you'd like to see this painting, most likely by Frank McCarthy, uncropped and sans type elements, go to Thunderball Obsessional and you'll find it at bottom centre, along with the Robert McGuinness art from the movie.

Want to see this week's TI images at full size and all in one place? Go to my Flickr set of Illustrated Album Covers.

I should also mention the Flickr group, Retro Records, which is where I got the idea to take a look at album cover art. You'll find a lot of gems there - not just cool old illustrations, but great typography and hilarious old photos.

Next week: Love lost, love found, romantic love, torrid love, puppy love and any other kind of love as the countdown to Valentine's Day begins.

Herschel Levit (1912-1986)

Thursday, February 02, 2006


In the 1976 edition of "Who's Who in American Art", Herschel Levit is described as "painter, illustrator". Ten years later, in the 1986 edition, the year Levit died, he is described as "photographer, historian". Levit was also an author ( he both wrote and illustrated a book called "Just Point" ), muralist ( The Rowan School in Philadelphia, Recorder of Deeds building in Washington, US Post Office building in Leisville, Ohio & Jenkintown ) and teacher ( at both Pratt and Parsons ).

His work was exhibited at both the Met and the Whitney museums in New York, at Columbia University, the Chicago Institute of Fine Art, and the Boston Museum of Fine Art, among others.

I can't tell you if this terrific portrait, a bit reminiscent of the album cover art being done at that time by David Stone Martin, is typical of Levit's style, because I was unable to locate any other examples of his work.

"Cut Top Off Along Dotted Line..."

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


Let's all be grateful that this idea from Belioz Records back in the 50's (?) for packaging records never caught on. Print the cover art on a giant sandwich baggie and make the consumer cut the top off himself!

At least someone had the good taste to use this energetic Russell Patterson line art to decorate that record "jacket". I thought you might enjoy reading Patterson's bio in his own words, in his own hand-lettering even, along with a photo of the artist and a nice drawing at the National Cartoonists Society website.

There is a Patterson book in the works from Fantagraphics, which you can read about on their blog (scroll almost to the bottom of the page).
 

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