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

Andy Virgil

Monday, July 31, 2006


There's really no information about Andy Virgil that I've been able to find. He seems to have arrived on the scene around 1955 out of nowhere. Perhaps he was honing his skills, uncredited, on advertising work? But where and for whom remains a mystery at this point.

Art Seiden, American

Friday, July 28, 2006


American magazine used a steady roster of tradition painterly illustrators for its fiction articles during the 1950's. But for some reason Art Seiden was chosen to illustrate this August 1951 story, The Ornamental Hen. Whatever it was that struck the art editor's fancy to choose Seiden, one could only wish it had struck more often... unfortunately this is the only example I've come across in my stack of American mags.

You can see the back-up piece Seiden did for this article here.

Frank McCarthy

Thursday, July 27, 2006


My Frank McCarthy Flickr set will be growing substantially in the near future. A recently arrived pile of mid-fifties Collier's magazines contains a wealth of top-notch illustrations by the artist. Expect to see more of them here soon!

Good Housekeeping with Naiad Einsel

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Naiad Einsel started getting regular assignments from Good Housekeeping with AD John English's arrival at the magazine in 1960. "John English was great. I saw him in person when I picked up & delivered sketches & finished art." says Naiad, "It was a big deal getting regular assignments from Good Housekeeping."

You can find a bunch more of these yellow-backgrounded pieces for Good Housekeeping in my Naiad & Walter Einsel Flickr set.

Robert McCall

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

You might have noticed an ad for Robert McCall from the Cooper Studio shown here a couple of weeks ago.

This image plus a dozen more at full size in my Robert McCall Flickr set.

No theme this week

Monday, July 24, 2006


I've been locked out of my Blogger account all day, which is probably just as well because I've decided to not do a theme this week, thereby saving myself from researching and writing. As much as I love writing these posts, I've been committing too much free time to this blog when I should be working on my "real" job (the one that pays the bills).

So... this week (and maybe for the next few weeks, actually) I'll just be posting an image each day without too much commentary. Of course your comments are always most welcome!

There are 8 more scans by this artist in my Frederic Varady Flickr set.

email problems

Friday, July 21, 2006

If you're on the Today's Inspiration mailing list and haven't received your scan today - my apologies. The list has grown beyond the limitations of my mail server and subsequently my ISP shut me down yesterday on suspicion of spamming.

I'm trying to find a work-around so sit tight!

1950's Chicago..."Art City"


Forget New York - if you were an illustrator looking for work in 1952 the place to go was Chicago.


"It's small wonder Chicago leads the world in the art studio business," writes James A. Shanahan, Managing Director of The Association of Art Studios of Chicago in the November 1952 issue of AD&SN. "Chicago is the economic center of the United States. The U.S.A. center of population is now in Southern Illinois; the center of industry is in Northern Indiana; the center of agriculture is on the border line between Missouri and Iowa. If you describe a 500-mile radius circle around the city of Chicago, you will find within that circle's orbit:

37% of the nation's population. 34% of all the manufacturing firms producing 46% of the nation's total manufacturing output. 36% of the nation's wholesale firms. 38% of the nation's retail firms. And half of the nation's eighteen cities of more than 500,000 population."

"In this great 'economic center' of the United States," Mr. Shanahan goes on to write, "there is the largest and best equipped 'art city' in the Western Hemisphere. There is no other similar area that offers the concentration of artists, designers, illustrators and photographers that is grouped together on Chicago's 'near north side'".

Chicago boasts the largest art studios in the world," says Shanahan, "some of which approach $1,000,000 in monthly billings."

Later in that same issue, Beth Turnbull, Secretary of the Artists Guild of Chicago, writes, "Chicago is now recognized as a center of commercial art and the Artists Guild [has] more than 600 dues-paying members."

Clearly there was plenty of work for illustrators in Chicago - if rather less fame. It would seem that while the large full-service studios ruled in Chicago, the work was more often for industry, trade, packaging and display work. Few studios put much emphasis on their roster of illustrators and those that did had fewer high-profile "name" artists than did the New York studios.


Still, as James A. Shanahan writes near the end of his article, "If you had owned a certain ten Chicago art studios during July, August and September of 1951, you would have had a sales total of $1,166,553.30 for art and photography alone."

Decorative and Cartoony Styles

Thursday, July 20, 2006


I mentioned at the beginning of the week that none of the covers of these 1952/53 issues of AD&SN displayed realistic styles; that within the confines of the trade, art directors seemed to prefer to show each other what would have been hip new styles, while using illustrators with more traditional "realistic" styles when addressing the public through the print medium.

Many of the ads for art studios seem to try to capture the attention of potential art buyers in the same manner. Cooper Studios seems to have been the exception (based on my limited sampling). Both Fredman-Chaite and Kling, most likely Cooper's biggest competitors, ran ads using cartoony, decorative styles.

What I find interesting about all this is it shows how slow the pace of change was - it would be several years before art directors and clients would begin pushing stylized, decorative illustration - almost a decade, in fact.

For the time being, realistic style illustrators could rest assured that they would be getting the lion's share of the choicest assignments.

Don Komisarow + Lou Fine = Donlou!


The combination of wacky weather and summer vacation must have been affecting the internet yesterday... first I couldn't log into my Blogger account, then later in the day, Flickr went down! As a result, this follow-up on Don Komisarow Studios never got posted.

TI list member Armando Mendez emailed me with some background info on who Don Komisarow was and agreed to let me post his message here:

Don Komisarow was Lou Fine's partner after WWII to sometime in the 1950s. Although Komisarow was a cartoonist in his own right, he mostly inked Fine's work and handled all the business arrangements, including introducing Fine to comic strip work sometime in 1945. When histories talk about Lou Fine's "studio," it usually means the shop Fine and Komisarow operated together.

Your ad is the first I've ever seen. I think it is Fine. Agree?

According to Ron Goulart, Fine and Komisarow worked first for Johnstone and Cushing, then left to work on accounts independently. Komisarow was quite the go-getter as agent, getting an impressive list of clients for the team: Pepsi Cola, Phillip Morris, General Foods, Wildroot Cream Hair Tonic, RKO Pictures (remember the movie ad for Farmer's Daughter?) and Toni Home Permanent, and the appearance of such characters as Sam Spade, Lucille Ball, and Mr. Coffee Nerves. Fine and Komisarow were responsible for The Throp Family (as "Donlou") with writer Lawrence Lariar that was serialized in Liberty magazine that you featured before as well as a "lost" strip from 1949 called "Taylor Woe" (the strip is listed as produced and sold but no example has been found as yet.)

I'm not sure when or why Komisarow and Fine parted, but Fine's late work (Adam Ames, Peter Scratch) was solo.


My thanks, as always, to Mando for sharing his wealth of knowledge on these matters with us.

Don't Do It!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006






Why Speculation Hurts
A couple of things from the last few days created a convergence that I felt I couldn't ignore. I'd recently discovered one of those fabulous internet time-wasters, a place called The Drawing Board.

I've been enjoying the artwork and comments posted there, but was shocked (in a bad way) to discover in their classified section, this ad.

That same day, while flipping through my new collection of 1952/53 AD&SN magazines, I came across the article at left. Whattaya know, even half a century ago, when illustration was a much more respected profession than it is today, there were "clients" of the sort who had so little regard for artists, they expected us to work for free.

I was going to go on a tirade about this, but I found this fantastic article on the subject by a writer I greatly respect, Mark Evanier, thanks to one of the posters at The Drawing Board - thanks Cedric.

Everyone who makes their living with their creativity, whether illustrator, designer, art director, -whatever - whether new to the field or seasoned vet, should read this well-written article and take it to heart.

DON'T DO SPEC.

Comic Strip Advertising



Many readers will recall my post about advertising comic strip studio, Johnstone & Cushing - but there were other players in that field, as I've discovered from flipping through these old issues of Art Director & Studio News. The most prominent ads I found are from Don Komisarow Studios, but as with all mysteries, one clue seems to open the door to more questions than answers. Was Don Komisarow an artist? How many people actually worked at Don Komisarow Studios?
Based on the art in these ads, can anyone identify the style(s) as being that of any known comic book artist(s) of the day?

What must have been particularly galling for DKS at that time was that Johnstone and Cushing was running only tiny spot ads like those shown at left, peppered throughout each issue of AD&SN, yet they were not only getting tons of high-profile advertising clients, they were even getting mentioned in articles like this one for the redesign of Boys' Life magazine.


A distant third-runner was Vic Herman Studios, which ran the occassional (and by comparison, rather dull) small space ad in the back pages of AD&SN.

Mining for Gold

Monday, July 17, 2006



One of my most exciting recent acquisitions was a stack of old Art Director & Studio News magazines. Its from those magazines that last week's series of Cooper Studio ads came, and this week I'll be showing you a selection of art, ads and articles that help fill in some of the gaps in the history of illustration - and provide a window onto American culture in the mid-20th century as filtered through an ad industry lens.

I've really enjoyed pouring through these magazines, putting faces to the names of artists I've come across in other publications, and coming to understand how vast, sophisticated and competitive the business of illustration was half a century ago.

One interesting observation I can already make: AD&SN pushed highly stylized graphics on its covers and in its many articles on awards given out around the country. While magazines aimed at the general public were still deeply entrenched with the look of illustrative realism, art directors, when addressing their peers, were pushing boundaries of visual acceptability.

A happy result of their efforts is my finally being able to identify an artist who's work I'd admired - but whom I'd know only as "JA". His cover and interior ad art credit line identifies him as John Averill from Chicago. He did a long series of ads for 7-Up, a few of which you can see in my new John Averill Flickr set.

Pete Hawley's cute kiddies

Saturday, July 15, 2006



Perhaps it was the cute kiddies Pete Hawley did in the late 50's for Bell Telephone that led to this (early 60's?) series of collectable wall-plaques. They are offered on ebay with great regularity. I had seen some small photos of them there but it was through the generosity of Margeret-Ann McCornack that I was finally able to add some decent size scans to my Pete Hawley Flickr set.

"I don't have any recollection of where I bought the plaques. Most likely in 1972 or '73 at a yard sale in Connecticut to decorate my (then) little girl's room." writes Margeret-Ann.

I'm very grateful that she took the time and effort to scan and send these plaques so that we could all enjoy them again - many thanks, Margeret-Ann!

"You certainly get interesting email."


That's what a friend wrote to me recently and he's right. He was referring to something I had forwarded to him... these photos and the accompanying note from the owner of a damaged piece of original art by Coby Whitmore. "Is it possible that this is of Marilyn Monroe?" he wondered. The owner had found my blog while searching for info on the artist. I sent him to The Illustration House's Walt Reed, because Walt simply is the leading authority on such matters. Sure enough, Walt was able to provide some good background information and a professional assessment of the piece:

Your picture is not of Marilyn Monroe. I recognize the model as one that Coby Whitmore used for several early story illustrations while he was at Cooper studios.
It is sad to see the condition. There are many paint losses and some bad attempt at restoration on an arm. By all means it should be repaired, but by a competent professional. Coby usually worked with designer's colors, a water soluble water color made by Winsor and Newton. It may cost a few hundred dollars, but well worth the investment, the picture is not worth much as it stands.


The owner asked me to pass along to readers that he will entertain serious offers for the piece. Anyone interested can email me and I will put you in touch with him.

The Charles E. Cooper Studio

Friday, July 14, 2006

"The Charles E. Cooper Studio, from its inception in 1935, throught the next three decades...held a preeminent position in the commercial art world", writes Neil Shapiro in the current (#16) issue of Illustration magazine.
This week, a look at some rarely seen ads for the Cooper studio from a trade publication called Art Director and Studio News, with accompanying text from the article graciously provided courtesy of the author and Illustration magazine editor Dan Zimmer. To read the full, fascinating story be sure to order a copy of the magazine. Part 2 of Neil's article will be appearing in Illustration #18.

"I work for a group of artists."


"By the early 60's, an era was drawing to a close. 'Basically,' says [Cooper artist] Murry Tinkelman, "I think the boy-girl business that was the heart and soul of the studio, was becoming obsolete. And the nature of the studio business was becoming obsolete: the idea of three floors in some of the most expensive real estate in the world was just too much.'

The studio closed its doors in the mid-60's, after which Cooper started a smaller operation. He made attempts at using his former artist, such as Bob Jones... but as Jones puts it, 'Nothing ever materialized.' Murray Tinkelman's last memory of Charles Cooper was 'seeing him in a one-room office, thinking how sad it was that such an innovative and powerful force in the business ended up that way.'

Charles E. Cooper died in 1974, at age 73. Bob Jones says, 'I think Chuck died from having nothing to do.'


According to Joe Bowler, 'The most important thing you could write about Chuck Cooper is what I heard when I first started out. Someone asked Chuck what he did, and he said, 'I work for a group of artists.' At that time, every other studio head, when asked what they did, said, 'I have a bunch of artists working for me' Chuck always had the idea that the artist was number one. It was what made him unique in the business.'"


*You can read the entire article by author Neil Shapiro in the 16th issue of Illustration magazine.

The Rise of "Photo Illustration" and Television

Thursday, July 13, 2006


"New technological advances were making photography an increasingly attractive alternative to illustration. As James Bama, a... Cooper veteran...remembers: 'In 1953, Tri-X film came out. This was fast film, with a 400 rating. All of a sudden the camera could do what the illustrator could do - shoot in darker conditions or shoot faster. They could submit 20 photographs for the one sketch an illustrator could do in the same time. Photography really clobbered a lot of illustrators.'

At the same time, the impact of television on American culture was just beginning to be felt. Advertising dollars were being steered away from print media like magazines, and into broadcasting. As Walt Reed puts it, 'Managers couldn't afford to run full page ads in magazines and pay the huge television fees. Naturally the went where they got the most for their buck... that's what killed the magazines. Publishers were losing money on every issue they sold. They couldn't last very long doing that.'

Charles Cooper's son, Peter, remembers his his time there as a salesman: 'Advertising had changed tremendously, because of television. I'd say, 'Dad, you've got to do something here. We're getting killed.' He'd say, 'No, just go out and sell some more illustration.' Well, nobody was buying illustrations.'"


*You can read the entire article by author Neil Shapiro in the 16th issue of Illustration magazine.

"Everyone wanted to go to Cooper's"

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


"As successful and prestigious as its advertising work was, what set the Cooper Studio apart from other top studios of the time (like the Fredman-Chaite studio in New York or the Kling studio in Chicago) was Chuck Cooper's approach to the editorial illustrations his staff did. Cooper took no commission on editorial work. He figured (correctly, as it turned out) that the prestige his artists would garner from having their work grace the pages of [the] leading magazines of the day would only reflect well on his studio.

As Joe Bowler, a top artist at the studio put it, 'That's one of the reasons why everyone wanted to go to Cooper's. [Cooper] realized that if [his artists] were in the magazines, their names became known, and they attracted more business for the studio.'"


*You can read the entire article by author Neil Shapiro in the 16th issue of Illustration magazine. As well, you'll find addition scans of Fredman-Chaite and Kling studios ads at my Flickr.

"He understood what artists needed"

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


"Although [Charles E. Cooper's] training was in art...his skills were more on the organizational side. He understood what artists needed and made sure they had it.

As much as he could, Cooper provided a hassle-free environment for his artists at his studio. From a 1945 article in American Artist:

"There is nothing'arty' or bohemian about the Cooper Studio; its plan is functionally designed and its business practice is geared to that of modern industry which is its client. Individual studios for member artists have north light and sound-proof doors entering hallways. There is a complete photographic studio with darkroom, costume room and two dressing rooms. An assembly and shipping room is centrally located. The conference room, a large salesman's room with files of artist's samples, a library and general business offices take up the remaining space."


Walt Reed of Illustration House in New York ...observ[ed]: "The Cooper Studio [was] the ultimate in expert artists - top name artists - employed in a common purpose."

*You can read the entire article by author Neil Shapiro in the 16th issue of Illustration magazine.
 

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