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

A Menagerie of Meyers Maidens

Friday, August 31, 2007


No lofty lessons or obscure ontology today. I thought we'd end our look at the work of Robert Meyers with a selection of lovely lasses (ok, there are some lads in there too).


Meyers had a way with women (yes, and men) that puts him in the good company of the other top artists of the Cooper studio. These are just a few examples of his deftness at delineating damsels... and dudes.



All of these images are available for closer inspection in my Robert Meyers Flickr set.

Robert Meyers: Master Composer

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Your might enjoy seeing an illustration of a beautiful woman or a race car or a puppy - but your brain probably won't tell your eyes to linger over an image for very long unless there is an underlying construct to the piece that it finds appealing on a more abstract level. This abstract construct is all about composition and picture design... and it doesn't just happen by accident. The thoughtful artist designs his picture very deliberately to keep your brain interested in looking at it... and Robert Meyers was clearly a very thoughtful artist.


The Famous Artists Course chapter on composition and picture design tells us, "most well-composed pictures attract attention to one carefully chosen point, which we call the "center of interest". This may be a single major form, or it may include a group of forms. The center of interest is the point to which we want the observer's eye to travel immediately. Therefore we will try to make it as interesting and clear as we can. In this area we will probably have the greatest contrasts in values and edges, the most texture, the sharpest detail. The design of the whole composition will be planned to take the eye directly to this spot and hold it there."


"After the observer has seen the major object or area that is being emphasized, his eye may wander away and enjoy surrounding or minor areas; but these will be handled in such a way that they return his eye eventually to the major idea which conveys the chief message of the painting."


"When you study the center of interest and the surrounding material... you will notice that certain shapes and rhythms appear prominently. For example, the major form you have chosen as the area of interest may suggest a cube or a cone, a sphere or a cylinder. Your picture will have greater unity if you find ways to repeat this idea, with minor variations, in the surrounding composition. It will help make this idea stronger if you also select a shape for emphasis which is a strong contrast with the major shape."


"For example, if the major shape is made of flowing curves, these curves will be emphasized by placing them against rigid verticals and horizontals. The curved forms in the major shape will be strengthened still more if you include related curves in other areas of the picture. Unity is gained by repeating ideas; variety is gained through varying these ideas or by setting them against strong contrasting ideas."

I hope you'll take a little time to examine these three pieces by Robert Meyers and see how he applied the principles described above to create such successful illustrations. They are, in my opinion, textbook perfect examples of top notch composition and picture design.

Need a closer look at the details? Go to my Robert Meyers Flickr set.

The Magnificent Meyers

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

There was nothing phony about Robert Meyers' illustration skills... he was simply magnificent.


Meyers did quite a few multiple image story assignments for The Saturday Evening Post during the 50's. Unlike some other illustrators who may have been pigeon-holed into illustrating one kind of subject matter or another, the Post's editors seem to have felt they could trust Meyers with any genre. His characters were always interesting, unique individuals appropriate to the story.


More importantly, Meyers was a master of strong composition. Given the opportunity to do a really involved piece like the one below, Meyers thoughtfully arranged line, colour and shape to compel the reader's eye to immediately locate the image's focal point.


I want to discuss Meyers' skill with composition in greater detail... but that will have to wait until tomorrow.

For now, enjoy studying these and some other pieces more closely in my Robert Meyers Flickr set.

* And if you haven't already done so, be sure to go to the comments section of yesterday's post to read some fascinating biographical information on Robert Meyers courtesy of Gary Temple, who co-authored a book on the artist, "Robert W. "Bob" Meyers, Artist of the South Fork."
You'll also find photos of the artist and additional details about his life and career at The Meadowlark Gallery.

Robert Meyers and the Wild, Wild West

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

There are so many wonderful 50's illustrators who've never received their due. I'm at a loss to explain why I've never showcased Robert Meyers' work before, because he is one of my favourites of that unrecognized group.


Unfortunately information on Meyers is really lacking. He isn't listed in Walt Reed's Illustrator in America and askart.com doesn't have a biography for him. And a Google Image Search turns up only an earlier post I did on this blog during a week long look at illustrating water.


But Meyers was a very regular contributor to The Saturday Evening Post during the 50's... and among his many story illustrations that have made me stop and say "wow!" is this cool Western genre series which, incidentally, sports one of the greatest title type faces I've ever come across.


Meyers' listing on askart.com includes several examples of his later work, all of which are Western themed, suggesting that Meyers may have been part of that great exodus of illustrators to the South West during the 60's. When magazine work dried up in the early 60's, many illustrators moved to places like New Mexico and did "fine art" gallery paintings featuring Western motifs. But I'm just speculating here...


This week, let's take a look at the work of Robert Meyers - and if you care to take a closer look at today's images (and a few more already archived) just go to my Robert Meyers Flickr set.

Chet Patterson Joins P&H

Friday, August 17, 2007

TI list member Bruce Hettema is the owner of P&H Creative Group and the author of an article in the current issue of Illustration magazine on the history of his Petaluma, California art studio, which began life in the 1920's in San Francisco as Patterson & Sullivan.

As the decades rolled on, there were many more changes to come in the agency - some of which were J.E.'s retirement and his nephew Chet Patterson's joining and eventual ownership of the firm.


Chet was born on January 24, 1920, in Berkeley, California, and attended the University of California Berkeley, but in his third year (eight months prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor when war seemed imminent), he decided to leave the university to join the Air Force and become a pilot. Chet was the first fighter pilot to down four enemy planes in his P38 airplane. He flew the Berlin mission and was awarded the Bronze Star and Croix de Guerre for his part in the Lucky Strike Program, a project that airlifted more than 42,000 allied prisoners of war from France and Germany.


After returning home from WWII, Chet accepted a one-year apprenticeship at Patterson & Hall, his uncle's advertising studio in San Francisco. One year turned into 40 years, and by 1950 Chet owned the agency. Under Chet's guidance, Patterson & Hall became the largest art service on the West Coast.


As with many members of theP&H staff, Chet was often called upon to serve as a model for the artists. With his expressive face and "everyday man" looks he soon became a favorite with the artists and appeared in many ads and illustrations.



You can find the full length version of this article in Illustration magazine #19.

P&S Becomes P&H

Thursday, August 16, 2007

TI list member Bruce Hettema is the owner of P&H Creative Group and the author of an article in the current issue of Illustration magazine on the history of his Petaluma, California art studio, which began life in the 1920's in San Francisco as Patterson & Sullivan.

The studio's key artist at this time was W. Haines Hall, who had joined the firm in 1925 and continued to be active in the business through the 1960's.


Haines, along with fellow employee Alton Painter, was a founding member of the Thirteen watercolorists (founded by Maynard Dixon and Maurice Logan). He was also active in the Bohemian Club, producing posters and portraits for their various events.


Seavey's cartoons of the P&S artists often portrayed Haines as the sage arbiter amidst the turmoil and pandemonium of a bustling art studio.


So, after Sullivan left the business in 1939 (or more accurately "the business left him", Hall was J.E.'s first choice to become his new partner.


This quite naturally led to a name change: Patterson & Sullivan became Patterson & Hall.


You can find the full length version of this article in Illustration magazine #19.

The Realities of Working in an Art Studio

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

TI list member Bruce Hettema is the owner of P&H Creative Group and the author of an article in the current issue of Illustration magazine on the history of his Petaluma, California art studio, which began life in the 1920's in San Francisco as Patterson & Sullivan.

"Pat" (Patterson) and "Sully" (Sullivan) ran a tight ship.


They were two business-minded individiuals who were bottom-line oriented, and they constantly pushed their artists to be more productive.

Stan Galli, who Patterson & Sullivan hired right out of the San Francisco Art Institute in the 1930's, remembers fellow art students warning him against going to work at that studio because it was too commercial. "But I needed a job. I needed to make some money, and they paid $40 a month."


Clyde Seavey (below) was a talented artist at P&S who, in the early 30's, did a series of humorous caricatures of all the P&S artists and a series of cartoons depicting, from the artist's perspective, the grueling existence of a staff artist.


It's an insightful and amusing look at daily life in the agency at that time, which included client demands, creative differences, and squeezing budgets.

You can find the full length version of this article in Illustration magazine #19.

P&S: Largest Art Service on the West Coast

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

TI list member Bruce Hettema is the owner of P&H Creative Group and the author of an article in the current issue of Illustration magazine on the history of his Petaluma, California art studio, which began life in the 1920's in San Francisco as Patterson & Sullivan.

In 1927, on the eve of the Great Depression but still celebrating Charles Lindbergh's historic hop across the Atlantic, P&S was prospering.


It employed more than a dozen artists, each with his or her own specialty: product, still life, automotive, fashion, portraits - you name it. P&S artists could put pen, ink, paper, and brush together to produce ideas and illustrations that virtually leapt off the page to sell products and sevices.


In addition to their illustration services, P&S employed a staff of graphic designers and calligraphic artists plus a comprehensive typographic department. As Patterson & Sullivan's reputation grew, they began attracting many of the country's top illustrators.


In the early years, artists such as John Atherton ( whose work now hangs in museums across the country), Stan Galli, Paul Carey, Jack Painter, Haines Hall, Gib Darling, and Amado Gonzalez worked for the agency.


Tomorrow: The realities of working in an art studio.

You can find the full length version of this article in Illustration magazine #19.

Patterson & Sullivan

Monday, August 13, 2007

When we think of artists - even commercial artists - we often imagine someone working alone in a quiet room, far from the bustle of a typical office environment. But artists - especially commercial artists - have just as often gathered in groups to share studio space, enjoy the social interaction of the busy workplace, and attract more clients by offering a larger variety of graphic arts services that only an expansive studio can provide. Just last week I made reference to a Chicago powerhouse called Kling Studios and we've looked at length at the reknowned New York studio owned by Charles E. Cooper... but what about the West Coast?


TI list member Bruce Hettema is the owner of P&H Creative Group and the author of an article in the current issue of Illustration magazine on the history of his Petaluma, California art studio, which began life in the 1920's in San Francisco as Patterson & Sullivan. Bruce, with the blessing of Illustration magazine editor, Dan Zimmer, has graciously offered to give us an abridged look at the contents of his article this week. My thanks to both gentlemen for sharing this fascinating story, which begins below:


J.E. Patterson came from a big agency background where, as an art director/layout man, you were expected to design the ad, then pass it off to a "finish man" to do the final art - even if he wasn't the best suited artist for the job.

The philosophy at Patterson & Sullivan's new studio was to assemble a capable team of talented artists versed in a wide range of styles. They felt that if they could have the best artists available, they could deliver a better product than the ad agency could produce with its own in-house talent.

The 1920's were halcyon years in California. San Francisco was becoming the West Coast's hub of advertising, and the agency quickly proved to be successful beyond the young artists' dreams. Advertising agencies quickly discovered the benefits of hiring P&S, and soon P&S was attracting high-profile clients such as Southern Pacific Railroad, Dole, Del Monte Corporation, Stanford University, Standard Oil, Matson Lines, and Dollar Steamship Lines.


Tomorrow: A look at the art and artists of Patterson & Sullivan.

You can find the full length version of this article in Illustration magazine #19.

C.H. Roberts & Harry Borgman

Sunday, August 12, 2007


After I posted Friday's Ford Times illustrations by Charles Harper, one reader commented that it would be great to see some work by C.H. (Cliff) Roberts and Harry Borgman.


Both artists were also contributors to Ford's magazine for 50's motorists. Though I was unaware of the work of these two gentlemen, I hoped someone out there might be able to educate us with some examples of their art.


Well, thanks to an anonymous donor, we now have all these wonderful scans to enjoy!


Roberts seems to have worked in many styles...



...and his eclectic approach to flat, cartoony art suggest to me that he might have been a fan of Jim Flora's work.


Our anonymous contributor only found one example of Harry Borgman's art (below) but it too is done is an exciting style that leaves us wishing for more.


Many thanks for finding these images, AC, and for taking the time to scan them for us!

Fishing with Charles Harper

Friday, August 10, 2007

The purpose of this book is quite simple. It is to help American motorists get more pleasure out of recreational opportunities offered by their family cars.


It has been stated–this is probably more of a guess than a statistic–that Americans depend on their motor cars for 80 per cent of their outdoor recreation.


In any event, it can hardly be denied that over the past fifty years the automobile has given us an increasingly greater participation in outdoor activities.


It is a fact that nowadays every trout in America is in danger for its life.



This, then, is a tourist's-eye view of America outdoors, made up of selected articles which appeared during the past few years in the Ford Times and Lincoln-Mercury Times, periodicals which are distributed by Ford, Lincoln, and Mercury dealers as a courtesy to their neighbours and customers.


Modest in purpose, the book may perhaps suggest a concept which stands simple, clear, and understandable ina confused world–the concept of a young, vigorous people at play in a great land.


From "Ford Treasury of the Outdoors", published by Simon and Schuster, New York. Copyright 1952 by Ford Motor Company, Dearborn, Michigan.

*All of these images have been added to my Fishing Flickr set and my Charles Harper Flickr set.
 

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