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

Today's Inspiration Is On Vacation

Monday, July 26, 2010

I'm taking a week off...

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TI will return on August 3rd!

'60s British illustration: "... a great but little known era"

Friday, July 23, 2010

Guest author David Roach concludes his description of the fabulous new book, Lifestyle Ilustrations of the '60s, just released in the UK and Europe by the new publishing house Fiell and edited by Rian Hughes
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Hopefully the book will stand as a fitting tribute to a great but little known era and the artists who helped define it, but I’m all too aware of how much more there is to discover.

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I was amazed when writing about the artists how difficult it was to find out anything about Lynn Buckham (below) for instance - indeed for most of the time researching his career I didn’t even know if he was even a "he"… or a "her."

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There is even less information around about the Brits. Thankfully some giants of the artform such as Walter Wyles (below) are still with us.

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But far too many have just disappeared from sight entirely. One of the very most talented Brits in the book is Eric Earnshaw (below) and yet to date I have been unable to find out anything at all about his life or career. It is as if he has simply vanished entirely, as if he had never been born almost.

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Well, the fight back starts here.

David A Roach – July 2010

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* Lifestyle Illustrations of the '60s is available at Amazon.com

The Making of "Lifestyle Illustration of the '60s"

Thursday, July 22, 2010

By guest author David Roach

For the book itself I was brought in as the historical expert (number one in a field of one as Mad magazine used to say!) but the driving force behind the project was artist, designer and all round rennaiscence man Rian Hughes who selected the images and designed the book.

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This his recollection of how the project came to be:

“I'd first been aware of Coby Whitmore and Al Parker via Shane Gline's blog, and of course a bit later via Lief's excellent TI. I then did three years of research at the archives of UK magazine publishers, the British Library and Colindale Newspaper Library (where I shot the rarer pop and late 60s magazines) and laboriously edited together the best work from UK sources which reprinted the best of the US and UK material to prepare a proposal - a mock up cover design, a "sales pitch" description, and a sampling of the images - pages and pages of thumbnails."

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"I have known Charlotte and Peter Fiell since I designed Peter Fiell's mid century modern furniture showroom in the King's Road around 20 years ago. They had moved on to become the British editors at Taschen, so I first pitched the idea to them. They then left Taschen and set up their own imprint, Fiell, and asked me to come on board as a kind of "pop culture" book advisor, and agreed to do the Lifestyle Illustration and Custom Lettering books. I then arranged to scan and retouch the material."

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"The magazines were scanned with the help of Alexis Sheffield, and retouched with the help of Steve Cook (ex 2000AD art editor and photoshop tutor at the London College of Fashion). Type taken off, colour corrected and so on. The photo shoots and canning sessions were laborious processes which took place at IPC, the British Library and Colindale, where I hired a room and shot in situ."

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"At some point here (I forget at which stage exactly) I also asked David if he would like to get involved, and he kindly showed me his collection, some of which (the Spanish contingent!) made it into the book, and was an essential part of the later period that the book covers. I laid out the book and then sent the PDF files to David, from which he pulled together the threads of the story."

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"From pitch to printed book was around three and a half years.”

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Concluded tomorrow...

* Lifestyle Illustrations of the '60s is available at Amazon.com

American Artists in '60s Britain: "... they went where the work was."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

By guest author David Roach

* David continues his description of the fabulous new book, Lifestyle Ilustrations of the '60s, just released in the UK and Europe by the new publishing house Fiell and edited by Rian Hughes

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Many of the best illustrations in British Womens magazines were American (and indeed, around half of the artwork in the collection is by American artists). Often these were reprints of works originally created for Cosmopolitan, McCalls or Good Housekeeping (sold as second rights only) but in many cases these were created specifically for the UK. The book charts the evolution of the American involvement in the UK and presents a slightly different picture of the true greats of the era.

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The dominant artists, particularly in the early part of the decade are names that will be very familiar to regular readers of TI: Bernie Fuchs, Joe Bowler, Coby Whitmore, Joe DeMers and Al Parker.

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The British art editors were well aware of how talented they were and used their pictures in great numbers. In turn the British artists were clearly inspired to up their game and try to compete with their transatlantic rivals. Perhaps not surprisingly some were resentful of the unwanted competition but there’s no doubt that exposure to American innovations was a major factor in the best of the Brits transforming their approach to illustration.

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But as the '60s progressed a new group of American artists began to assert themselves and looking over the decade as a whole it is not Fuchs, Bowler or Whitmore who are the dominant artists, it is instead Andy Virgil (below), Lynn Buckham, Herb Tauss, Bill Whittingham and Ben Wohlberg.

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Had the American market not collapsed these would have been the next generation of stars competing with the more established names but as things turned out they had to look further afield for work- and it was Britain who was buying. You can read about Andy Virgil's struggles as an artist on his wife Anita’s poignant and moving blog on this very site ( just click on the link to the right ) but the others remain obscure figures even now.

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You won’t find listings for Virgil, Buckham or Wittingham in Walt Reed's Illustrator In America book but they were artistic giants. Buckham (above) is by far the most prolific artist in Lifestyle Illustrators Of The '60s ( with over 60 paintings included in the book ) and one of the reasons for this, along with his obvious talents as an artist is that he took the drastic step of actually moving to the UK, as did Herb Tauss and David Grove (below).

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They went where the work was, but an unwanted side effect of this was to make them less appreciated in their homeland than they should be.

Continued tomorrow...

* Lifestyle Illustrations of the '60s is available at Amazon.com

British Illustrators of the '60s: "inventiveness and mastery of their craft"

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

By guest author David Roach

* David continues his description of the fabulous new book, Lifestyle Ilustrations of the '60s, just released in the UK and Europe by the new publishing house Fiell and edited by Rian Hughes

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Those with long memories might recall a posting I wrote a few years back about a number of British artists who were working back then , none of whom I had ever heard of before and who are now completely forgotten. This book will hopefully redress that balance.

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What is clear from leafing through the 1500 or so illustrations in the book is that Britain had its own group of great commercial artists who could absolutely match the Americans for inventiveness and mastery of their craft though up ‘til now they have had no record of that work and no recognition.

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The leading British artists included Walter Wyles, John Heseltine, Eric Easrnshaw, Michael Johnson , Brian Sanders, Stanley Coleman, Frank Hasseler Ron Atkinson, Cecil Vieweg and Gerry Fancett. Google them and in most cases all you’ll find are links to TI, such is the extent to which they have disappeared from the publics consciousness.

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Anyone who has looked into the last great flowering of American Illustration, those great magazine illustrators of the Cooper and Fredman Chaite studios will find the same lament; everything was going great until around 1960, 1964 or 1965 ( accounts differ) when everything just stopped. But not in Britain.

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For once we can all be grateful that the UK lagged behind America and while Photography and television gradually eroded away the market for illustrated fiction, it was still an integral part of most British magazines until well into the 70s.

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The best of the Brits were very much the equal of anything coming out of the US and were able to experiment with highly creative compositions, inventive uses of colour and paint ( typically the wonderfully smeary/gloopy luiquitex) and some plain old beautiful drawing. For those wondering “what if” the golden era of US illustration had lasted another decade...

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... the answer is here.

Continued tomorrow...

* Lifestyle Illustrations of the '60s is available at Amazon.com

Lifestyle Illustrations of the '60s

Monday, July 19, 2010

By guest author David Roach

* This week, David describes how a momentous new book came about and gives us an exclusive sneak peek at its contents. - Leif

The estimable Mr. Leif Peng has very kindly allowed this week's installments of Today's Inspiration to be given over to some shameless self promotion so before we begin I want to apologise in advance for such naked hucksterism.

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There is a book, you see, edited by Rian Hughes with text by myself and stuffed to its 580 pages with rather nice pictures, which we think you might just find a little bit interesting. While this blog usually stays away from the cold, hard world of commerce hopefully you will indulge us just this once. The book in question is called Lifestyle Ilustrations of the '60s...

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... just released in the UK and Europe by the new publishing house Fiell, which collects together the very best story illustrations from British Women's magazines of the '60s (including such titles as Woman , Womans Own, Homes And Gardens and Womans Mirror).

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Like their American counterparts the British magazines commissioned the best artists of the era including many of the top US talents and as far as I know this is the first book anywhere in the world to anthologise this most neglected area of illustration.

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Or to put it another way, it is basically Today's Inspiration in one big, thick volume.

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Continued tomorrow...

* Lifestyle Illustrations of the '60s is available at Amazon.com

Phil Hays' New Website

Friday, July 16, 2010

Alex Gross has put together a website showcasing the art of illustrator Phil Hays.

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I really like Hays' work from the 1950s, when he was doing artwork like the examples shown here. On Alex's new Phil Hays website, you'll find a few examples from this early stage in the illustrator's career, but for the most part, the site showcase's Hays' later period, when he had dramatically altered his style.

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The change is quite startling and curious. Off the top of my head I can't think of another mid-century illustrator who's style underwent such a radical overhaul. If there was a transition period, it isn't documented in the site's gallery.

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Hays seems to have made a big splash when he arrived on the scene in New York in the mid-'50s, as this little article from the December 1956 Cosmo would suggest:

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Below are a group of scans courtesy of Tom Watson, from the 1959 NY Art Directors Annual. That Hays was having so many entries accepted to the AD show in one year certainly confirms his mercurial ascent in New York's illustration circles.

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If Hays' work from this period reminds you a little of Jack Potter or even early Bob Peak, you're not alone. I'd say that between the three of them, Peak, Potter and Hays pretty much 'cornered the market' on this style for a few years in the late '50s.

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When Tom and I first corresponded about this group of artists, he astutely wrote, "...not sure who stole who's style... my guess is Peak stole Potter's style. Potter's work was more consistent in style than Peak's work. Peak seemed to be always trying something new..."

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Tom continued, "In my opinion, Phil Hays was a good illustrator, and showed occasional moments of brilliance, but was not on the same level as Potter and Peak. Hays may have been stealing ideas from both Potter and Peak. But then, I guess no style is 100% uniquely yours."

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Certainly a reasonable conclusion - and it might explain why Phil Hays didn't stay committed to this style over the long haul. The website doesn't provide any explanation of why Hay's work changed so dramatically, but there are plenty of other interesting facts about Hays and some really great vintage photos of the artist. Well worth a look!

Many thanks to Tom Watson for providing the b/w scans in today's post and - I apologize to whomever contributed the colour, horizontal format scan near the top - I've forgotten who it was, but thanks!

Check out The Art of Phil Hays website

* My Phil Hays Flickr set.

A Gift from the Trap of Solid Gold

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Last March I received a note from Steve Scott. It began, "I write a blog on author John D MacDonald, a guy who wrote hundreds of short stories for magazines of the forties and fifties, and I own a pile of old magazines containing his work."

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"Mostly I simply use scans of old covers -- ones I own or ones I found on the web -- but I occasionally do the inside magazine artwork if I can. I have to confess that I already nicked a couple of your scans for my blog: Thornton Utz's "Hangover" and Arpie Ermoyan's "The Trouble with Erica."

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Steve continued, "I'd be happy to send you copies of anything I scan for use on your blog, assuming I don't already see it in your collection." And not long thereafter, Steve sent some really terrific images by one of my favourite mid-century illustrators, Thornton Utz. Its those images which decorate today's post.

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Steve explained, "I started wondering how I learned [about] the friendship between Utz and MacDonald. A little digging and I uncovered the April 1957 issue of Cosmopolitan. It's their Florida issue and it contains the attached photo of Utz, MacDonald and yet another artist neighbor, Al Buell."

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"This issue features a MacDonald work illustrated by Buell..."

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"... plus another Utz work illustrating a story by Thornton Delehanty."

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Steve concludes, "I'm sure to come across more illustrations by this great artist and I'll be sure to forward them on to you when I do."

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Many thanks, Steve! Besides seeing once again what a versatile illustrator Utz was, its interesting to discover that he, Al Buell and John D. MacDonald were close friends and neighbours.

* Steve's blog is called The Trap of Solid Gold, named after a John D. MacDonald short story. Be sure to drop by there and check it out!

* My Thornton Utz Flickr set.

More Treasures from Sheilah Beckett

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sheilah Beckett's son Sean Smith writes, "Dave Smart, the editor of Esquire, was a big fan of my mother and father's work and thought - as my mother was doing children's book work - she would be a natural for a holiday cover."

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(You can see the name of Sheilah's husband, J. Frederick Smith, listed in the cover's sidebar among that issue's art contributors)

I asked Sean if this cover was an important one in Sheilah's career and he replied, "Yes it was an important piece at the time. She also had my brother over her left shoulder as she worked on the piece (him then being only a few months old)."

It struck me that such a high-profile assignment must have impressed potential clients and perhaps resulted in Sheilah getting more advertising projects (which was, of course the proven successful strategy at the Charles E. Cooper studio, where Sheilah was represented).

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Sean wrote back, "my mother was getting work on a weekly basis through Cooper's. She feels she was getting a lot of the work because the men were off in service and not available."

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Of course Sheilah's true passion was for story book illustration, which she was doing all the while as well. Below, three originals from Grosset & Dunlap's, "The Big Picture Mother Goose Book" which Sheilah illustrated in 1957.

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Sean wrote, "We went through a trunk and came up with some even earlier work - some my mother didn't even remember doing, I will get them scanned and send them along too."


I know I won't be alone in saying we're really looking forward to that - many thanks to Sean and Sheilah!

* If you're a fan of Sheilah Beckett's artwork, why not join the Sheilah Beckett Facebook Fan page? There you'll see many other examples of Sheilah's work and have the opportunity to correspond with her directly.

* My Sheilah Beckett Flickr set.
 

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