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

Horace C. Gaffron: "... just incredible"

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

By guest author David Roach

A few examples of good wholesome apple pie covers from the '30s and '40s for you. The artist is Horace C. Gaffron and in my opinion he’s just incredible – not too far behind Rockwell in sheer drawing ability.

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So why am I showing them to you? Because it turns out he’s a Brit! I’m pretty sure he was the first British artist to move to the US as a professional illustrator ( Robert Fawcett was a Brit too of course, but I don’t think he ever actually worked in the UK ).

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More than that he was a veteran of the Somme who lost his leg there but actually lived to 102.

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He seems to have returned to Britain in the '50s where he drew for various children's annuals and in the '60s he worked for Look And Learn painting religious themes.

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What I’d love to know is what else he did in America and why I’d never heard of his U.S. work before. Some websites list him as American but he’s definitely not – his nickname was Jock for heavens sake!

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I wonder if anyone else has heard of him – he seems to be something of a lost Illustration giant – I mean just look at that Christmas cover!

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One other thing worth mentioning is the very unusual cover layout Gaffron often used, where we have a big image and underneath it a smaller, wider angle that either comments, expands or undermines the main image. Sort of like a two panel comic strip and surely unique in cover design.

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I’m really thrilled and very intrigued to hear what, if anything, this post brings out of the woodwork. I’d love it if people could send in any new scans as well if they know of other things by Gaffron. I’m genuinely curious to see what comes up.

You never know what TI's readers will come up with!

* Thanks David! Readers can leave comments or contact me (Leif) via email at leifpeng[at]gmail[dot]com and I will forward your messages to David.

* My Horace C. Gaffron Flickr set

A Three Investigators Art Mystery

Monday, August 30, 2010

Daniel Storm writes, "I'm working on an article on the artists of The Three Investigators children's detective series for Illustration Magazine. My article is finished and will appear in issue # 32 at the first of the year, but I'm still on the hunt for any remaining pieces of art that might still be out there. Is it possible for you to make a mention in your blog so I can see if any of your readers might know where some art is? I'm particularly in need of more original Three Investigators art from Ed Vebell, Jack Hearne and Robert Adragna."

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"I've pretty much been to the ends of the earth and found a ton of stuff, but I just want to make sure that this is the definitive article on the artists and I've exhausted ever possibility."

"Basically I'm looking for anyone who owns original Three Investigators art or maybe knows someone who owns Three Investigator art. I've exhausted pretty much every source online so this is more of a do you actually know someone that has any or maybe a reader has some themself. The 3 artists I mentioned in the previous emails are the ones that I only have 1-2 examples of original Three Investigators art. I could use a few more pieces from each for the article. I don't want to limit it to just those 3 artists in case someone has something that I an not aware of from someone else."


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"Anyone who can point me in the direction of some Three Investigators art will get a special thanks in the article."

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If you think you can help Daniel solve "the mystery of the missing Three Investigators art", drop him a line at storm02@sprynet.com

* From top to bottom today, art by Ed Vebell, Harry Kane and Jack Hearne from various volumes of what is one of my most beloved childhood book series; Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators.

Bob Peak: "... when you turn the page it's all over."

Friday, August 27, 2010

In the 1960s the Famous Artists School released an updated version of its multi-binder correspondence course featuring new chapters by then-current illustration stars; among them, Bob Peak. In his chapter (entitled "Advanced line drawing and tonal painting") Peak writes:

"The contemporary illustrator is an artist when he solves the problem of his client. The fine artist is an artist when he solves the creative problem he has set for himself. As a contemporary illustrator, my own primary objective is to satisfy the client."

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Then, with a keen understanding of circumstance that could as easily be directed at today's picture makers, Peak writes the following:

"... the accelerated growth of technology causes rapid change... in this age few man-made things last. Airplanes, cars, and clothes change style rapidly. The chrome strip on a car has nothing to do with function other than the function of stimulating sales. Similarly, the woman's magazine changes format when its sales drop or its market changes. This is a phenomenon in which the contemporary illustrator is involved. Solving the problems of rapid obsolescence breeds a unique kind of artist whose premise must be: when you turn the page it's all over."

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"Our function is to solve the problems of a temporary, of-the-moment product - the result being a temporary, of-the-moment product! To compete professionally as an illustrator will require all you have to offer and then some. That is what makes commercial art an exciting, vital occupation."


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"For me the solving of the problem, the creative process, is more exciting than doing the finish. The finish, of course, is as important as the loudspeaker of a hi-fi rig. It must be good, but if the music that comes out of that speaker doesn't mean anything to the listener, who needs it?"

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"Before I start each job these are the things I consider: (1) Have I seen it myself; what experience do I have with the subject? (2) Who is the audience? (3) What is the problem and how can I solve it? (4) What materials should I use? (5) What style is best for the job?"

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These last four black & white magazine illustrations are from later in the chapter. Peak uses them as an example of his approach to contemporary illustration:

"Here are illustrations for four stories that appeared in one issue of Cosmopolitan. The problem was to give each a different look. One story, called "predators," was set in Miami. The locale, plus the flamboyant characters, led to a flamboyant interpretation. I cut out pieces of fabric and decorative papers and made a collage depicting the main couple. I didn't use models, but called on the mental image I had formed of these two people at my first reading of the story."

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"In the love story "Green Wind" the big love scene began when the girl turned off the light. My reaction was: What remained visible? The Answer: Nothing but a silhouette - which I cut from black paper. On the following page of the story appeared the same silhouette but with the values reversed."

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"In the illustration for "Modesty Blaise" I used drawing, silk screen, decorative papers, and photos to get the kaleidoscope look appropriate to this fast moving spy story."

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"The heroine of "Subject of change," another love story, is sophisticated and fashion-wise. I showed her, below, in a high-fashion robe. For style I went where many fashion designers were going - to the Art Nouveau of the early 1900's."

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I'll return to Peak's intro to his FAC chapter for a concluding thought from the artist. There Peak writes:

"If youth represents the growing force in this country, then the contemporary illustrator should reflect that condition... and take the lead. just as the speaker must know his audience before he writes his speech, the illustrator must know his public before he makes his picture."

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"Modern communication has accelerated the changes in fashion. What used to last five years is good for only three nowadays. The outward appearance of art is, in itself, an aspect of fashion, so the involvement of the artist in the contemporary scene, the immediate moment, is obvious. This is what I mean when I define art as an act of doing."

* Special thanks to David Apatoff for providing the two scans at the top of today's post and to Matt Dicke for the scans from Bob Peak's chapter of the Famous Artists Course.

* My Bob Peak Flickr set.

* Bob Peak official website

* Bob Peak official blog

* the Sanguin Fine Art Gallery

Bob Peak: "Don't be an artist 'from the wrist down'"

Thursday, August 26, 2010

"In the beginning, during my first period in New York, I realized I was on the wrong track when I tried to shape my style to commercial demands. I studied the works of illustrators who had done this; they were very successful for a year or two and then dropped from the scene."

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"It was apparent to me that an artist should not spend years developing a style which, in terms of demand, would quickly pass. In other words, he should not be an artist 'from the wrist down'."

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"Also, he isn't wise to allow his work to be pigeon-holed so that he becomes known as a fashion or sports or editorial specialist. Creativity depends on variety."

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"For me, drawing comes first. I like to draw, and I believe in being a good draughtsman."

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"Though I use many media and techniques, I don't approve of using a technique for its own sake by pushing it as far as possible to see what interesting effects can be achieved. Each problem will have its own aspects. I choose the technique and medium which will be most expressive and accurate."

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"Recently I've discovered I love to paint, to work with forms."

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"I use a variety of media: charcoal, grease crayon on acetate, oils, dyes and designer's colors, crayons, and, for texture, salt on wet washes."

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I use color for mood and expressiveness. Some of the things I do are calm, but most are not, so I prefer strong colors. Grays don't work too well for me."

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"If things are bright, it is a time for brightness."

~ From an interview with Bob Peak in the September 1962 issue of American Artist magazine.

Conluded tomorrow...

* Many thanks to Heritage Auctions. The football image and parrots image are from their archives and used with permission.

* My Bob Peak Flickr set.

* Bob Peak official website

* Bob Peak official blog

* the Sanguin Fine Art Gallery

Highly Recommended

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

You may have noticed a new addition to the sidebar this week. Listed under the heading "Highly Recommended" are some terrific illustration/cartooning sites to which I am a contributor. If you have a few minutes I highly recommend you go check 'em out. ;^)

Bob Peak: "The finest illustrators... work with ideas."

"Illustration is an interpretation of an idea."

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"This has nothing to do with technique - use of color, realism. These are mere tools."

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"It is not, as some people think, simply a matter of accurate rendering, although the artist has sometimes been reduced to a renderer. With the advent of photography, there was no longer a need for the artist to perform this function, and he shouldn't be expected to. The camera does a far better job."

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"The artist's reason for existence is the production of an idea. The finest illustrators working today all are people who work with ideas. If illustration is to do anything at all, it must be a part of the total creative problem."

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"So far as technique goes, the important thing is not to waste strokes. Draughtsmanship has always been easy for me, too easy in fact. At one point Albert Dorne told me, "You'll have to uncreate."

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"I knew what he meant and had to work it into my way of approaching a creative problem. Now, in every assignment, there is a great deal of preparatory thought. The actual execution of a painting takes about three hours. Few of the drawings take over one hour. Really though, this is a misleading statement. A painting may take ten years... "

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"... that is to say, it was ten years before I could do it."

~ From an interview with Bob Peak in the September 1962 issue of American Artist magazine.

Continued tomorrow...

* My Bob Peak Flickr set.

* Bob Peak official website

* Bob Peak official blog

* the Sanguin Fine Art Gallery

Bob Peak "Editorializes"

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Every commercial job has a moment's audience. When the page is turned, the moment is past."

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"The unfortunate aspect is the intention of the work. It's not even painted to last. Good commercial art doesn't pretend to be something it isn't."

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"Only a small portion - a very small portion - of the total will enter the realm of greatness."

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"There is a very tenuous line between commercial art and fine art."

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"I suppose the best way to define it is to say that in commercial art, you are solving somebody else's problem; in fine art, you are solving your own."

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"Of course its not quite as simple as it sounds, especially at a time such as ours when we are so aware of ambiguities. Everything is tempered with pros and cons."

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"For example, in editorial illustration ( which is a form of advertising since it involves selling a book or story), the artist must know first of to whom he is appealing. This means being close to his contemporaries."

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"After that, he must know what it is in the story that is desirable to communicate. Whatever the assignment, he must know what he is here for and why he does what he does."

~ From an interview with Bob Peak in the September 1962 issue of American Artist magazine.

Continued tomorrow...

* My Bob Peak Flickr set.

Note: I just found out this morning that Bob Peak's son, Matthew has recently started a dedicated Bob Peak blog where you'll find plenty of nice large scans of Peak's work - go have a look. Matthew just sent back a note asking that I also mention the Sanguin Fine Art Gallery "where," writes Matthew, "my dad's originals and editions are availible (at reasonable and realistic prices)." He adds, "I am in the process of contacting some other illustrators in my dad's circle to join the gallery."

* Bob Peak official website

Bob Peak: "a mixture of idealism and solid practicality"

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dori Watson, writing in a September 1962 article in American Artist magazine, speaks about "the thorny problem of the dichotomy between fine art and commercial art [being] unsettling to practicing artists, as well as to the consumer and the art-collecting public."

Based on some of the discussions in the comment sections of this blog I would say very little has changed in half a century.

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But back in 1962 there was no self-doubt or confusion on that issue in the mind of the subject of Watson's article. Bob Peak was entirely comfortable with his role: during a four hour interview in his agent's office Peak told Watson "I want to be an advertising man."

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"I know that in my own work, the things I do for advertising are not the same as those I would do for a gallery show. I do what I do by choice."

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"I believe in esthetics; I love to paint, to experiment, but I feel I have to be in advertising and have a problem to solve. I don't believe in art for art's sake. I could not be a 'closet painter.' To do this is to go off without first considering the problem."

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"The most important aspect of the problem is to keep close to those with whom you are communicating."

Continued tomorrow...

* Many thanks to Charlie Allen for supplying all of today's scans. They are "more clips from the venerable old file," and their arrival was the catalyst for this week's series on Bob Peak.

* My Bob Peak Flickr set.

* Bob Peak official website

Charlie Allen on AF/VK

Saturday, August 21, 2010

By guest author Charlie Allen

Now... something we must get back to... the amazing, outstanding, unique, superb Pontiac ads by AF and VK.  Have already forgotten their names, but you know them. (Charlie is referring to the illustration team of Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman ~ L)

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I know TI has already blogged them... but really, these ads are the ultimate, the epitome, the most skilled automobile art that has ever been published.

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Pure, 'sock it to 'em' advertising.  Great renderings of foreground, background, and bold, classy interpretations of the cars.

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Obviously I can't say enough... and they are certainly worthy of another TI.  Hopefully you have a few more that I don't have.

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Eee-nough....  Chas.

* Many thanks, Charlie. And yes, there are about a dozen more Pontiac ads in my AF/VK Flickr set. For those who want to salivate over even more gorgeous AF/VK art, drop by Art Fitzpatrick's official site, Fitz-Art.com

* Want some more weekend reading? This week's "NCS Spotlight" features my posts on the legendary Albert Dorne.
 

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