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

VISUAL JOURNALISM: The Artist as Reporter - Part 1

Monday, April 30, 2012

By guest author, Daniel Zalkus

Artists throughout history have recorded the world around them with direct observation. This week I’ll focus on reportage, or "drawing on-the–spot", particularly in the 1950’s and 60’s, illustration reportage’s heyday.

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In Nick Meglin’s book “On-The-Spot Drawing", Noel Sickles noted:

“Styles change. Tastes change. Opinions change. Fashions and architecture change constantly. And as advances are made in chemistry, the materials themselves change, offering new and variable techniques, which are far removed from those available to artists of preceding years. But the drawings themselves, as well as the approaches to them, are timeless; timeless in that they express, very directly, the mobility of life and nature. It’s difficult, and often impossible, for other pictorial media to capture this feeling of mobility. The immediacy of a direct drawing or sketch seldom breaks through in the more static nature of other forms of art.”

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Lithopinion magazine hired Sickles to draw public figures at the New York State Senate in Albany.

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Sickles’s compositions were a delicate blend of detail and omission; what he drew was as important as what he left out.

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Sickles said “I will reduce things to basics or arrange them in a particular way, anything that will enable me to achieve that goal. An artist has the freedom to do this, his major advantage over the camera in the past and certainly in the present.”

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Another series for Lithopinion, this time by the illustrator Austin Briggs, was done at the Mourlot workshop in Paris. His drawings were created with lithographic crayons and tusche washes, tools normally used on stone or metal places in printmaking.

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Direct drawing changed the illustration field. Sickles noted that prior to the advent of reportage in illustration, art directors and editors used to say, “Yes, fine. This is what we wanted. Now go home and do me a finished one”.

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In the 1950’s and 60’s that mindset changed. “Today he says – ‘Yes, fine. This is what we wanted.’ Then he reaches over and rips it out of your sketchbook and prints it, charcoal smudges and all. It’s a wonderful feeling.”

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Continued tomorrow.

* Daniel Zalkus is an illustrator with a passion for on-the-spot drawing. You can see some of Daniel's own excellent work at his website.

* The Noel Sickles illustrations in today's post are courtesy of Matt Dicke

The Funny, Funky Days of the Early 1970s

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Some more images from the funny, funky days of the early 1970s.

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When viewed as a snapshot of a specific period in illustration, the widespread appearance of this type of cartoony art...

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... in all its minor variations...

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is almost overwhelming.

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It very nearly seems to have been the only illustrative alternative to photography at the time - especially in advertising.

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A lot of the credit for its popularity must go to the ripple effect of Heinz Edelmann's work on the Beatle's Yellow Submarine animated film...

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... but I have a sneaking suspicion that many illustrators and art directors would lay most of the credit at the feet of one group of artists at one specific studio.

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We'll investigate this further... tomorrow.



The Flower Power of the Early 1970s Illustration Scene

Monday, April 02, 2012

When we hear the term "Flower Power" we immediately think of the Beatles' Yellow Submarine, psychedelic rock posters, and the "Summer of Love" -- the trippy, hippy 1960s.

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But it wasn't until the spring of the '70s that Flower Power really blossomed in the pages of most major magazines. As with all things, it takes the mainstream a while to co-opt the culture of the trend makers. Once the Mad Men (and their clients) realized the selling power in groovy graphics...

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They began using Flower Power for everything from feminine hygiene products...

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... to lightbulbs...

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... to grape juice.

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Even Rubbermaid got in on the act. (After all, flower gardens need fences, right?)

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One favourite early '70s ad campaign of anyone who was around at the time (myself included) was for Clairol's Herbal Essence Shampoo.

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It's popularity was due to a series of truly lovely animated tv commercials. I remember watching these as a 10 year old kid and being mesmerized by them - and we only had a black and white television set back then!



So who - or what - was responsible for so thoroughly transforming the visual landscape of popular culture in the early 1970s? Some people credit this man...

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Peter Max had studied under Frank Reilly at the Art Student's League in the mid-'50s. In 1962 he and friend, Tom Daly, formed a small art studio in New York, "The Daly and Max Studio." In 1968, Max's popular animated tv commercials for 7-Up propelled him into the public spotlight. Sales of his art posters and other branded merchandise skyrocketed as a result.



No doubt Max deserves credit for heavily influencing the direction of illustration in the following years. But he was hardly the only driver.

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This week, a look at the illustration art of the early '70s and some of those who helped bring it about.
 

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