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

Denver Gillen, Landscape Painter

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Denver Gillen is another mid-century illustrator whose work I have always admired. Gillen often incorporated compelling, atmospheric and distinctively stylized landscapes in his illustrations.

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Gillen was a favourite of sport fishing and hunting magazine editors, creating many interior illustrations and covers.

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Because Gillen himself had no interest in hunting, he consciously focused on the grace and nobility of the animals in his illustrations...

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... and of course, looking beyond the subject matter, we see once again Gillen's beautifully realized landscapes.

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Other artists might find tricks or shortcuts to represent the background landscape in their work as a symbolic prop. But even when creating textbook illustrations like the one below (which Gillen's daughter told me he found tedious to do) he cut no corners.

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Later in his life, after moving to Mexico to semi-retire, Gillen created remarkable gallery paintings celebrating the people and landscapes of his adopted home.

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James R. Bingham, Landscape Painter

Monday, July 30, 2012

I just returned from a week of plein air painting in Northern Ontario so landscapes are very much on my mind. I hope you'll indulge me while I continue with this theme, as it's what currently is really inspiring my own creative efforts!

Many of the great mid-century illustrators had a real knack for painting landscapes, even if it was in service to an advertising campaign or incidental to the story they were illustrating.

One such artist whose work I've always truly admired was James R. Bingham. Here are a few examples of his prowess in painting landscapes. Set aside the subject or purpose of each of these images and just study these amazing landscape interpretations. In each case, you'll see how Bingham truly captured the setting in form, light and colour!

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Christopher Davis Describes His Method

Friday, July 27, 2012

Once agin in the Grumbacher Library edition, The Art of Oil Painting, Albert Pucci is joined by Christopher Davis, another master of the palette knife technique.

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Here, Davis describes his process...

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Like to see more of Christopher Davis' work? I wrote about him last year around this time - you can read that post at this link.

Albert Pucci Describes His Method

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

While I'm away plein air painting this week, I'm always referring to my recently acquired Grumbacher Library "Art of Oil Painting" book - especially the pages by Albert Pucci.

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For anyone who shares my interest and might want to try this yourself, here is one of Pucci's demonstrations...

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More about Albert Pucci

The Art of Oil Painting ... Landscapes

Monday, July 23, 2012

I'm taking a week off to do some plein air painting in "Group of Seven Country", so while I'm gone, I'll share a few scans from another Grumbacher Library "How to" book I found earlier this year at a thrift shop.

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Once again, this sequence is a demonstration by Albert Pucci, who was featured in some other Grumbacher books I showed you last year.

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I'll be adding a few more pages from this 1975 Grumbacher book as time allows this week.

In Praise of the Little Things, Part 4

Thursday, July 19, 2012

We've seen a wide variety of small spots this week that demonstrate just how conscientious mid-century illustrators were about doing their best work - despite knowing that work would be printed at a size far too small to be properly appreciated with the naked eye.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the remarkable full colour paintings done for many mid-'50s magazine ads. These miniature scenes were reproduced at about the size of a postage stamp...

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... but just look at the effort that went into rendering them.

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Here's another ad - several small full colour spots done in a somewhat different technique...

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... but still remarkably detailed for such a small canvas.

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Who were the artists who created such proficient work? They were probably among the ranks of talented but largely anonymous illustrators like Charlie Allen, who did many fully painted ads of this type for Kaiser Aluminum.

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Charlie described these assignments (which he painted in gouache at just two or three times up) as being "considered by agencies and by illustrators as a real 'plum' account on which to work."

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"[The client] seemed to me remarkably relaxed about product details," wrote Charlie. "The scenes and product details were very much left to the artist to create."

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For Charlie, not only were these fun and lucrative assignments, they provided a young west coast artist more used to working on regional assignments the rare opportunity of sharing the stage with his 'celebrity' peers because Kaiser's ads ran in wide circulation national magazines like the Saturday Evening Post, Newsweek, Time, etc.

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I'll just bet Charlie got a kick from seeing his signature on those ads in those publications. Although, of course, being ever the humble practitioner of his art, you'd hardly know the work was signed if you didn't have our ability to blow up those tiny panels to a decent size. (See it in the bottom RH corner of the image above?)

In Praise of the Little Things, Part 3

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Yesterday we saw some tiny black & white battle scenes, originally published at just one by two inches. Today let's look at some more miniature illustrations - this time in colour and in what I'll describe broadly as a variety of "1950s storybook styles."

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First, here are five vignettes from a 1952 ad for M&Ms, also published at about one by two inches.

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Here's a 1957 ad for Dutch Boy Paints with some terrific little stylized spots...

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A 1950s ad for Telechron Timers...

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One of a series of ads by an artist named Calle (I have another one here). Does anyone know any more about him/her?

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Finally, a sweet little cartoony spot signed "W. Fitch" from this 1957 Dial soap ad...

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*If mid-century artwork of this type is your cup of tea, I have two sets on Flickr you'll want to explore:

Ads with Story Book Styles and Ads with Cartoon Elements

Enjoy!
 

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