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

A Visit with Mitchell Hooks, Part 4

Thursday, February 28, 2013

In 1988 Gary Lovisi of Gryphon Books visited Mitchell Hooks at his Manhattan home/studio. He then published the resulting interview in Paperback Parade #7. With Gary's permission I'm presenting that interview this week, broken into five daily instalments... ~ Leif Peng

GL: I know a lot of the original art for early paperbacks was never returned to the artists. Have you been able to get your early art back from the publishers?

MH: No. It was a crime the way they treated us in the fifties and sixties. They kept it all and were so assertive about it that we just felt we didn't have any right to ask for them back.

1957 - Gold Medal 676

MH: It's only in recent years, with the Graphic Artists Guild now, that the artists have gotten organized. Now we get our paintings back, but it's a shame, for years and years we didn't get anything back.

GL: Have you ever met any of the authors of the books you've done covers for?

MH: No, I don't think I've met a single author, and I've done so many covers -- I can't think of one I've ever met.

1961 - Gold Medal 1115 _ Mitchell Hooks

GL: So when you worked with the publisher they never brought in the author? I mean, the author sold his work and then the publisher would work with you, and never the twain should meet?

MH: No, the authors never seemed to be in on the act at all. I read every once in a while about authors having something to say about their covers, and I doubt it. I've never seen it, and I think I've probably done most of the top authors too. I've done Updike, Malamud...

1963 - Bantam 2642

1956 - Bantam 1489

GL: What was your personal favourite of all the covers you've done and why?

MH: I think rather than a single cover, there are two series: one you've mentioned, the Lew Archer series, because the format was so strong and they made such a nice group. But there was another series I did for Bantam of Eric Ambler books, and there were five or six of those. I think they were a little more sophisticated in concept and design. I think they would be my favorites.

Hooks86

GL: Then there's the opposite question. Are there any you hated?

MH: Oh, there are a lot. The trouble is, I don't remember titles too well.

GL: I know you did a series of covers in the late sixties for the Superspade books.

MH: Well, I didn't mind those because they were kind of fun. They came out just at the time of black awareness and that was the spirit those books had, and I just tried to put that in those covers. They were kind of fun.

Hooks88

MH: The covers that I liked the least were the kind I talked about earlier, especially in the fifties and sixties, when we had to force sex on every cover.

1956 - Dell First Edition 107 # Mitchell Hooks #

MH: It got so I just hated that. It was forced so much. It wasn't fun and it didn't fit the books.

1959 - Dell D 315

MH: So I would say, rather than a specific book, it was that kind of thing I hated.

* Concluded tomorrow

* The text above is copyright 1988 & 2013 by Gary Lovisi and originally appeared in Paperback Parade #7 (Gryphon Books)

Gary's website: www.gryphonbooks.com


* Thanks to UK Vintage for the use of his Mitchell Hooks paperback cover scans in today's post.

A Visit with Mitchell Hooks, Part 3

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

In 1988 Gary Lovisi of Gryphon Books visited Mitchell Hooks at his Manhattan home/studio. He then published the resulting interview in Paperback Parade #7. With Gary's permission I'm presenting that interview this week, broken into five daily instalments... ~ Leif Peng

GL: I know that science fiction is a small amount of your output, but you've done some wonderful covers there; "The Lani People",

Hooks78

"Dark Universe",

Hooks20

"The Shores of Space",

Hooks79

... and Piers Anthony's "Var the Stick".


Hooks80

GL: I was just wondering if you have anything in particular to say about sf or doing that kind of work.

MH: It came a little hard for me. It's not natural for me. I did all the assignments because they just happened to be offered, but I never went and sought them out.

Line to Tomorrow

MH: I never made samples with that kind of thing in mind. It's just, when I was younger, I used to read a little science fiction, and so I have nothing against it, but I just don't think too well in those terms. It's not quite my cup of tea.

Donovan's Brain

GL: You did 18 paintings for Bantam's series of Lew Archer novels by Ross MacDonald. How did that come about?

MH: Those Lew Archer covers were a lot of fun. They were for Len Leone at Bantam.

The Name Is Archer

Len was absolutely the premier art director of them all. Absolutely tops. He and I were contemporaries and worked together for many years, and I learned an awful lot from Len. I loved getting assignments from him because he was so inspiring to work for, and he'd always give you a lift when he gave you an assignment. You'd be inspired to do the best work you could.

Hooks85

Well, those Lew Archer books came up to be reprinted, they were popular through the years and were repackaged at least four times that I know of. So I think I was brought in on maybe the fourth one, and they've probably done them again since then.

Hooks81

But it was just a routine repackaging job that they had in mind and Len started giving them to me. He said, as I remember, that the assignment for each cover was to show the hero with his weapon, and to show some suggestion of the locale along with one or two of the characters. Those were the three things.

Hooks68

MH: So it worked out to be a big head of the hero, with him having the pistol somewhere around his head, to keep the design tight. I had a very good model, a guy that's still posing for me by the way, whose name is Bob Benes, and I'd call him up and ask him to do poses with the pistol.

Hooks83

MH: He was a creative guy and would aim it a certain way, shoot it, or cock it, or hide behind it. That's sort of the background on that.

* Continued tomorrow

* The text above is copyright 1988 & 2013 by Gary Lovisi and originally appeared in Paperback Parade #7 (Gryphon Books) 

Gary's website: www.gryphonbooks.com


* Thanks to McClaverty for the use of his Mitchell Hooks paperback cover scans in today's post.

A Visit with Mitchell Hooks, Part2

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

In 1988 Gary Lovisi of Gryphon Books visited Mitchell Hooks at his Manhattan home/studio. He then published the resulting interview in Paperback Parade #7. With Gary's permission I'm presenting that interview this week, broken into five daily instalments... ~ Leif Peng

GL: I think a lot of people thought that in the forties and fifties an artist just read the book and decided all by himself what he wanted to do for the cover, then just did it. I see it's a lot more complicated than that.

Hooks72

MH: Well it can be done that way too, but you've always got to submit a sketch of what you're going to do and either get it approved or knocked down.

(Below, a page of sketches done for the 1956 Bantam Books cover above, from American Artist magazine, Summer 1957)
Hooks71

GL: What medium is your favorite to work in?

MH: I work in oils. I work in an underpainting of inks, with my basic painting inked over pencil drawings. Then I isolate that with varnish and do the finished painting in oils.

GL: Do you use photographs? Sketches?

MH: All the time. I also use models. If I have some background material that's going to show, if it's at all possible, I go out and photograph it.

Hooks71.detail03


GL: Some of the women you've painted for paperback covers are very beautiful and sensuous, such as the woman on "Sleepless Moon," "Someone to Love," and "Gentle Annie" to name a few.

1957 - Popular Library G 192

GL: Are these models or from imagination?

Hooks71.detail01

MH: They're all models. But I'm like anybody, I appreciate drawing beautiful women, but I like them to have character, to have a niceness about them.

Hooks71.detail02

GL: I think that certainly comes through. They're not cheap or sleazy at all, they have class and elegance, but with a beauty and sensuousness that also comes through.

1956 - Gold Medal 616

MH: I'm glad you see that because that's exactly what I always try to show.

1956 - Dell First Edition 86

GL: I've noticed that some of your covers are done in a very sharp and clear, almost sketch-like linear style;

1956[1969] _ Popular Library 60-2379 _ Mitchell Hooks

... then on newer works, like "The Dying Trade" the art is almost like a photograph. It's almost like different people are doing the painting.

(Below, a Mitchell Hooks painting circa 1990)
Hooks40

MH: Well it is. I've changed... the times have changed. For years I was working in a linear style. I wasn't working in oils then, I was working in wash.

(Below, Cosmopolitan magazine, 1960)
Hooks27

MH: It was looser, more spontaneous, more designy, a slightly impressionistic way of working. It was what I felt good doing then.

Hooks74

MH: As I say, you've got a good eye. you picked up the differences, but what's happened in recent years is that there's been a change in the market. There's been a change in the art scene in general - not only talking about covers - but in the fine arts, gallery arts too. As you know there's been a shift in recent years to a more realistic way of painting., a return to drawing of the figure. We see it now in galleries and museums where even ten years ago it was not accepted. Now there's been a return to a more realistic way of painting. I changed my work in that direction.

(Below, a 1980s Mitchell Hooks cover painting, "Hannie Richards", courtesy of Joe Jusko)
Hooks73

MH: I did it consciously and deliberately, starting about a dozen years ago, getting away from that line style and going to a more realistic style. It was easy to do because I actually started out as a kid painting very realistically. So what you see in "The Dying Trade" is a very recent cover, and you're right, it's very realistic.

Hooks74

MH: It's the way I work now.


* Continued tomorrow

* The text above is copyright 1988 & 2013 by Gary Lovisi and originally appeared in Paperback Parade #7 (Gryphon Books) 

Gary's website: www.gryphonbooks.com


* Thanks to UK Vintage for the use of his Mitchell Hooks paperback cover scans in today's post.

A Visit with Mitchell Hooks, Part 1

Monday, February 25, 2013

In 1988 Gary Lovisi, editor and publisher of Gryphon Books visited Mitchell Hooks at his Manhattan home/studio. The resulting interview, entitled "A Visit with Mitchell Hooks", was published in Paperback Parade #7, a copy of which I acquired some time ago. This week - with Gary's permission - I'm presenting that interview in five daily instalments... ~ Leif Peng

Hooks70

GL: I would like to begin by asking you what was the first paperback cover painting that you did and how it came about?

MH: That's an interesting question. I've never been asked that. The very first one I did was the result of having made a sample painting for paperback publishers. I took the sample to Signet Books and they liked it. There was a man and a woman in it -- a very sexy woman.

1950 - Signet 820

MH: This was back in the early fifties, when absolutely every book had to have a sexy cover. It didn't matter what the book was, it could have been a cook book. It had to have a woman on the cover with prominent bosoms.

1951 - Signet 854

MH: Well, they decided they could use the cover, but some changes were made in it to fit a particular book they had in mind. So they had me paint out the guy and put in a different guy. That was the first cover I did.

1951 - Signet 845 _ Mitchell Hooks

GL: How did they make that decision? Was it the publisher, editor, or did they have art directors in those days?

MH: Oh yes, it's the same structure as it is now, it was editorial in some way that I wasn't in on. The painting was a bedroom scene, and most covers in those days were bedroom scenes, at least in serious novels. That's what this one was.

1951 - Signet 840

GL: How do you choose which scene to illustrate for a paperback cover?

MH: That comes about in different ways and often depends on the publisher that you're working for. When I was doing art for Bantam Books when Len Leone was there, invariably I made a sketch after he decided what he wanted to be on the cover.

1954 - Bantam 1271 _ Mitchell Hooks

MH: He was such a fine art director. He was in on their cover meetings and their cover subjects were decided in that conference before I was ever called in. That was Bantam's way of working.

1955 - Bantam 1589

MH: I'm not working for Bantam now so I'm not sure if they still do that.

I'm working now on quite a few covers for Ballantine Books, a series of mysteries by Peter Corris, the creator of an Australian private-eye. I've done half a dozen or so of those. The instructions I get from Ballantine Books are to show the hero in some kind of dramatic urban scene.

Hooks68

GL: Hardboiled?

MH: Not necessarily hardboiled, but in some sort of a suspenseful setting, which pretty much means a night scene of some sort. With strong colors, like neon lights, that kind of gaudy, cheap, sleazy type of city scene. These scenes are never supposed to show the features of his face, which are always supposed to be in deep shadows.

Hooks69

MH: So with those instructions the rest is up to me and I go out and try to find some kind of interesting background to put him in, and some sort of interesting thing to have him doing. That's the way those came about. There are different ways at arriving at what's going to be on a cover, there's nothing set about it.

* Continued tomorrow

* The text above is copyright 1988 & 2013 by Gary Lovisi and originally appeared in Paperback Parade #7 (Gryphon Books)

Gary's website: www.gryphonbooks.com


* Thanks to UK Vintage for the use of his Mitchell Hooks paperback cover scans in today's post.

Sandy Kossin: "... I found out some time ago that I'm not infallible."

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Concluding Herbert Rogoff's 1969 interview from American Artist magazine...

HR: Commercial artists have to develop tricks for the purpose of saving time, and also for meeting the problems of reproduction. What are some of yours?

SK: Well, my biggest problem had always been trying to save my drawing or painting after I found I didn't like the way it was going. In washing it out, I lost not only today's painting, but yesterday's and last week's as well.

bantam s2600

SK: I've overcome this by using a crystal clear spray to isolate my drawing. I start my picture by projecting my sketch onto my illustration board and then using pen and ink to draw it in. After my drawing is finished I spray it.

bantam f2339

SK: I'm not restricted to India ink, mind you, I can also use water-based materials such as the felt tipped watercolors. In this way I can do drawings in colour without any real problem.

bantam a1690

SK: Once having sprayed the surface, the next problem is trying to paint over that glazed surface. To start this I use a polymer matte medium, diluted with half water, which I brush over the area.

This is a very thin coat because I don't want to build it up to the extent that I find it beginning to peel away. Once the matte medium is on, I have a surface on which to paint in gouache.

Kossin

SK: Then if I'm not satisfied - if the gouache painting comes out wrong - my escape hatch is a sponge and water to wash it off the isolated drawing. This is why I don't use the polymere colors - I'd never be able to wash them off. Although my painting is no longer in existence, my drawing, isolated under coats of plastic, is completely intact - I haven't lost it at all.

Sandy Kossin

SK: Once I'm satisfied with my painting, I spray over this stage. Again, I've got to go through the process of using the matte medium, but it permits me to come back to this second stage if I'm in trouble.

Kossin21

SK: Not only is this a safety measure for me, but I can see the doors open as far as technique is concerned.

berkley X1640

SK: It's very important for me to have complete control...

Kossin20

... because I found out some time ago that I'm not infallible.

Kossin20.detail01

* Thanks to Flickr members Boy de Haas and Ondiraiduveau, who both provided some of today's scans.
 

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