Friday, November 25, 2005

"You'll have to speak up"

" hearing's not too good anymore." When I first asked Lowell Hess if he would mind answering some questions about his career he gratiously offered to let me drop by that afternoon.

"Actually, I'm calling from Canada, Mr. Hess, I don't think I can make it there this afternoon."

"Well," he replied, " we're leaving here in January. Moving out, so.."

Lowell Hess is 84. I didn't feel it would be appropriate to ask, but the reason for a move at that age seems obvious. Hess has lived in this house a long time. "The oldest house in town", he states matter-of-factly.

I ask if he still does work for Graphics3, the greeting card company that was the focus of the latter part of his career. "No..."

Does he still enjoy drawing or painting for pleasure?

"Well, I have Parkinson's. There's no point trying to draw when your hands won't stop shaking."

I worry that I've taken too much of Hess' time so I tell him thanks for speaking with me at such length. I ask if he has access to the internet, explain that he could see these posts online.

"You just write it down and mail it to me. You have my address?" Yes, I say, and recite it back.

Ehh... if there's one thing I could add, " says Hess. "Tell them to approach every job with enthusiasm. One thing I always did, no matter whether it paid well or not, I tried to be enthusiastic about every one of them."

"Mr Hess, I just want you to know what an honour it was to speak with you, and to let you know that there are a lot of people out there, a lot of working professionals, who remember your work and who are still influenced by it. You've been a big influence on a lot of illustrators. Its great work."

"Well", says Hess, "you've made my day."


  1. What's the word I'm looking for... Oh ya! Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm mmmmmmm good!

    It's all so nicely done that I'd feel like I was selling it short by commenting on a single aspect. Great lines, great colours... just plain great!

  2. Anonymous8:50 AM

    hi, thank you so much for sharing these images of lowell hess. I'm french and i've never heard of him before, and i must say that i'm very impressed by his illustrations, i would be very curious to see more if it was possible. it make me think a bit to al hirschfeld for the clarity and the strengh of the line, but in a more realistic way. I'm really glad to have discovered such art ! that's really the good thing about the internet...

  3. Anonymous9:12 AM

    Just want to congratulate you on your wonderful interview with Lowell Hess.
    Your effort and generosity in sharing with us all is greatly appreciated. You kept me in
    suspense by splitting up your reporting and felt as though I was reading a mini series.
    Mr. Hess words of wisdom rings true with you. Thanks for your enthusiasm in a job well done.

  4. Anonymous9:26 AM

    Well, thanks Leif, for doing this interview and a job well done...
    I was instantly attracted to his work, when I first saw it 5-6 years ago on Shane Glines' forum. I did learn a bit from whatever of his work that I saw eversince, I liked the way he laid his colors. I really appreciate your efforts on this. Please tell him he has an admirer in India.
    On that note, may I also add that, since so much of publishing activity is going on in the field now, probably somebody should attempt a book on him and another great from those times, Sam Berman.

    John Lurker.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. And Leif you've made my day. These have been great articles.

    I’d like to wish Mr. Hess all the very best. I am a illustrator doing children’s books and greeting cards. I’ve looked to Mr. Hess many times in my “inspiration folder” to get that enthusiasm for each job he speaks of.


  7. And being an animator and illustrator in Atlanta, Georgia, to see the strength and clarity of Lowell's characters and layout is quite an inspiration. I was vaguely aware of Mr. Hess's name before this series -- and I do have to say that I've seen his work (or, perhaps, his influence) many many times in the magazines and ads that I've collected throughout the years. I love his spot illustrations, with the limited use of the 2 colors, and there's something especially fascinating with the Collier's cover and Little Golden Book that you featured here, Leif. Great job with the interview and would love to see a follow up on Lowell and his body of work.

    Thanks for the enlightenment!

  8. It's been a real pleasure to read your interview with Lowell Hess this week, Leif. I'm grateful to see any of his rare and excellent artwork, and it's such a treat to get a glimpse of the artist behind it. Thanks!

  9. Anonymous1:24 PM

    Thanks, Leif.

    A nice interview and a fantastic introduction to a tremendous illustrator whose work I was previously unfamiliar with.

    You're doing a great service with this blog (and nice to see something like this from someone local), and I can't wait to see who you showcase next.

    Bill Angus

  10. Anonymous7:16 PM

    hi, i'm from brazil and it is a pleasure to discover a wonderful artist. thak you very much to sharing with us!

  11. Big thanks from me too, Leif. I've been a big fan of Hess's stuff since Shane brought his stuff to light.

    I've been collecting his judge covers from ebay whenever I see them up. The man definitely deserves his own book.

    Thanks for sharing!

  12. Oh man, that's a great interview - what a cool old fella. He's absolutely right about approaching each job with enthusiasm - it's inspiring. It's very difficult not to get peeved by client/agency/executive 'feedback' though!

  13. I've just discovered Lowell Hess. Since I grew up in Belgium, I've never come in contact with his work. I saw the pictures he did for this Ali Baba book, and I must say: woooooow. These are the books I want to read to my baby daughter.