Here's something I've rarely come across: a crowd scene by Jon Whitcomb. You're not likely to see many of these. Jon Whitcomb had found a new approach to storytelling, one that would be so successful that it would change magazine illustration for much of the 50's, and come to be known (somewhat derisively) as the "big head look".
No one describes this approach to composition better than does my friend Armando Mendez on his excellent website, The Rules of Attraction: Whitcomb's illustrations most often involved "zooming in on people--mainly pretty young city girls for large format magazines aimed at a feminine audience --and everything else in the picture became design not narrative elements." As well, Whitcomb's models were "transformed by idealization formulas Whitcomb and [Al]Parker, with others like Haddon Sundblom, made standard throughout the industry."Whitcomb found this formula so successful, he used it not only in story assignments, but in countless ads...They are so common in women's magazines from the 40's and 50's that I stopped marking them for later scanning.
Whitcomb was enjoying not only unprecedented exposure for his work but as a public figure as well. His celebrity status is apparent in this October '53 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine, which gave him six pages to discuss his choice of models - all actors or performers from television, Broadway or Hollywood. Its interesting to see how Whitcomb applied his formula for idealization when the model's photo is set next to his drawing. And notice also that once again, its all about the head-shot.
Returning to the crowd scene at the beginning of this post; remember the Famous Artists School lesson from last week on designing a crowd scene as described by Albert Dorne? Jon Whitcomb was also one of the twelve founding faculty members at the school. Which lesson in the FAS binder does Whitcomb teach? "How to Paint a Head in Wash". Of course.
You'll find all of today's images at full size in my Jon Whitcomb Flickr set.