Friday, December 22, 2006

The Countdown to Christmas Concludes with Candy

Here's a really tasty Christmas treat: An Al Parker illustration from 1962! By 1961 Parker had mostly packed up his brushes and moved to California, so post-'61 Parkers are rare indeed.Just as the candies in your Christmas stocking were a jumble of shapes and flavours, these candy ads I'm running to conclude the Countdown to Christmas come in a variety of styles and are here for a variety of reasons...
The Clark bar ad is here just because its so darn cute.

But I had an ulterior motive for running the Dubble Bubble ads. Those little pink bricks with the comicstrip in the wrapper have a long history and were a constant source of much-needed sugar for generations of North American kids, myself included.

And subsequently, Dubble Bubble's mascot, "Pud", has been a constant companion and source of lame kid-humour for generations as well.

That's why I'm so proud to be the most recent illustrator to redesign Dubble Bubble's Pud for the current generation of gum-chewing kids! Over the holidays I'll be posting the story of how this Canadian kid got the job of updating "America's Original" Pud over on my other blog, Leifdrawing101. It's been quite some time since I posted anything there and I hope to rectify that situation in the new year.
For now, Today's Inspiration is going on Christmas vacation. I've already got some fantastic classic illustration topics in the works for the New Year so we'll see you back here in January 2007. And if you're not a fan of candy, Santa says, "PeelaBanana!"

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Shoot! Its Christmastime, Y'all!

Yeah, this is supposed to be a classic illustration blog... but sometimes I come across the craziest stuff that, in spite of it not being illustrated, I absolutely have to share with you. This is one of those times.Honestly, when I saw this, I had to double-check the cover to see if I was flipping through National Lampoon instead of Boys' Life.

Sung to the tune of "The Most Wonderful Day of the Year" from the classic Rudolph TV special:

A shotgun for Sally
A rifle for Sue
Let's get little Jimmy
His first .22
'cause Christmastime is heeeeere
The most wonderful day of the yeeeear!

I love the conspiratorial tone of the copywriting in some of these ads. It really speaks to what the agency's market research must have indicated: everybody thinks guns are dangerous - but us good ol' boys know better, don't we! Now we just need to pull a fast one on the Missus and we'll be huntin' us a wild turkey for Christmas dinner, sure as shootin'!
Now before all you gun nuts - er, um, I mean "sports and target shooting enthusiasts" start blasting me with another barrage of accusations of racism and so on, I want to assure you, I respect your right to keep your guns until they pry them from your cold, dead etc, etc.
But really, if you can look at these ads and not find anything remotely amusing about them, then I think you better add one more item to your Christmas wish list: a sense of humour.

Merry Christmas, y'all!

Art Seiden's Littlest Christmas Tree

This isn't the only Christmas story Art Seiden illustrated for Coronet. Last year during the Countdown to Christmas I showed you a 1955 Seiden story called The Littlest Snowman. This one from '53 is rather more austere - but don't let that fool you - the charm is in the details of the tiny figures Seiden drew around the base of each image. Make sure you take a moment to examine these pictures closely at their full size.

And if, like me, you're a serious Seiden fan, and your Santa is still asking for last-minute gift suggestions, why not wish for an Art Seiden original or two for Christmas! (And that was only a half-way disguised hint, Santa, in case you're listening).

All of these images have been added to my Art Seiden Flikr set.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Father... Christmas

If I had been an investment counsellor in the 50's, I'd have told you to put your money in a manufacturer of Santa Claus suits......because if advertising is an accurate reflection of a society's cultural habits (and let's face it, we know this to be true) then every male old enough to father a child was jamming his legs into fur-trimmed pantaloons and stuffing a pillow down the front of his pants at the first sound of bells jingling. How did costume shops keep up with the demand?

Personally, I'm not sorry to see this time-honoured tradition go the way of the dodo. My dad never wore a Santa suit. Well, he's Chinese and that would have just looked... odd. And I never had the urge to dress up like Mr. Claus - thank god Wendy never forced me to give it a try!

Call me a grinch but something about all these mock Santas skulking around the house in the dead of night strikes me as kinda creepy. Playing the role of Santa in any meaningful way takes a lot of stage presence. That doesn't come naturally to many guys! I can still remember "Santa" showing up at our house when I was a tyke and knowing right away that it was one of my mom's co-workers. Sure, his intentions were good but in my childish mind I was thinking, "I better play along because this grown-up could be drunk or crazy - or both!"

The truth is, all but the youngest of Cindy-Lou Whos can see right through that fake beard. Your voice or your cologne or your body language always gives you away. Kids notice that stuff, believe me. The imagination of a child is a powerful force and the Santa of our dreams is so much better than any "Santa's Helper" you'll ever sit on the knee of - at the mall or on your livingroom sofa.

Here's to keeping a little mystery in the Santa experience. Santa should never be seen - only heard.

These images can be seen at full size in my Retro Christmas Flickr set

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Just a Few More...

...days 'til Christmas - and a just a few more Santas by Haddon Sundblom that I came across in recent days. Its kind of neat to see them chronologically like this: first from the 40's......then from the mid-50's......and finally from 1966, just ten years before Sundblom passed away.Apparently Sundblom used himself as the model for Santa in his later years, so we may be looking at a self-portrait of sorts in this piece.

Finally, an important note about a new "picture blog dedicated to Golden Age comics/pulps/classic illustration art" as David Pardee, the "curator" of Golden Age Comic Book Stories describes it. Right now David is showcasing some incredible, rare, Christmas-themed illustration including early Country Gentleman covers by N.C. Wyeth, obscure King Features booklet illustrations by Frank Godwin, Milton Caniff and Alex Raymond, beautiful Walt Disney Comics Christmas covers, and an astounding Mac Raboy Green Lama story - among many others.

Do yourself a favour and go enjoy David's generous gift - and let him know how much you appreciate his efforts!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Have Yourself a Very Vinyl Christmas

When I'm out "thrifting" at the Goodwill, I sure love finding albums with illustrated covers. Whenever I find some with a Christmas theme, I think of one of my fellow Flickrites, The King of Jingaling. He loves Christmas vinyl so much, he's not only sharing his fabulous collection of album cover art on Flickr, he's even created a great website,, where you can hear audio clips from some of these albums, read about the artists who produced them - and discuss them - and even buy CDs ( and other Christmas-themed goodies) that the King has compiled and created himself. If you dig vintage vinyl Christmas music, pay the King a visit. Above is a piece by a mystery album cover artist I've featured before. I still can't decipher his signature and I don't recognize the style. There are a lot of knowledgable readers of this blog so I keep hoping someone out there will identify him for us.

Those of you who've been visiting this blog all year may recall a January post on album cover art where I showed the work of an illustrator named Neil Boyle. Well I dug up another gem (below) by Boyle - this time in a very different style from his other effort.
And for those who's tastes run to the cartoony styles of illustration, there's the obscure offering from Hanna-Barbera Records way back at the top of this post. Amazingly, this record has credits on the back - not just for illustrator Paul Julian, but for the art director (H.C. Pennington), layout (Tony Segri) and even the lovely hand lettering by Robert B. Schaefer.

I dunno about you, but its the little preview shots of the other albums in the series on the back of the record jacket that really make my mouth water. Just look at these wacky storylines from the folks at Hanna-Barbera Records: Wilma Flintstone Tells the Story of Bambi (!?) How is that even possible? The Flintstones lived in the stone age, for pete's sake - the story of Bambi takes place in, like, 1932 or something... Is Wilma Flintstone able to bend the time/space continuum?
Pixie and Dixie with Mr. Jinks Tell the Story of Cinderella
- but what a Cinderella she is - hoochie mama - rrrowrr! And I love how this updated Cindy loses a gogo boot instead of a glass slipper - that Mr. Jinks sure can tell a story!
Finally, who could resist this awesome Jonny Quest album with a fully painted cover showing Race Bannon battling a giant squid. I would have snapped this up in a second as a kid and would probably (foolishly) pay too much on ebay to own it today.

Luckily, these albums are so not available that I don't even need to worry about them cropping up there and tempting me. I'll just have to keep digging through the stacks o' wax at the local Goodwill and keep my fingers crossed for that lucky find.

You can see all these images at full size in my Illustrated Album Covers Flickr set.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Only 12 Days...No, Wait a Minute...

Actually, its only 11 days 'til Christmas. Actually, if you don't count Christmas Day, its only ten days 'til Christmas.I was going to run this yesterday... I had it all planned out weeks ago, but then I got distracted by those %@#* Necco Wafers!

My advice to you is, get out there and get that shopping done (or if you're like me, started) because there are no longer 12 days 'til Christmas.

This image at full size in my Perry Peterson Flickr set.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

What's Up with the Necco Wafers?

You know, I never had a Necco Wafer when I was a kid, but I've had friends tell me that they were awesome.Well friends, I'll have to trust you on that one - what I do know is that Necco Wafers ran some awesome ads, and not just at Christmas time. I've been setting some other Necco wafer ads aside for another time...No other candy company went to the trouble or expense of running such nice full-page, full colour ads in mainstream magazines, at least not for a "kids candy". Those Necco Wafers must have really been something else.

We'll be looking at some other candy ads before Christmas, but I wanted to showcase these on their own. You can see them at full size in my Retro Christmas Flickr set.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Two Sundblom Santas... and One Imposter

What is it about Haddon Sundblom's Santas? You just never get tired of them!But it would seem that Coke did - at least briefly - because this 1957 Santa (below) looks to be an effort to contemporize the Coke Santa, if only a little bit. The style, though still painterly, is more like something a Cooper Studio artist would do than anyone in the Sundblom Circle.

Well, I ain't buyin', and it looks like the public didn't either.Sundblom's Santa was back on the job as we can see in this 1959 ad. You don't mess with success!
* You can check out these images at full size in my Beverage Ads Flickr set.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Christmas '64 with Jimmy Hill

Its entirely likely that, in spite of living and working in Toronto, James Hill would have delivered these illustrations to his New York client in person.Remember, this is long before the days of quick commuter flights - or even FedEx!Hill often needed every last minute to complete his masterful artworks and rarely budgeted the extra time required to mail or otherwise ship his paintings to his many American clients. So, late in the evening, he'd race an hour and a half down the highway to Buffalo, then take the night train into Grand Central Station arriving in time for a morning cup of coffee at the art director's desk.What typically followed was a day in the city visiting his agent, friends and clients, lunch or dinner at the Society of Illustrators and a late night return to Toronto with new assignments.
This was Jimmy Hill's routine throughout the 60's, when he won 3 gold medals from the Society of Illustrators and the Artist of the Year Honour from the Society of American Artists. During that decade Hill was hugely influential on the look and style of illustration in America, to the point where Norman Rockwell told him, "As I represented the thirties and forties, you exemplify your own day and age."Nothing lasts forever and for a variety of reasons, by 1970, Hill no longer accepted American commissions. That's something we'll look at another time. For now, we're fortunate for the gift of Christmas illustrations Jimmy Hill gave us in 1964.

*You really need to enjoy these pieces at full size. They're in my James Hill Flickr set.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Soft Drink Santa

According to its a myth that Santa Claus, as we know him today, was an invention of the Coca Cola Company.No surprise to me... here's proof positive that Mr. C was a softdrink free agent. The same years he was "pausing to refresh", he was also "feelin' 7-up" and keeping "a big (Canada Dry) treat at hand". Its amazing enough that Santa could deliver presents to all the good children of the world in just one night but considering all the soda pop he was swilling, imagine how many bathroom breaks he had to fit in!

* These two images have been added to my Beverage ads Flickr set.

Friday, December 08, 2006


Every once in a while I'll come across an illustration, like this one, credited to "Michael". Just "Michael" - even inside, in the table of contents info.Was that his first name or last? I just don't know. Whoever he was, he clearly came from that 40's Haddon Sundblom, Joyce Ballentyne, Gil Elvgren school of illustration. Its curious how rarely he appeared in editorial art considering how accomplished he was... but it could be that he was kept busy on unsigned advertising work.

If you'd like to see this piece at full size, click here.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Provensen and the Art of Collaboration

Most people feel that great art can only be created when it is the unique effort of a single individual. But the work of Alice and Martin Provensen proves otherwise.Both artists came from a background in animation - he from Disney and she from Walter (Woody Woodpecker) Lantz - and this seems to have given them an appreciation for the value of artistic collaboration.

"If you weren't satisfied with a drawing and didn't know what to do next,"
Alice said in an interview for Publisher's Weekly, "the other person could help you along. Of course, it had to be the right person, one who understood what you were trying for."

Over time, the Provensens' styles became so seemlessly integrated that it was impossible to tell where the efforts of the one artist ended and the other's began."You see," says Alice in that same interview, "we were a true collaboration. Martin and I really were one artist."

* Today's image can be seen at full size in my Alice & Martin Provensen Flickr set.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Robert Bugg - A Big Talent

Despite his diminutive-sounding name, Robert Bugg was big on talent.If certain illustrators might be categorized as "Sundblom-ish" or "from the Al Parker school" of designy illustration, then I'd place Robert Bugg squarely in Albert Dorne's camp.

Like Dorne, Robert Bugg was equally adept at drawing and painting humorous, caricatured styles as he was at more realistic interpretations. And like Dorne, his work always radiates a certain homey, smalltown charm, even when the subject matter is supposed to suggest an air of sophistication.

But perhaps the most telling parallel is that both Dorne and Bugg were able to create effortless-looking crowd scenes. I've always had the greatest admiration for any illustrator who can do that!

To fully enjoy today's image, make sure you take a moment to look at the details at full size.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Santa Sells Smokes!

If you thought Santa was only a spokesman for harmless stuff like Coca Cola (he said with barely a hint of sarcasm) you may be shocked to discover that The Jolly Ol' Elf used to shill for Big Tobacco.The best Smokin' Santa I've come across I already ran in a post last Christmas but the cute little fellow above sure makes Camels look pretty appealing. However, if any kids are reading this, I assure you that the guy just below is not Santa - he's obviously a sales rep from Pall Mall in a fake beard and rented Santa suit. Don't be fooled kids - smoking is bad for you! Finally there's this stogie-chompin' Santa by illustrator Enoch Bolles, contributed once again by Bolles' biggest fan, Jack Raglin. Jack was pleased by the great reaction his story and scans received yesterday and, to that end, he has set up a Flickr account, named appropriately bollesbiggestfan, where you'll be able to see a few more Christmas-themed illustrations by Enoch Bolles. Many thanks, Jack!

*All of today's scans have been added to my Smoking! Flickr set.

Monday, December 04, 2006

In Praise of Zippos (Part 2) ... and Enoch Bolles

I got a really wonderful early Christmas gift on the weekend from frequent TI blog reader and sometimes commentor, Illustration magazine author Jack Raglin. Jack sent some beautiful Christmas-themed scans from his Enoch Bolles collection...
and a fascinating anecdote about Bolles and Zippo lighters. With Jack's permission - and in his own words, here's the story and the scans... The Case of the Willfully Mistaken Identity of an Illustrator."I saw your recent blog on Zippo", writes Jack, "and wanted to send you a scan of the first Zippo Windy girl ad, which has an interesting story behind it. The illustration first appeared in 1937 and was credited to Enoc Boles (sic) but in all subsequent ads that used the image the acknowledgement was dropped. In 1993 Zippo resurrected the Windy image for a special edition lighter, but called it the Varga girl Zippo. They went so far as to dream up a false back story about how Vargas painted Windy at the request of the president of Zippo, who was a big fan. This is unlikely as Vargas was virtually unknown in the mid-30s and living in California. More likely he wanted Petty but couldn't afford him so Bolles was the alternative. The entire story of this ad appears in an article I wrote about Bolles for a past issue of Illustration magazine."

In a follow-up email, Jack writes, "The story for me is sad as this is by far Bolles' most reproduced image, yet the credit went where it didn't belong. I confronted the historian at Zippo and she admitted that the Vargas story was a complete fabrication (while still claiming that the president of Zippo wanted Vargas instead of Bolles). This story was part of the bio I wrote on Bolles in Illustration issue nine (I also wrote a short history of artists who worked for Film Fun in issue 14)."

Many thanks to Jack for sharing this interesting little slice of illustration history. For those who wish to read Jack's article in its entirety, click on the Illustration Magazine link in my sidebar for ordering info. Jack also has a book in the works on Enoch Bolles and has promised to notify us when it becomes available for purchasing.

You'll find these and a handful of additional images (courtesy of my buddy, Dan Fell) in my new Enoch Bolles Flickr set.