Wednesday, January 10, 2007

How James R. Bingham Did It

Here's a typical story-set of illustrations James R. Bingham did for the Saturday Evening Post in 1945.

I particularly like the line art with single colour he did on the follow-up double page spread...

In Illustrating for the Saturday Evening Post (see? I told you we'd be using this book a lot), we get some interesting clues to the process Bingham used to put together one of his SEP assignments from just two years later.

Having perused quite a few letters columns in the old magazines in my collection, I can tell you that readers scrutinized the illustrations closely and criticized loudly when details were off. The Post, with millions of weekly readers who came from many backgrounds and experiences, demanded tremendous authenticity from its artists. This assignment Bingham undertook, set in wartime and post-war Burma, shows us the challenges an illustrator like Bingham faced to achieve that level of authenticity.

There were no recent photos available in any private or public archives Bingham could access and it was only through a stroke of good luck that the man he chose to model as the hero in the story had recently served three years with the U.S. Navy in Burma.

That man provided the artist with a stack of photos he could use for reference.

"Some he took himself and some he swapped with other servicemen," the artist explains. "He even had photos of the bombed-out temples that are mentioned so frequently in the serial."

The article goes on the say that another difficulty Bingham experienced during the course of the job was that "the model for the girl was unobtainable after the first three installments."

"This happens so often nowadays as to seem normal."

These images have been added to my James R. Bingham Flickr set.

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