When my friend, Will Davies, a tremendously talented Canadian illustrator ( and New School devotee) went to New York in 1953 to try to get work, he received much the same response to his portfolio at every art studio and magazine: "Your stuff is great... but I've already got 15 guys who can do this style."
"15 guys" is a pretty accurate estimation of the top tier of New School illustrators who had the best magazine accounts sown up. And behind them, a hundred (two hundred?) talented others, all working on the occassional editorial/story assignment between more mundane, "bread & butter" advertising projects - what Chicago illustrator Carl Kock once described to me as "A beautiful girl leaning against a television set."
Look at the four pieces by the four New Schoolers featured today. If you'll agree with me that having your work appear in Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, McCall's, The Saturday Evening Post and a few others represented the pinnacle of success for every illustrator of the 50's, then (to the best of my knowledge) none of these talented artists, whose illustrations I scanned from an old Fawcett magazine called "Today's Woman", ever made it to the top.
Certainly they were all very professional - their work is of excellent quality and they are incorporating the elements of design, composition and technique that would qualify them for top-notch assignments. Obviously, with competition so fierce, the best assignments went to those who brought something more to their work -- who went beyond being simply good and following the rules.
Even among those illustrators who enjoyed regular assignments from the most high profile publications, who brought a premium quality to their work, and who could be counted on to bring freshness and inventiveness to their assignments, there was one artist who all eyes watched - who made the New School rules - then consistently broke them and re-invented himself.
Next week: Al Parker.