This piece by Mike Ludlow is responsible for launching Today's Inspiration. Its the first classic illustration I scanned about six years ago and sent out to a small group of nine or ten illustrator friends. Aside from the comely gal in a compromising situation, what got my attention was the artist's interesting use of contrasting techniques... some elements fully rendered, others treated as flat, graphic areas of colour, others looking like the bare pencil drawing, others defined by pattern rather than outline... all seen from the oddest of camera angles. What I didn't know then was that I was looking at the work of an artist playing by the rules of the New School style.
The 1954 piece below is the earliest example I've found of Mike Ludlow's work. Though it already incorporates some aspects of the New School style (no background, minimal environmental props, parts of the figure blending with the background) it is still too tightly and traditionally rendered to qualify as the genuine product. When we look at the bulk of Ludlow's later work, its clear that he is near the beginning of his career with this piece.
Exactly one year later, Ludlow is beginning to loosen up. The piece below, though still looking like the work of an artist searching for solutions, is showing a lot of promise.
What's perhaps most startling about Mike Ludlow is the giant leap forward that the artist took after 1955. In 1957 Ludlow was chosen to illustrate the Esquire pin-up calendar. His painting style had evolved so much in just two years, its as though a different artist was at the board. From the tentavive experimentation of the piece above has sprung a confident, accomplished New School style that absolutely wowed me the first time I saw it - and still does today. In the context of pin-up art, its a unique approach that must have looked thoroughly modern at the time compared to the typical Old School style of Gil Elvgren et al and suggests that Esquire was looking to position itself as a hip, modern publication.
That Esquire switched to photography for its pin-up calendars after Ludlow's gorgeous 1957 effort doesn't reflect poorly on the artist - it simply confirms which way the wind was blowing in all print publication at the time.
Ludlow, meanwhile, had found entré into the the rarified atmosphere of The Saturday Evening Post, where he now regularly received editorial assignments and did high profile advertising art, like the example below.
It was perhaps a little too late. After 1960, as with most other illustrators, Ludlow disappeared from the pages of America's magazines. I have, however, found his signature on several album covers like the one below from 1962, which still reflect his New School chops. There's very little biographical info on Ludlow out there. What became of him after the early 60's is a mystery.
You can see several more of Mike Ludlow's Esquire pin-up paintings, as well a a variety of story illustrations, in my Mike Ludlow Flickr set.