As a rule, it was typical during the heyday of illustrated automotive advertising that artists worked in two man teams: one doing the technical elements (the car or truck) and the other handling the figures and environment. Certainly the most famous automotive illustrators of those times, Art Fitzpatrick and Van Kaufman, and later Bernie Fuchs and Ben Jaroslaw, worked in this manner. Even in Toronto, when Will Davies was illustrating automobile ads for the Canadian market, he worked with a favourite technical artist named Dudley Whitney.
Not so on the West Coast. I asked Charlie Allen about the nature of the auto illustration business in San Fransisco when he, Fred Ludekens, Stan Galli and Bruce Bomberger were regularly setting their signatures to artwork for Chevy and other car manufacturing clients. His informative narrative, full of interesting and amusing anecdotes, begins below:
"On auto art.....my first was a Chevy ad, a B&W. [Fred] Ludekens was too busy, and I got it. Sweated blood, sweat, etc. on it.....and it turned out OK. Don't even have a copy today, and wish I had. A lot of my early work was like being thrown into the lake and told to swim for it....when you had just learned to dog paddle. Probably for the best."
My first Chevy full color job came much as the first B&W...a complete surprise. A double page spread, it was a profile side view of a '55 two-toned (pink and charcoal grey) Chevy with the then new 'wrap around windshield. White sidewalls of course. No scene, but against the white background, top hats, white gloves, confetti, serpentine, etc...a celebration or coming out party. Simple, but turned out well."
"Later on I did some Mercury and Simca ads, but Campbell-Ewald and Chevy were our main car source."
"You mentioned the AF/VK team. Those guys were phenomenal. No way here....altho' I did paint a Buick station wagon for Stan Galli, that he finished a scene around. He griped about it for years! But, hey, most artists just don't think alike. Also had to 'repair' a Ludekens Chevy job once. He couldn't draw girls for sour apples, and I grudgingly 'improved' his figures. We, that is I, took my own shots of Chevrolets, usually at our local dealership. They were cooperative, but didn't have a clue!"
"I found out early to not draw a car the way it photographed. You had to tuck the wheels, stretch width and length.....but very carefully. Too much was as bad as too little. Detroit liked their cars low, wide and long in those days. When I see one on the road these days, they are true dinosuars."
* All of today's images can be found in my Charlie Allen Flickr set.