Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"From the git-go I enjoyed drawing."

"I was born in 1922 (85 this year) in Fresno, CA", writes Charles Allen. "From the git-go I enjoyed drawing. A couple of efforts, at age 9 when I was fascinated by comic strip artists, are enclosed."

"Like Chet Patterson of P&H (whom you've covered recently) I enlisted in the Army Air Force in 1942 while in college. Served for three and a half years as a pilot during WWII...but unlike Chet, shot down no enemy aircraft. Hard to do in an unarmed PBY Catalina in an air-sea rescue group, Pacific theatre. Main accomplishment, surviving."

"Returned home in 1946, finished college, got married, worked as an ad illustrator for the Fresno Bee, a McClatchy newspaper. Attended Art Center College in L.A. for a year, got a job in 1948 at Patterson & Hall in San Francisco as an illustrator, at the princely salary of $275 per month. In those days, a new car ran about $1,200 and a new home, $10,000 to $12,000, so all was in proportion."

"I learned all along the line...high school, college, Art Center, an ad agency job during college, the newspaper job, and a crash course at P&H in San Francisco, where competition with 'the best in the west' was very, very real. The 'crash course' was actually learning on the job...and in between jobs, practicing on samples. Busy times."

"One of the many reasons I decided to remain in the west with advertising illustration, instead of heading east and editorial illustration [was that] there were so many good illustrators back there, all wanting to do editorial. Advertising actually paid better, and if you could stand the deadlines and pace, almost as much fun. Well, sometimes as much!"

Patterson & Hall was a great learning place and launching pad. I worked for the first ten years at P&H offices in San Francisco, then moved out to my small home studio, mainly to avoid the two or more hours of commute each day."

"Over a roughly 45 year career, about two thirds of my work came through Patterson & Hall, the rest freelance, but P&H was always a loyal sales, support and promotional group over those years."

"I did no editorial or story commissions.....all corporate ads from ad agencies or direct with the company. I was impressed by all the good illustrators and tried to 'think' like Al Parker, Rockwell, Jon Whitcomb, Austin Briggs, etc. Found it way too tiring, and with short deadlines, just did what came naturally. That way you develop a style all your own."

* All of today's images can be found in my Charlie Allen Flickr set.


  1. Wow! To hear from the artist himself. Thanks, Leif and thank you Mr. Allen for sharing your story and art. Believe me, you've got a rapt audience.

  2. ife was the model for the little girl in the Pirate Picture. Charles Allen, my father-in-law, remains a great artist and we're so proud of his accomplishments. My wife, Whitney, recalls driving through California as a girl and seeing giant bill-boards featuring Charles Allen's illustrations! How cool is that! We love this website!

  3. The aforemntioned comment should begin..."My wife
    Somehow the beginning disappeared.

  4. That's very cool indeed, g.sparks - thanks for your comment and kind words about the blog! :-)

  5. I have an original line drawing of california quail by Charlie Allen. I was told it was art work for a stamp. How could I contact Mr. Allen to get information on the piece?

  6. D.McCay;

    You can email me at leifpeng@gmail.com and I'll put you in touch with Charlie.

  7. What a wonderful little autobiography. I love his style. Just imagine living in that time, when you could see all kinds of great art just by going to the supermarket!