Friday, September 21, 2007

"It looks pretty rosy in hindsight..."

When Bruce Hettema was interviewing him for his article on the history of Patterson and Hall, Chet Patterson said of Charlie Allen, "Charlie was the best all around illustrator the agency ever had. Better than Stan Galli, and Bruce Bomberger and all the rest."

How does Charlie Allen feel about those days?

"Looking back", says the artist, "the mid-1900's was a great time to be an era when the print media still ruled. Illustration was a small had to be good to survive. There were magazines, newspapers, billboards, trade ads...all kinds of venues that used illustration...and, like razor blades, they needed continuous replacing."

"The 'Western look' was lead by Fred Ludekens and a bunch of my San Francisco contemporaries.....Stan Galli, Bruce Bomberger, Haines Hall, Willard Cox, Gordon Brusstar, Dan Romano.....and, if I do say, myself. It was partly due to the rugged geography of the west, the 'cowboy' or western tradition, and the need to illustrate for corporations instead of editorial magazines."

"It looks pretty rosy in hindsight....but it represents big time struggles. Job-wise, health-wise, economics-wise, etc.-wise."

"Finally got some fairly well paying jobs in the early '80s, including the duck stamp prints."

"When the big magazines and even ad illustration (due to soaring TV budgets) bit the dust, a lot of top illustrators were forced to 'head for the hills'....western painting, historical painting, wildlife art (lead by your Robert Bateman), and, as I did, Duck Stamp competitions. Also pheasant, trout, upland game bird art...anything that required a legal stamp on a hunting license. Limited edition prints came into vogue....I've done several...but the trick is to hustle them. Most artists want to create, not sell."

"Change is the only constant", it is said, and the last one third of the century saw huge changes in culture, technology, and communication, which brought print illustration, as we knew it, to near extinction. I feel fortunate and grateful to have been a part of that earlier time when illustration was valued and a part of everyday lives."

"Anyway, technology and a declining market took care of illustration as we knew it. 'Time wounds all heels', or something like that! We're blessed on one common level. It is great to work in a biz that we enjoy doing."

"My thanks to Bruce Hettema who has done a heroic job of assembling, preserving, and promoting the history of Patterson & Hall and the work of its' many talented artists over the years. Also thanks to young people like you, in this digitalized, marginalized, computerized, virtual media world, for recovering and displaying art and illustration as it was in the last century."

*My thanks as well to Bruce, who first suggested that Charlie Allen would make a great subject for Today's Inspiration,made arrangements with Mr. Allen in preperation for the interview process, and provided virtually every scans we've enjoyed this week. As well, many thanks to Charlie Allen for being so cooperative and forthcoming about his career. I can tell from your comments this week that you've enjoyed hearing from him as much as I have.

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


  1. I can’t the words to say thanks for bringing us the chance to know about these talented illustrators and his work it’s really a good inspiration for the people who loves this art.
    Thanks to Mr. Allen for give us the opportunity to know about him and his career.

  2. Thanks Leif for doing a fantastic job on Charlies carrer. It's been a real honor to get to know Charlie and his fantastic body of work, and I appreciate your efforts in getting his story wider exposure.

    Sincerely, Bruce Hettema

  3. Robert Steiner12:11 AM

    Charles and his wife, Charlotte have been friends of my wife and me for many years. Your coverage is great, but only scratches the surface of this talented artist and his and his wife's life stories. Aside from being an incredible artist, Charles is a true gentleman. I've been privileged to have had his critiques of my art over the years and I have been honored to have published his fine work.
    Bob Steiner

  4. Thanks for your comment, Robert. I'm sure we all realize that this week's look at Charlie Allen only scratches the surface. This blog, after all, si not the ideal venue for a detailed look at any one artist.

    Since you know him so well and have published his work, perhaps you would consider publishing a comprehensive biography that we who so greatly admire his work can really learn about the man and his art! ;-)