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 illustrator...an era when the print media still ruled. Illustration was a small profession...you 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.