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Celebrating Illustration, Design, Cartoon and Comic Art of the Mid-20th Century

Thanks Blurkers!

Friday, June 29, 2007

I've got a huge grin on my face this morning after reading all the wonderful comments - and emails - from so many of you who have been blurking here at Today's Inspiration. You can't imagine how much it means to me to hear that this blog is an important little kickstart to your day. Thanks to each and every one of you for sharing a bit about yourself!


Our final word on Dom Lupo comes from TI list member Jack Raglin (who's article on vintage pin-up artist Enoch Bolles in issue #10 of Illustration magazine is a must-read). Jack's fine detective work turned up the following clues to the mysterious Dom Lupo:

"His wife's name is Maxine Van Evera Lupo (b. 1921?) and she is some sort of a golf expert. She's published several books ongolf form that Dom has illustrated and one was revised just last year so who knows if she, at least, is still alive (it was first published in 1992). Dom was illustrating golf books in the early 70s and my guess is that he must have been at least a decent golfer. He also was a very busy book cover and interior illustrator in the 70s, mainly from what I can tell, of books for tweeners/teens."

Many thanks for digging up those details, Jack!


You can see these illustrations at full size in my Dom Lupo Flickr set.

So... who are you anyway?

Thursday, June 28, 2007


As this is sort of a momentous occassion (having presented you with my 500th post), I have a confession to make: I'm addicted to my Site Meter. I visit it about a dozen times a day. Its the last thing I check each night before shutting down the computer and going to bed. Why? Because it tells me about you.


That's the one frustrating thing about running this blog, dear reader... you're just not very talkative. Now I don't mean the ten or twenty folks who regularly leave comments or send me email -- to those of you (you know who you are) I am incredibly grateful. You provide the feedback and information and interaction I so thoroughly enjoy. You make the effort of putting together this blog each weekday that much more rewarding. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Its the other seven or eight hundred of you I'm talking about. We need to chat.

Really, each day I'm astonished to see that you visit me from all over the world. That boggles my mind. I'm ecstatic to know that my little blog is reaching someone in Dubai and in Dublin, in Hong Kong as well as in Hamilton (my home town).

You can see from these stats below that many of you just drop in for a brief visit ( the 0:00 timeframe means you're just looking at the first page without clicking anything... Sitemeter can't record the duration of your visit unless you click on stuff).

Its the visitors who stay for a while but leave no comment that I'm really curious about.


For example... Mr. Mandeville, Louisiana (below)...


He found me via a Google Image Search and stopped by twice for approximately 15 minutes in total to look at this:


And then clicked through to look at my Flickr Beverage set:

And then *boom* -- he's gone without a trace, leaving no comment. This drives me nuts! What was he searching for? Is he a designer? An illustrator? A student working on a research paper? Is he a she? Mandeville strikes me as a person with a mission -- and I'm dying to hear what it is.

My friend Ward Jenkins recently wrote about you guys on his excellent blog, The Ward-O-Matic. I did not know it (and perhaps you don't either) but you, dear reader, are a blurker.

Blurker (BLUR-kur): n. 1. One who reads many blogs but leaves no evidence of themselves such as comments behind; a silent observer of blogs. 2. One who reads many blogs but has no blog of their own; a blog-watcher or blog voyeur.

Now I must admit, I've done my share of blurking - even on the blogs of the people I know and love. And I understand you may not have a lot of time for fiddling around with comment passwords and usernames, especially if you are shy, busy, or just don't have much to say... but to all you blurkers out there, why not take a minute today and pop your head up into the sunshine! Tell me a little about who you are and why you visit here. Where are you from and what do you do?

I'd really love to know why you drop by every day and what you think about the blog. What would you like to see more of? Or less of?

C'mon... I promise not to bite. ;-)

Dom Lupo... and 500 Posts!

This is the 500th post on the Today's Inspiration blog. And I can't think of anyone more appropriate to be showcasing on this hallmark occasion than Dom Lupo. For every Norman Rockwell or J.C Leyendecker or Al Parker or Bernie Fuchs, there are a hundred Dom Lupos. These worthy craftsmen, who spent long, hard-working careers marrying creativity to utility, deserve some recognition and praise. It's these artists from whom I draw much inspiration every day in my own efforts at the board -- and it's my goal to make sure they are not forgotten.

When I began Today's Inspiration as a daily mailing list for a dozen friends some six or seven years ago, it was because I had in my possession a huge collection of clipped magazine pages, many of them illustrated with exceptional skill by dozens and dozens of artists I had never heard of.


At that point in time I had been a professional illustrator for more than a decade. How could I be so entirely unfamiliar with a generation of my peers - many of them still alive, some of them still working - who had so thoroughly dominated the printed pages of American mass media for nearly half a century? Illustration, which had once been such an integral part of mainstream media and popular culture, had quiety faded away, leaving almost no record of its passing.


Over time the TI list grew by word of mouth and with the help of better informed and enthusiastic list members my education into the history of illustration in the mid-20th century took off. Starting this blog with the encouragement of my pal, Ward Jenkins, has been an incredibly gratifying experience. Through Today's Inspiration, I've had the pleasure and privilege of meeting many kindered spirits -- other fans of the artform, friends and family members of great illustrators past and present and, most rewarding of all, some of the very artists I've showcased here.

To all of you who are on the TI mailing list - and to the many more who make this blog a part of their day - thanks for joining me on this journey of discovery and celebration... I hope you'll still be with me for the next 500 posts!

Attack of the 50 Ft. Telephone Repair Guy!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


1956 - '57 was a good time in Dom Lupo's career. He landed an account with General Telephone Systems that saw him illustrating a series of magazine ads featuring a GIANT telephone repair man.


Actually, these ads are where I first became aware of Lupo's work... how could anyone miss that bold signature? No doubt this series is also where America would have really had the chance to notice Lupo. The unique (admitedly hokey) concept, repeated with the minor variations you see here, month after month in the Saturday Evening Post must have provided Lupo with unprecedented exposure...


Unfortunately, it seems to have not made a difference. As I mentioned yesterday, I have found almost nothing in the way of story illustrations by Lupo in the major mainstream magazines of the 50's.


You can take a closer look at the work of this underappreciated illustrator in my Dom Lupo Flickr set.

Dom Lupo... Trapped!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Magazines don't have the cultural impact today that they did back in the 50's. Today, they are a relatively small part of a huge conglomeration of media sources. Half a century ago, they were one of the most important.

Commercial art has always been a profession with a caste system and, during the mid-20th century, there was no status higher than to be an "illustrator for the slicks". I imagine any illustrator would have loved seeing his name in the Saturday Evening Post (or any other mainstream magazine) knowing that it meant millions of Americans - not to mention hundreds of potential clients - were becoming familiar with his work.


I don't know how the Post chose which illustrators would receive story assignments... but I don't think Dom Lupo was ever among that elite group. In fact, aside from a few line drawings done for Collier's (like the ones we looked at yesterday) I have never come across any editorial art by Lupo in any mainstream magazine.

Whether this was of any importance to Lupo, we may never know -- but he seems to have been trapped on a lower rung in the world of commercial art. Destined to only see his name in the Post if it was attached to an ad he had illustrated.


You can see these illustrations at full size in my Dom Lupo Flickr set.

Dom Lupo

Monday, June 25, 2007

Dom Lupo's a perfect subject for my "reduced service" summer program. I have only a handful of his illustrations and know absolutely nothing about him so these posts will be short and sweet.


Still, I get a kick every time I find a new piece with that bold "Dom Lupo" signature in the corner. What can I say? I'm a collector.


If you were reading this blog back when we did a week on "Big Cat Attacks" then you've already met Mr. Lupo. He did this piece for Adventure magazine in 1954 -- the same year he did the illustration with yellow spot colour (above) for Collier's.

*You'll find both these illustrations at full size in my Dom Lupo Flickr set.

Everett McNear in Childcraft

Friday, June 22, 2007

Another illustrator who really caught my attention in these Childcraft volumes is Everett McNear. He didn't contribute a huge amount of material to the books, but each of his pieces has a strong and unique approach that really appeals to me.


And by searching his name on the internet I discovered this article that will be of special interest to those of you who are designers (or who are simply interested in graphic design). It turns out that Everett McNear owned one of Chicago's leading studios in the 1950's.


As well, this page of a California art gallery's website provides McNear's birth and death dates and shows an example of his fine art painting.


We have barely scratched the surface when it comes to the Childcraft series of books. I've held back an awful lot of material this week that I'll be using for longer posts on specific artists.

* You can see today's images at full size in my Everett McNear Flickr set.

"Realism" in Childcraft

Thursday, June 21, 2007

There are probably just as many realistic illustrators as there are stylized artists in the Childcraft book series. The amazing thing is how many there are whom I've never (or just barely) heard of...

Richard Loehle, for instance. Obviously, a very talented artist... but this is the first time I've ever come acrosss his work. Loehle is listed as having worked for the Grant-Jacoby art studios.


Robert Addison (below) I've heard of - but I've only ever seen his signature on this one ad before.


John Henry, who worked for the Chicago art studio, Stephens, Biondi, DiCicco (you'll be hearing more from me about them soon)...


...and Art Magee -- another unknown but talented realist. There are more -- many more! Where did they all come from... and where did they go?

Only time - and more research - will tell.

Naiad Einsel in Childcraft

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

What a delight to discover these pieces by Naiad Einsel in one of the Childcraft volumes! She only did these two... but I'm always thrilled to see more of her wonderful work.


If you weren't yet visiting Today's Inspiration when I wrote about Naiad and her husband, Walter, then you might want to go back to these previous posts:

A Calling Card for All the World To See
"I liked his artwork because it looked like mine."
"Leapfrogging"
More Feast than Famine
Crazy in Love
And be prepared to shed a tear... the story of the Einsel's profound love for each other is very moving.


If you'd like to see these pieces at full size, they're now in my Naiad & Walter Einsel Flickr set.

Robert Kresin in Childcraft

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A big part of what I hope to accomplish with Today's Inspiration is to showcase not just the celebrated illustrators of the 50's -- but those who are virtually unknown as well. For example, Robert Kresin.


I've never seen Kresin's work before, but he appears throughout these many volumes of the Childcraft series. Kresin was proficient in any number of styles... these are only a small example of his versatility.


I have a real fondness for illustrators who work in a great variety of styles - which might explain, at least in part, why I'm drawn to Kresin's illustrations. I get the sense that he was an artist who enjoyed trying new things... and the quality of every one of his pieces speaks to the underlying skill he had, no matter what surface technique he employed.


While there is really no information about Kresin on the internet, I suspect he was a Chicago area illustrator. The Childcraft books were published by Field Enterprises, a Chicago publisher, and a great many of the illustrations and photos throughout the set are credited to Chicago art studios.

* You'll find these a few more pieces by the artist in my Robert Kresin Flickr set. His zig-zaggy line style is particularly nice when seen at full size.

Charles Harper in Childcraft

Monday, June 18, 2007

Oh Happy Day!

On Friday I finally located a set of Childcraft books in a little thrift shop in Grimsby. Ever since I first found a random batch of these incredible books about a year ago I've coveted a complete set. The sheer quantity of artwork and artists represented in the few volumes I owned left me feeling half-crazed with curiousity about who might have done work in the other books.


Well now I know... and WOW... you're gonna freak when you see all the beautiful artwork I'll be bringing you in the coming weeks and months!

For starters: Charles Harper. If, like me, you were unfamiliar with this illustrator/designer's elegant style until now, then its my great pleasure to introduce you to his work.


If you were already a Charles Harper fan, hopefully these pieces are new to you.

Unfortunately, Harper passed away only a few days ago. But he was much loved and celebrated right to the end. My pal, Ward Jenkins, recently posted about Harper on his always excellent blog The Ward-O-Matic, where he provides lots of great info and links for Charles Harper fans - new and old - to check out. I encourage you take a look!


For me, Harper's style is incredibly striking... both inspirational and educational. His wonderful design sense brings a truly impactful quality to an already masterful and thoroughly modern technique.


I've got a couple more of Harper's Childcraft illos, as well as larger versions of what you see here today, in my new Charles Harper Flickr set.

Summer is for kids

Friday, June 15, 2007

Aahh summer! When you're a kid (and I know most of you were probably kids at one time) summer means freedom. It means sleeping in and eating sugar cereal every day for breakfast and riding your bike all over the place - maybe even to the school yard, just to gloat at the locked doors and windows - and staying out 'til half an hour after it gets dark... and lemonade stands.


Oh yeah - and Father's Day!

Yes, Father's Day, the most underwhelming day of the year. On Mother's Day there's flowers and chocolates and maybe even dinner out at a fancy restaurant. And "Every Day is Kids' Day", as our parents used to say... but Father's Day always strikes me as a bit of an afterthought. And by the almost complete lack of ads promoting Father's Day in my collection of old magazines from the 50's, I'd say advertisers pretty much felt the same way.

So what do you get the guy who goes off to work every day to keep a roof over your head and food on the table? Why, underpants, of course! Now that's the way to celebrate a holiday!


Because nothing says, "I love you Dad" like a good ol' pair of Fruit of the Loom dad-size underpants. Happy Father's Day, everybody!

Cool Summer Fashions... 50's Style!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The coolest, hippest fashions were born in the 50's. Everything since has just been a refinement. Take these RayBans, for example... even today, half a century later, you'd get a lot a compliments if you were seen wearing a pair of these.


And - sorry surfer shorts and tank tops - you got nothin' on this family set of matching beach wear. The folks at Catalina knew how to dress us up with class for summer. I predict today's fashion designers will soon be imitating this look - if they haven't already done so.


So how do you complete a snappy summer outfit?

Why with a pair of U.S. Keds, of course. My son just bought himself a pair of shoes identical to the red hightop shown below. Not actual U.S. Keds - his are made of hemp and come from No Sweat Apparel - but that classic 50's style hasn't changed a bit.


Why? 'Cause its cool!

Sargent's Summer

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Here's a moment I think we can all relate to: the first morning of summer vacation.


Of the many regular cover artists the Saturday Evening Post employed, Dick Sargent has to be one of my favourites. His gentle sense of humour and ability to capture those genuine moments of everyday life, always executed with great skill and solid craftsmanship, never fail to please.


Dick Sargent is on my list of illustrators who need to be showcased over the course of a week. For now, these two scans will have to do... and there's a third one in my Dick Sargent Flickr set.

Summer Stylization

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

It kind of incredible, isn't it... this style is 50 years old!


I can remember when some artists from Reactor in Toronto began producing illustrations in this style back in the mid-1980's. It seemed like a really vital, contemporary, avant-garde look. Imagine how truly avant-garde it must have looked to the public three decades earlier...


I now think of this style as the Thomas Vroman look. He's the only artist I've come across from the 50's who put a signature to work done in this style... though I'm sure there were many others. If you've never taken a close look at his work, spend a few minutes perusing my Thomas Vroman Flickr set.

Summer's Here!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Ok, not officially... but it sure feels like summer, doesn't it?


And with the imminent arrival of summer I propose we all spend a little less time in front of the computer and a little more time enjoying the great outdoors.

That's why I'll be cutting back on long posts and multiple images for the next couple of months. You'll still find one or two images here each weekday... but I'm going to take a break from researching and writing and scanning, scanning, scanning.

So if the weather's as nice where you are as it is here in sunny Southern Ontario, then I encourage you to get outside for lunch today. Take a stroll, do a little gardening when you get home tonight and and enjoy SUMMER!

Fletcher Martin: Strength and Sensitivity

Friday, June 08, 2007

All the while that Fletcher Martin was drawing and painting scenes of masculinity and conflict he was also returning again and again to the female form - clothed, seminude and nude.

These images are like the opposite side of the coin. While Martin's men often have a primal toughness, an almost Neanderthal quality about them, his women are always a vision of loveliness and gentility. Even in his earliest pieces, like this painting of a prostitute (below), sexuality is subsumed by an obvious affection and sensitivity for womankind.


In this entire volume* I've been referencing all week, among all the many paintings of women, there is not a single image where Martin portrays women in anything but a sympathetic light. This was clearly a man who loved women.


During the late 1940's Fletcher Martin married his second wife and they had two sons. This coincided with a change in the artist's work. Over the next decade the violent images of his youth began to recede and were replaced more and more by images of women...


...and children.


Asked about this new element in his work, Martin shrugged it off, saying simply that at that point in his life "the children were just there."


But I get the sense that there's more to it than that. Martin's ability to capture the quality of childhood in his paintings of children suggest that he never lost touch with his own inner child. He once said, "It seems to me that the stimulation and motivation for my painting today is not unlike it was in my youth. The drawings I made as a child were fantasies on a theme, and so, in essence, are all my paintings, with few exceptions... "


"They are all inventions."


William Saroyan, the prolific author and playwright, who befriended Martin when the artist was still quite young, described Fletcher Martin in this manner:

"The thing that is memorable about him was a quality of quietude. He seemed to be at home in the world. He spoke slowly and in a deep voice. Everybody else I was apt to meet in those days seemed to be in a hurry. He wasn't. One sensed in his nature the strength of a sensitive and gentle personality."


* From the book "Fletcher Martin" © 1977 Harry N. Abrams Inc.

* All of today's images can be seen at full size in my Fletcher Martin Flickr set.
 

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