Friday, August 15, 2008

Robert Fawcett Q & A

In 1950 American Artist magazine introduced a remarkable monthly 'Illustration Q & A' feature. Readers had the unprecedented opportunity to direct pertinent question to some of the top professionals then working in illustration. Among those most often queried was Robert Fawcett. His responses are as relevant today as they were almost 60 years ago (and reveal, I think, some of that character of which we have heard this week):

Question for Robert Fawcett:

Is it necessary to hire professional models to get the best results in my work?

Answer: "Indeed not. I feel that intelligent friends are usually much better for modeling. They haven't been spoiled by acquiring that model's habit of mugging and grinning under all circumstances."

Q: Will an agent really help me sell my work?

A: "An agent is invaluable to the beginner. He has an entree to art directors that the beginning artist does not have, and he can help greatly to build the young artist's career. The difficulty, for the young artist, is to enlist the services of a good representative, for the best of them are beset by more artists than they can handle with integrity."

"The only way to engage the interest of a representative is, of course, to present him with a portfolio of work of promising caliber. After being assured of the agent's reputation and standing, the young artist would be well advised to put his work entirely into the agent's hands and to be guided by his advice. This does not rule out the artist's ambition to improve and change; drawings of the kind of work he wants to do should be constantly added to what he has already done."

"Only in this way do art directors see his latest output. Finding the right agent is an important step that should be discussed with art directors and other artists whose judgement may prove helpful."

Q: Are movie stills a reliable source of historical reference material?

A: "I am wary of accepting movie stills as the last word of authority after an incident which happened to me in Hollywood. During a visit to one of the larger studios I was talking to a woman who was in charge of all research. I told her of the great value we illustrators place in movie stills as sources of historical reference. We assumed, I said, that the research facilities of the movie industry were much greater than our own and we therefore relied heavily on this research for accuracy. She replied that, on the contrary, if a picture had appeared in a magazine such as The Saturday Evening Post, that constituted authority enough for them! I left her pondering uneasily on the extent to which the halt have been leading the blind these many years!"

Q: What is the greatest stumbling block in the path of the present-day commercial illustrator?

A: "The greatest danger in commercial illustration is repetition and the boredom and loss of interest that inevitably follow. The history of illustrative art is full of examples of illustrators who, on the strength of a big success, turned into super-mechanics, only to be shocked and surprised when public enthusiasm gave way to apathy."

"This is even truer when the origianl success was a production of some distinction. I know of no way better to avoid the stumbling block of repetition than to determine to wait for the particular solution to each problem rather than to repeat a recent successful idea."

My Robert Fawcett Flickr set.


  1. Estimado Leif Peng:
    ¡Admirable dibujo el de Robert Fawcett! Gracias por compartir tantas ilustraciones.
    Tema aparte: veo que tienes solamente una ilustración de Lyle Justis. Mira en mi blog:
    he puesto una buena cantidad de dibujos de La Isla del Tesoro, de Lyle Justis, incluyendo uno con fecha y firma del autor.
    Si te son útiles para ampliar tu carpeta, puedes copiarlos.

    Un saludo cordial y hasta siempre.

  2. Many thanks, rotebor, both for your kind words and for sharing those beautiful Lyle Justis illustrations on your blog!

    Best wishes - Leif

  3. You've got me drooling at the thought of more 'Illustration Q & A' posts. I hope in the future you can do more of these, because it's fascinating to get into the minds of these great artists.

  4. again, priceless!

  5. Leif, gran semana. Fawcett es siempre una buena opción. Rotebor,
    gracias por compartir las ilustraciones de Lyle Justis. Usted tiene
    gusto muy bueno. Puede ser aprendido mucho estudiar el trabajo de
    Fawcett y de Justis. Si usted estudia solamente el mejor Rotebor, y
    agrega su propia personalidad, usted continuará creciendo y mejorando
    de una manera positiva.

    Tom Watson

  6. Outstanding opportunity. I am a huge fan of Mr. Fawcett and to read feedback from questions is great. The knowledge that these individuals have and the legacy that they carved out, is truly inspiring to all of us.

  7. You can count on seeing more Q&A posts in the future! I couldn't believe my eyes when I first discovered this feature in the 1950 issues of AA. I don't know if it continued into 1951 since I have no issues from that year, but sadly it had ended by 1952. What a shame... the opportunity to hear directly from these illustration professionals on subjects related to the business is truly remarkable.