Thursday, September 18, 2008

Nearly Anonymous: Bill Tara

Finally, a cartoonist/illustrator who started out being nearly anonymous as I planned this week's topic and is now much less so.

Imagine this: thanks to Charlie Allen, we have these great Bill Tara cartoons to enjoy. Charlie clipped and filed them fifty years ago when he worked in San Fransisco, knowing only that Tara was a Los Angeles-based illustrator.

Charlie wrote, "Heard [Tara] at an awards dinner at the Mark Hopkins....a raconteur and very funny guy." But as far as additional info on the artist goes, it looked like we were stumped.

Then I did a quick search on the 'net and, lo and behold, Tara's name had previously been referenced... on this very blog! It was mentioned in passing by one of our previous subjects who's now a TI list member, Harry Borgman. I contacted Harry and - yup - 50 years ago on the other side of the country (in Detroit) Harry had worked with the same Bill Tara.

Just think how fortunate we are to have two great artists from that golden age of illustration who worked on opposite coasts give us the scoop on a third remarkable talent who, it turns out, worked on both.

Harry wrote back with the following:

"Bill Tara was hired by Campbell Ewald Creative Director Jim Hastings as a freelance idea man, and he was very good at it. I worked with him a lot of the time that I was at CE, from 1956 to 1960. I frequently went out to LA on Chevrolet photo assignments, working with photographer Todd Walker, Bill was a friend of his and was often involved."

"I remember that he did some billboard art for Chevrolet, this was before 1956, too bad we can't find any of these. I'll check my friend Jim Bernardin*, he's saved tons of old Chevy stuff. Jim is the guy that took over my job when I left CE."

"Tara was certainly an interesting character to have known as well as a great idea man. After I left CE I still used to run into him quite often in Detroit restaurants and watering holes and I also was still doing a lot of freelance work on the Chevy account."

I'm very grateful to both Harry and Charlie for making this last post possible. Without their contribution, we might never have known about Bill Tara, a talented illustrator/cartoonist who ought to be recognized for his excellent work.

* Harry also brings to our attention a great blog that his long-time friend Jim Bernardin has started up: Old Chevy Ads, which right now features an old Chevy ad by... Charlie Allen!

My Bill Tara Flickr set.


  1. Anonymous2:05 PM

    Hi Leif,

    Hey, what can I say? Just when I figured "Today's Inspiration" couldn't get any better, along comes what was possibly my favourite week yet!

    These guys are all worthy of serious study and I especially like Robert Bugg who I'd never even heard of before and might never have if it wasn't for your service. What a great talent in realistic and/or cartoon styles.

    As always, thanks - you are a great Canadian!

    Have a good weekend.

    Huw Evans
    EYECATCHER Graphics

  2. Bill Tara was my mentor at Los Angeles Otis Art Institute in 1970 - 1971. I was a School Grad with big eyes and LOTS of talent. Tata was a super art coach and mentor. He also has my first edition cllection of FREAK COMIX illustrated by Robert Crumb and others [Which I would like to have returned - ha!]
    Lark Chadwick, no other, one and only. Ease your mind. Send me the $.

  3. Can anyone tell me if this is the same artist that did the Lithograph's of the young girls. I have some of the Lithograph girls and just recently found a couple of wonderful clowns. My first Lithograph was in the 1970s so I have always wanted to know all I can about him. Please let me know any information you may have on him
    Thank You.

    1. Yes he did do lithographs of young women. I just picked up a pair today. My pair is on a "tile-like" board and they are absolutely fabulous. I, also would love to know more about him.
      Here is an example

      The graphics