An interesting discussion has been continuing in the comments section of last week's Jon Whitcomb post. It revolves around a variety of nuances regarding the merit of certain illustrators and types of illustration. A point was raised that some artists, Noel Sickles among them, would rather turn down a commission than simply give the client 'whatever they want'. With respect, I submit this Noel Sickles series from Fortune magazine, circa 1951.
To be fair, the ads in Fortune were never intended for a broad public viewing. Those businesses advertising were directing their message to other businesses, as is the case with this American Airlines freight-shipping series - but I gotta tell you - boy, this is some dull stuff!
This is what we in the doodling racket call "paying the bills", and its lacklustre appearance is usually the result of an agency presenting the illustrator with layouts that have been nailed down tighter than a drum, with absolutely no wiggle room left for the poor soul tasked with rendering the final execution.
You'd think with a talent of Noel Sickles' stature and ability that he could somehow turn this water into wine, or that on principal he would have passed on such a tedious series if the client refused to budge from their lame concepts and dreary compositions. But the truth is everyone needs to make a living. And a series of national ads for a major corporation pays very well... even better in 1951 than it would today.
With a name like Today's Inspiration you might be wondering what merit there is in seeing these ads, but in spite of everything said above I wanted readers to consider several important points: that even unspectacular Sickles is still Sickles, that seeing work like this reminds us that illustration is the business of crafting art in the service of utility, and finally, to quote an old friend, "Indoor work, no heavy lifting... where's the down-side?"
* My Noel Sickles Flickr set.
* Is it too late to ask Santa for Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles? I don't know - but it couldn't hurt to try!
* So how do you take what could be pretty mundane subject matter and set it on fire? Check out Charlie Allen's latest CAWS for the answer.