Friday, November 28, 2008

‘Hints from the Model Garage’ by Rouse

TI list member Dan Picasso recently brought to my attention the work of an illustrator he greatly admired. I invited Dan to guest-write a post about this artist, and since the material is automotive in nature, I thought it would make a great conclusion to this week's topic:

If you were a fellow in the 1950s, as you paused before repairing a leaky faucet, retrieving a bolt you just dropped down your Studebaker’s intake manifold, or tearing into a new addition on your split-level, you might have fetched yourself a copy of Popular Science magazine to check your method and approach.

In the era between WWl and VietNam, Pop Sci bestrode the middleclass/middlebrow world of handy- and would-be-handymen like a Colossus- it sought to instruct and explain, in sometimes breezy, often earnest and occasionally dire fashion, the scientific and mechanical goings-on of a world in flux. Sawdust covered stacks of Pop Sci were typically found in basement workshops, their pages rife with photos and drawings of fellows with pipes clamped between their teeth building go-karts and kitchens and cyclotrons, or fabulously elaborate cutaways of manufacturing plants or warships.

A monthly feature of Pop Sci was ‘Hints from the Model Garage’, a two-page spread of automotive hints and tips. From perhaps ’49 to ’62, it was illustrated by a man who signed his work “Rouse”. No further credit accompanied his eight panels each month, nor am I even certain of his first name, but for the sake of this article let’s call him “Art”.

Rouse’s work goes far beyond the normal scope of technical illustration, which tends toward the dry and schematic: in addition to his precision he’s incredibly fluid, and shows signs of Horror Vacuii - there’s a graphomaniacal aspect to Rouse’s work which reminds me of Will Elder’s, sans the jokes.

Leif and I discussed the scratchboard look, but I’m convinced it’s done in ruling pen, crowquill and maybe a little tech pen, along with the aid of drafting equipment.

Bonafides in engineering or at least an intimate knowledge of how things work [and look] are explicit in Rouse’s rendering of ancillary parts and assemblies—it’s as if he can’t help himself; he must draw that windshield washer pump, and make it look great, even if the subject of the illustration is the carburetor.

Rouse’s manifestly dogged but lovely and complex approach—look at how not only the salient points of each illo but also the background details are fully fleshed out in sparkling detail—seem to suggest a man unafraid of sheer hard work in pursuit of his paycheck, and one who finds some delight in the dry corners of a niche of illustration which is normally carried out with little more than a purely factual approach.

None of this professional detachment for Rouse—he’s the Norman Rockwell of down-and-dirty tech illustration. From his rendering of faces, I get the hint that his instructive time took place in the ‘20s:

the guy under the car looks like F. Scott Fitzgerald to me, and overall the penwork has the enthusiasm and skillfully graceful modeling of Charles Dana Gibson, if far more rigidly applied.

I can’t help but think that Rouse, upon entering the studio for the day or evening, didn’t sigh and mutter, “Dear God, not another carburetor,” but instead brought to the board some kind of affection for the mundane mechanical subjects of his talents, and in doing so left behind some modestly astonishing examples of inspired hard work.

[I have been unable to find even a shred of information on Rouse the man, so any help readers can provide would be appreciated.]

Many thanks to Dan for his insightful remarks and for sharing these images from his collection!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Charles Schridde: 'An old friend" - Harry Borgman

Harry Borgman (who was the subject of a week of posts on Today's Inspiration last year and who now runs two blogs of his own) surprised me recently with a generous gift: the 1963 Detroit Art Directors Annual. Within those pages I discovered the work of Charlie Scridde, beginning with this gorgeous full page ad Schridde took out in that volume.

"Charlie Schridde is an old friend that I worked with many years," writes Harry, "we still see each other and keep in touch. Charlie did a great series of Motorola ads in 1961-62, you can google "Motorola ads Charlie Schridde".

Schridde has a website, and there I found an article that recounts how he landed the Motorola ad series that has developed a cult following among mid-century illustration afficionados.

When Charlie Schridde was working at New Center Studios in Detroit in the early sixties, the recently acquired Motorola account was the subject of an in-house contest. Each artist was asked to create a scene involving "a neat place to watch tv." As a result, Schridde's vision of sophisticated couples, near-future architecture and sumptuous, panoramic environments won the day. He continued creating the high-profile, double-page spread Motorola ads (which regularily appeared in both Life magazine and the Saturday Evening Post) even after leaving New Center.

Harry also sent along the Chevrolet catalogue cover below, illustrated by Charlie Schridde. During Detroit's heyday, car catalogues were a major component of the assignments artists like Harry and Charlie could expect to get.

"When the automotive catalog season hit it meant that many illustrators would be tied to their drawing boards for a few months and working long hours, usually from April through July," writes Harry in a post on his blog called Unique to Detroit: Catalog Season! I highly recommend you give it - and Harry's other posts - a good read. Harry recounts in fascinating detail what the art business was like in Detroit during those glorious times, illustrated with beautiful examples of his (and other's) automotive artwork.

For Charlie Schridde, Detroit provided steady work for a very long time - though not neccessarily as an illustrator.

"When the illustration business was just starting to change around 1967,"
writes Harry, "Charlie saw it coming and became a very successful photographer."

In the article on his website, Scridde says of his switch to photography, "It was so much easier and it's still easier. You can do ten photographs in one day and if you do one painting in a week you're doing damn well." Schridde stayed in Detroit until 1993.

Returning to the '63 Detroit AD Annual, notice that the credits for the Charlie Schridde piece above mention Jim Bernardin was the art director. Harry hired Jim back when he (Harry) worked at the Campbell-Ewald agency on the Chevy account.

Jim has also started a blog, called Old Chevy Ads, which features an incredible selection of artwork by many of the illustrators we've previously discussed here, including our own Charlie Allen. Be sure to visit Jim's blog as well for more art and info from the Motor City's heyday.

* My Charlie Schridde Flickr set.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Ben Jaroslaw: “one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.” - Bernie Fuchs

From David Apatoff's issue-long article on Bernie Fuchs in Illustration #15, we learn that Ben Jaroslaw "was already an accomplished car painter when Bernie arrived in Detroit." I asked David if he had anything more on Jaroslaw, and he very kindly contacted Bernie Fuchs, who provided the information that follows...

(Below, the earliest example of Jaroslaw's work I could locate, circa 1954.)

Ben was good at whatever he chose to do. He didn’t start out painting cars, he started painting figures and one day decided that he was going to do cars. When Ben started painting cars, it was customary to paint them with airbrush. Almost everyone in Detroit painted them that way, and Ben was very good with airbrush but Ben and fellow painter Al Wilson decided they wanted to try painting cars using a real brush.

They got rid of the airbrush and did such a beautiful job that clients couldn’t even tell the difference.

Bernie was younger than Ben, and Ben was “very encouraging.” They worked together as a true team. Bernie was responsible for doing the background figures, but both artists worked together on the whole ad, going over and over how the figures should look, or how the lighting should be arranged.

(Below, a 1957 piece by Fuchs and Jaroslaw)

Ben had extremely high standards and he was very involved in the photography and the whole look of the picture. Bernie learned a great deal from him.

Ben was a fantastic golfer, and almost turned pro. He taught Bernie how to golf (including his trademark swing) and continued to play golf all his life. Bernie thinks Ben was never sure he made the right choice in picking illustration over golf.

(Below, two ads by Ben Jaroslaw, both from 1960)

After Bernie left Detroit for New York, Ben stayed in Detroit and became involved in sales and management of The Art Group, the studio that Ben, Bernie and a few other artists founded.

* My Ben Jaroslaw Flickr set.

* Many thanks to David and Bernie for their assistance with today's post.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

50 Years Ago in Detroit

Last week the CEO's of the 'Big Three' Detroit auto makers arrived (by private jet) in Washington holding tin cups in their manicured hands. They warned of dire consequences if a taxpayer-financed bailout wasn't forthcoming. It was a sad testament to how far the Motor City had fallen.

Fifty years ago, Detroit was a different place.

Magazines of the 1950's were bursting with ads for cars and trucks, gasoline, tires - even for roads. America embraced the idea of getting behind the wheel and stepping on the gas.

There is an overwhelming sense of optimism in the automotive ads of the period. A bright-eyed confidence and muscularity that is reflected in the bold designs and colours of the vehicles themselves.

It was a great time to be an automotive illustrator. "Detroit Is Busy" is the headline of an article in a mid-50's issue of Art Director and Studio News.

"While there are jobs for artists and art directors of almost all styles, sizes and shapes, the big demand is for youth."

"Young men, with experience enough to be productive, and with potential, will find opportunities everywhere in the area - probably more than in any other major art center in the country."

"This condition is due to the huge volume of advertising prepared in this area, coupled with the toll taken in young artists by the armed services in the past few years. Numerous ad agencies and most of the art services have found this to be true."

"Quite a lot of experienced talent has moved into Detroit recently, which indicates activity on that level. A survey provided this information on specific talent:"

"1. Art Directors - a number of jobs open in the $5,000 to $10,000 a year bracket, with a variety of accounts to work on."

"2. Studio Layout Men - several studios are looking for young layout men with individual design ability. One known studio needs an art director for its layout department."

"3. Illustrators - young illustrators with potential can get all kinds of experience here. One studio guarantees $300 to $400 weekly to the right man."

"4. Automobile Artists - the volume of business lead one studio owner to state that automobile artists are needed more than at any time in the history of the industry."

And just consider how short the history of that industry was. Only 50 years earlier, Henry Ford had tinkered away in a little shed behind his house, trying to get a gas engine to do the work of a horse, while his wife, Clara, darned socks by lamplight.

Could he ever have imagined how explosive the combustion of his little engine would be? How profoundly it would impact the lives of people all around the world? And for our purposes, how it would create, for a time, an area of highly specialized illustration, both creative and lucrative for those artists with the expertise to participate in its creation.

This week, let's look at a few of those artists - and at a happier time in the age of the American automobile industry.

Let's look at Detroit in its heyday: 50 years ago.

* My Auto Ads Flickr set.

* AND be sure to check out Charlie Allen's latest installment of the CAWS at Charlie Allen's Blog!

Friday, November 21, 2008

W. David Shaw: Two Brush Drawings... and A Cover.

Three years to the month after the article we've been looking at this week, American Artist magazine revisited W. David Shaw, this time even giving him the cover.

Inside, Shaw's work and accompanying narrative is featured in a brief 2-page article...

"The drawings reproduced here were made last spring on a short, relaxed sketching trip in the Cotswolds in England and along the Rhine. I traveled by plane from New York to london, rented a small car, and drove directly to the Cotswold hills. A little later I flew from London to cologne, then drove in a rented car down the east bank of the Rhine to Heidelberg, back along the west bank through the wine country to Cologne - and then returned to New York by plane."

"I traveled light - one medium-sized suitcase with the usual clothing plus a leather handbag that held all my sketching materials. Included were three books of 20-sheet Bristol paper, 11 x 14; one sable brush, series 7, #3; a bottle of jet-black ink; a plastic cosmetic jar for water to rinse the brush; a folding stool (canvas and aluminum); a package of facial tissues; and an aluminum sign-painter's mahlstick with a suction cup on one end and a rubber pad on the other (it was in three sections which could be put together easily)."

"When I saw a subject that I wanted to draw I stopped the car, assembled my few materials, sat down, opened the ink and put it on the ground to my right, fitted the mahlstick together, put the suction cup to the back of the drawing pad, took up the brush, and looked long and hard at the subject. Then I started drawing directly with the brush and ink. I put in everything that interested or amused me, ignoring the rest. In every case the result was something that I could not possibly have invented. Working within these limitations (I did not take a camera on this trip) I was at times forced to improvise - to think of some way to make this one tool do the many things I required of it. Since this trip was purely for relaxation - a sort of busman's holiday - I found it successful in every respect. Altogether, I managed to make sixty drawings." - W.D.S.

* My W. David Shaw Flickr set.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

W. David Shaw: "I have always believed in myself"

In the article from the October 1955 issue of American Artist, W. David Shaw tells interviewer Ernest W. Watson, "Being born on the 4th of July was really a felicitous circumstance for me. In early childhood I enjoyed the illusion that Indepenence Day bands were celebrating my own birthday; that the orations, parades, and picnics were festivities honoring that personal event."

"It may be hard for you to understand how that childish delusion could affect my later attitude toward life but, seriously, it did; it gave me a confidence in myself which I know has been a big factor in whatever success I have attained."

"I have always believed in myself - and I think that is important for an artist, for every creative person."

Shaw continues, "Many artists make the mistake of trying to anticipate what the client might have in his mind or in trying to copy a style that is currently popular, rather than in asserting and promoting their own original ideas. When, five years ago, I first showed the kind of work I am now doing, it was not readily accepted. I had to be very persistent in it. Now I am kept busy supplying the demand for exactly the sort of thing I can do best and love best to do."

Above, what might have been an early indication that Shaw was on the right track, this piece was recognized by the Art Directors Club of New York for inclusion on nearly the last page of their 1948 annual.

Seven years later, the piece at the top of today's post won 'Best Painting in Show' and 'Best Full Color Magazine Illustration' from the San Francisco Art Directors Club.

The untimely death of his father did not sway the young David Shaw from his determination to pursue a career in art. He had saved enough money to go to Chicago and, with a part-time job in a cafeteria and frugal living, he made it through his first year at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. Later he earned money as a letterer and in 1936 he graduated.

Then came work in an engraving shop and marriage at age 21 to Janice Youngblood, his hometown sweetheart. Soon thereafter, Shaw landed a hundred-dollar-a-week job at the Nugent-Graham Studio in Chicago.

When the war came, Shaw took infantry training and was shipped overseas to Italy. He was assigned to Yank magazine as a reporter-illustrator and made hundreds of pictures for the Army Archives, plus many hundreds more that filled his sketchbooks.

It must have been this time - plus his early training in sign painting - that helped Shaw refine what Watson succinctly describes as his "living, expressive line which is noteworthy in his present work where it is incorporated with his dashing brush."

Watson points out that Shaw's post-war freelance career found him specializing in travel subjects - "places and atmosphere" - more often than as an illustrator of fiction.

Even so, Shaw produced the occasional story illustration like the one below, suggesting that he enjoyed the opportunity to experiment outside his niche...

At the time of the article Shaw was living with his wife and four-year-old son, Timothy, in Greenwich, Connecticut.

* My W. David Shaw Flickr set.

* Many thanks to Jaleen Grove for providing the W. David Shaw article from American Artist magazine from which this week's information is derived.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

W. David Shaw: "No Talent" - Underscored!

When Ernest W. Watson was preparing to interview W. David Shaw for the October 1955 issue of American Artist, he asked Shaw to jot down a few biographical notes and send them to him. Shaw began his reply with "Born July 4, 1916, Boonville, Indiana - No talent."

The words "no talent", Watson reported, were underlined.

When writing about his early schooling, Shaw again wrote "no talent" - and again further down, when he noted the beginning of his formal art training in Chicago.

"The underlining seems to have been done with a contumacious rigor implying a challenge to anyone who supports the theory of God-given talent," wrote Watson.

Shaw believed that "a person can do anything if he wants to do it earnestly enough and if he will work hard enough for it."

"That is the way I have made my own way, knowning from boyhood days that I wanted to be an artist and consistently struggling to that end."

Shaw praised his parents for fostering his early interest in art.

"Mother played the violin and piano. She also did fancy work. She was not a copyist; she invented her own designs or took fantastic liberties with patterns that served merely as a point of departure."

His father also profoundly influenced the young David Shaw. Though the elder Shaw was a coal miner, he had ambitions for an art career. "He wanted to be a sign painter," says Shaw. "So he took an International Correspondence School course in sign painting and, venturing much, left the mines and hung out his shingle. Well, he did all right, got all the work he could do until the depression of the Thirties. I became his helper."

"In the late Twenties, while still in my early teens, I was earning seven dollars a day and was carrying a union card. Much of this money I banked against the day when I would want it for my art education."

"Those sign painting days really were thrilling. They took dad and me all around the country. We often camped out when far from home."

"And dad's shop itself was exciting; to me it seemed the very center of the town's cultural and business activity. All sorts of people came there to order signs and we seemed to be an important cog in the business life of the community."

Tragedy struck the Shaw family during Dave's sophmore year in high school. Due to the tough times of the depression, Dave's father had no choice but to return to the mines.

A week later, he was killed in a accident.

My W. David Shaw Flickr set.

* Once again, my thanks to Harold Henriksen for today's scans, and to Jaleen Grove for providing the W. David Shaw article from American Artist magazine.