Monday, June 08, 2009

Mrs. Boopert's Friend, Bob

Long-time readers will already know that Barbara Bradley was one of my favourite people. This week I'd like to tell you about one of Barbara's favourite people: Bob Jones. From almost the very beginning of our long and regular correspondence, Barbara was talking about Bob... the two had known each other since their art school days, when both attended Art Center School in Los Angeles.

What I knew about Bob Jones at the time didn't extend far beyond the beautiful romance story illustrations I had found in the Saturday Evening Post (like the example below). To assist me in expanding my knowledge of Bob's career, Barbara kindly sent me a copy of a letter she had written to Bob on the occasion of his 80th birthday... a letter filled with happy memories of their shared past.

"Its been over fifty years since we met," begins Barbara's letter, "I still think of you as a very special friend in my life... and my best friend at Cooper's."

"We both know what a great place Cooper's was and how lucky we were to get our starts there. Cooper's, with its great illustrators, its supportive learning atmosphere, and Chuck himself, guiding us novices, was almost everything a beginning artist could hope for. The only thing it wasn't was a place where a woman artist could make friends."

"Like most businesses then, Cooper's was a 'Good Ol' Boys' world. The other two women artists were married to Cooper artists. Everyone was nice and helpful but, until you arrived at Cooper's, my only pal was the researcher, Jeanne Mahoney. She seemed so worldly to me yet she was good company for this kid right out of art school."

"You, however, were a kindred soul. We had Art Center in common. We had California in common. We liked the same kind of art, colorful, designy, lively and fun. And, though you joined Cooper's only a little later than I had, your arrival made you the new kid on the block. In you, I gained an artist pal, one who became a good friend and a great pal in my remaining years at Cooper's."

"I still remember your just-after-Art-Center portfolio, full of wonderful color and charming stylized figures and animals."

"Do you remember Boopert Bigges? A magazine subscription was sent to our house with Herbert Briggs mistakenly written as "Boopert Bigges". After that, you always called me "Mrs. Boopert".

"You gave me a wonderful drawing of "A Boopert Bird sitting on a Boopert Egg". That drawing is tucked away somewhere in the house. I wish I could find it now."

When I spoke with Bob Jones a few months ago we talked about Barbara. Bob said, "We were really close friends and I really admired her. We were at art school together and she was about a year ahead of me and I idolized her. I thought, "This woman is incredible!" She could draw - oh! - she was really tops."

"It was really a wonderful friendship... we would go out to lunch together often. It was a great friendship."

(Below, an early 50's colouring/activity book cover illustrated by Barbara Bradley (at the time, Barbara Briggs)

Posing at far-right in this reference photo, the young Bob Jones ( as a point of interest, the model playing the bride is Tippi Hedron).

Barbara returned to California in 1955 and enjoyed a long and illustrious career there, both as an illustrator and as an educator, eventually rising to Director of Illustration at Academy of Art University. In 2007, she returned to New York to accept the Outstanding Educator in the Arts Award from the Society of Illustrators. In attendance for the ceremony was her old friend Bob Jones. Bob described the moment when, after all those years, the two old friends met:

"Someone said to Barbara, "Do you recognize this gentleman?" and she said, "Nooo..." so I said, "Hello Mrs. Boopert."

"And she said Oh! Bob Jones!"

* My Bob Jones Flickr set.


  1. Anonymous4:08 PM

    love it, love it, love it!!
    Thanks so much for alllllll of this!

  2. Great stuff Leif and Barbara! I only knew of Bob's work from the Mad magazine covers he did in the 70s.

  3. Leif - great stuff! How Bob Jones felt about Barbara, all her former students did/do too. So sad that we lost her last year.

    I am amazed at how illustrators were really valued in a different way back then and the art of making art was revered as a business and like many career paths, women were not as valued.

    Barbara Bradley was a gem and I love that this letter was shared. Thank you Bob Jones! and thank you Leif for a great blog. As a teacher now at the Academy of Art in San Francisco I am going to share your blog with my summer semester students. There is a lot to learn from these "old dogs!" Present company not included like you, me and anyone under uh, say, 50?

  4. Great stuff!He also did animation drawing for Warner Brothers cartoons.

  5. Is this the same Bob Jones who drew the Esso tiger?

  6. Julie;

    Thanks for your thoughts on this. You raise some interesting points I'd like to respond to...

    I think it may be a misunderstanding of the situation at the time to suggest women illustrators were not valued as much as men (although I can appreciate why it might seem that way on the surface).

    Certainly at Cooper's any illustrator who had 'the right stuff' would have been valued for their ability to bring in the $$$s. But the dynamic in male/female relationships was so different then. Bob Jones told me that just because he and Barbara were such close friends, going out for lunch together and so on, that many people in the studio were convinced that they were having an affair. I can imagine that most male illustrators back then would have ostrasized Barbara (or any other young female illustrator) not because they didn't value her abilities, but for fear of the repercussions that they expected from collegues, bosses, girlfriends, wives...

    Not fair, I agree - but understandable, esp. in those sexually repressed times (hell, those attitudes still exist in offices today!)

    Regarding the status of the female illustrator in those days, I can only go by the anecdotal examples I've learned about... such as Lucia Lerner in Chicago at Stephens, Biondi, DeCicco. At what was probably the equivalent to Cooper's in the Chicago art studio scene, Lucia was 'the queen' - the only illustrator in a hugely succesful stable who had her own office (and was allowed to negotiate her own rate splits w/ the salesmen). At Fredman/Chaite (Cooper's biggest rival in NY) Mary Mayo received top billing in the first issue of their promo magazine above Bob Peak, who was buried in the back pages. At Rahl Studios (another major player in NY) Dorothy Monet landed as many major ad and story art assignments as she could manage, and from what I've heard, she had a strength of personality that would have made more than a few "old boys" blush, if you get my meaning. She was no shrinking violet!

    There are plenty of other examples, but your point is well taken... Barbara almost didn't get hired that first day she interviewed at Cooper's - not because of the quality of her portfolio - but because Chuck told her he "wasn't hiring any more women illustrators right now." Not a terribly progressive attitude, but for employers I think the concern was more about the social politics in the workplace than the value of the illustrator's abilities. :^)

  7. Leif, I appreciate your lengthy sharing in this last post. On a side note, I am amazed at the illustrations recently posted of the "romance" illustrations. They have more sexy undertones that anything I see today. Maybe it's just stereo typing of male/female images (delicate woman/ swarthy strong men) but they are very compelling. I'm sorry the story "Success Girl" didn't go on, as the title page had me hooked. The illustration is beautifully constructed in shape and color as well as meaning and mood. Thanks for all of this good stuff.

  8. Its my pleasure, Julie; I'm so glad you enjoy seeing these inspiring images. I'm glad my last reply didn't overwhelm you... I thought after the fact that maybe I sounded ... overzealous. ;^)