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.