Friday, July 31, 2009

Ray Prohaska: "the more he fished, the more he painted."

A Ray Prohaska illustration recognized for an Award of Merit by the New York Art Directors Club, 1947...

... and another, from a decade later.

I asked Ray's son, Tony, if his dad felt obliged to experiment with new styles during the 50's, to keep up with changing trends.
Tony replied, "I think the Art Directors kind of dictated that (the style thing)."

"I remember Ray saying, in the late fifties and sixties, that all they wanted was Bob Peak. He also refered to some of that loose later style as the "it's raining all the time", style. "

In spite of that (and from what we've seen, Ray did enjoy experimenting with style now and then) he seems to have still found a certain amount of work from the magazines for his more tradititional approach, even in the late 50's-to-early sixties.
The pieces above and below are from 1959 and 1962, respectively.

As well, Tony writes, "as the business declined in the sixties, two clients that he found were the AMA Journal, and Standard Oil's house organ.., he did a few covers for each one as I remember, and they were good."

Tony writes, "I'd probably be right in saying that Ray felt that he, Ray, and Wally Morgan (another old guy that my father was great friends with), were the best draftsmen around....Ray used the term draftsmen alot, to connote drawing." That's a statement that makes me wonder, in conjunction with Ray's somewhat frustrated sounding comment about all art directors wanting Bob Peak and the "rainy day" look, if he didn't feel somewhat demoralized by the decline of the illustration business as it had been until around 1960.

But in his biography of his father at, Tony describes a far happier situation:

"When not illustrating, he was busy painting portraits, until, that is, he discovered the East End of Long Island. Then the sea began to demand his attention, and he began to divide his time between painting and fishing. At first his paintings were realistic, rock pools and the driftwood and skate eggs that line the shore, but they became more abstract, more rhythmic, and more involved in the action of fishing. And the more he fished, the more he painted."

And this final bit, from one of our correspondences: "... he had a pretty content old age, as far as it went."

* Tony Prohaska has put together an extensive website devoted to his dad's life, where you can read a very thorough biography and see many more examples of the artist's work. Go to The Art of Ray Prohaska for more.

* My Ray Prohaska Flickr set.


  1. Charlie Allen3:46 PM

    Great week on Ray Prohaska, Leif. It's interesting how illustrators, worlds apart, had so many things in common. Just a couple....and I had to laugh....his opinion of artist agents....'crooks, so you had to find a lesser one'. And describing the 60's 'raining all the time trend'. Right on, and what I call the 'acrylic swish' period. I was as guilty as any....we had to stay 'trendy'. Art directors and advertising demanded the new look and new fad of the day. Good blogs!

  2. Once again,the accounts of growing up with an illustrator parent are fascinating.The inside stories of the people and business are priceless.
    I discovered Ray's work in the Forty Illustrators And How They Work book.His demonstration painting started with a gouache underpainting,followed by an oil overpainting.His drawing skills were solid also,making for a beautiful result.The By Mutual Consent paintings look great. Thanks, Tony and Leif.

  3. Actually wasn't sure what 'raining all the time trend' meant. I was ascribing it to the often somewhat subdued lighting overall.
    But obviously it was the 'acrylic swish' Charlie refers to.