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Celebrating Illustration, Design, Cartoon and Comic Art of the Mid-20th Century

Whodunnit?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Calling all art detectives: this mystery needs solving.

TI list member Chris Turner sent me these scan the other day. They are two of six originals he purchased a dozen years ago at a convention called Glamourcon. Chris writes, "Looks to be mid 60’s to early 70’s style-wise, but no publication info on what magazine."


"The guy is pretty good," writes Chris, "I loved the cheesiness of the subject matter. I bought 6 in all, should have bought more, the seller had 50 or 60. He didn’t know any other info (or wouldn’t tell!) If you don’t recognize the artist, would you be willing to post them on TI and see if your public can I.D. this guy?"


I'm only too happy to do so, Chris.

Personally, I have no idea - but yeah, the guy was pretty good! The confidence of his gouache painting and the quality of the tonal values, and the accuracy of the underlying drawing all suggest a seasoned pro with classical training did these great little exploitation scenes.


On a pure art geek level I gotta say, seeing how the anonymous artist was able to create a coherent picture by dashing down a few strokes of paint here and there really gets my juices flowing!

Just look at the woman's hand hanging by her side. Its nothing but a sqiggle of dark paint... yet it works. And the pillow and sheets are little more than white illustration board. Amazing.


Skills like this were taken for granted back then... today they are so rare they are worthy of this kind of attention and praise. Back when he did this assignment (and likely for a relatively lousy fee, this clearly being art for some sleazy men's sweat mag) our anonymous illustrator thought so little of it that he didn't even sign his work.


If there is one clue of style, it might be this particular man's face, which looks slightly "caricatural".


If you think you know whodunnit, please speak up!

* Just a note to everyone who has continued to leave words of encouragement and comments of congratulations on my reaching one thousand posts. Many thanks to you all - I really appreciate hearing from you!

*ALSO* Are you using Corel Painter to do your illustrations? Australian storyboard artist Maria Peña has just written a great post at my other blog, Storyboard Central explaining why she's had it with Painter's quirks. Go take a look at Maria's fabulous artwork -- and join the discussion.

24 comments

  1. I have on idea whodunnit,but couldn't these paintings have been used from the Ladies' Home Journal feature Can This Marrige Be Saved?

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  2. Wow. Those are amazing. I hope this mystery gets solved. I'd love to see more work by whoever did these.

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  3. These are fabulous. It would be interesting to know if he was as fast and loose on the higher profile gigs he must have had.

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  4. Charlie Allen9:54 PM

    Yeah....wow one more time! Not many 'anonymous' B&W illustrators left by the70's. There just wasn't enough halftone work available by then. Somewhere, I have a S.F. Society of Illustrators 'catalog', or promotion, that showed bay area illustrator's samples....a page each. A lot of montages (the fad) and other stuff....published about 1980. Glad I wasn't starting out then, because the work was very good. Right when the 'print age' was fading like the proverbial summer rose!

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  5. Steve; Lol - can you imagine?!

    And yet there was ocassionally something nearly as scandalous in the pages of the SEP, or in the major women's magazines. A couple of my favourite examples:

    http://ow.ly/i4SX

    http://ow.ly/i4Tx

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  6. Phil; Me too! And I almost imagine we have - just that at the time this kind of stuff was considered kind of ... sordid... and probably the reason the artist chose not to sign his work. For all we know he might have been quite well known in more "legit" circles (advertising, storybook/textbook, mainstream magazine illustration). As Charlie points out, work was growing scarce. He may have taken this assignment more out of desperation to pay the bills than because he actually wanted to. Of course that's all just conjecture on my part.

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  7. Larry; I'll bet he was! This looks as good as any of the best illustrators who painted in gouache during the mid-to-late-50's. If in fact our anonymous artist got those high profile assignments we imagine he did, this is the style that kind of work would be done in.

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  8. Charlie; I hope you manage to dig up that SF illustrator catalogue. I'd appreciate getting a look at the list of artists, for the sake of documenting who was active at the time. :^)

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  9. The face on the man holding the bottle reminds me of the style of one of the MAD artists (Bob Clarke, maybe). I'm probably wrong as Clarke was with MAD, since the late fifties and, more than likely, making good money from that account alone, probably didn't need to paint any swinging scenes like the one depicted in the second image.

    Still, that is some really nice work.

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  10. No clue as to who the illustrator is, but this is just sad,
    "Skills like this were taken for granted back then... today they are so rare they are worthy of this kind of attention and praise." Now anyone with PS or Painter can crank out crap and sell it. What ever happened to discipline? Most of the students at the art school I went to felt that rules were hampering their freedom of expression.

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  11. Oscar; I also thought immediately of the c.1960 Mad magazine artists like Clarke when I saw that face. I think you're right that it probably wasn't him (or any of 'the usual gang of idiots')... maybe this one face looks perhaps a bit wonky (compared to everything else in these examples) because it wasn't photo referenced? All the other faces clearly were... this one looks like maybe he drew it out of his head and in so doing revealed a bit more of his personal style.

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  12. Will, I agree with your sentiment... but then I think of how the blacksmiths might have had a similar attitude back when the industrial revolution began! There are some really exceptional digital artists doing great work with Painter and Photoshop... and there were plenty of mediocre artists doing mediocre work with gouache and oil paints back in the 'good ol' days'.

    Interesting that Robert Fawcett talked about those same students back in his day as you (or I) would speak of today! The more things change...

    ;^)

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  13. Charlie Allen3:43 PM

    LEIF....Will try again to find that catalog.....temporarily 'lost'. On students in art school.....I lamented back in my time the lack of quality and discipline....but also reassured....it meant a few of us might break into the biz! A couple that I underestimated did improve by motivation and work. It takes that.

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  14. Thanks Charlie - I appreciate it. :^)

    Regarding the identity of our anonymous illustrator, TI list member and occasional guest author David Roach emailed me the following, which he gave me permission to post:

    "Love todays illo's - why on earth didn't your correspondant buy the lot? They're obviously from sweat mags for whom only a limited number of people worked so we might be able to narrow it down . I'd say it's definitely not Norm Eastman, Syd Shores, James Bama or Norman Saunders and I doubt if it's Rafael Desoto, Clarence Doore, Will Hulsey, George Gross or Stanley Borack- but it might just be John Duillo. I wonder what everyone else thinks?"

    I suggested to David that it may have been one of the illustrators who did a lot of genre fiction paperback covers... someone like James Avati or Robert Abbett... to which David replied, "Hmm - I doubt if it's Avati , but Bob Abbett is a possibility- you're right the quality really is good enough."

    Anyone else care to speculate...?

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  15. I WOULD have bought them all, but I had maxxed out my cash. Also, I cherry picked. There were many that weren't as good. I think there were at least 3 artists in the mix.I was at Comiccon yesterday and Illustration House had 1 for sale I'm almost sure is the same guy. Guess what? "Artist Unknown"!

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  16. Chris; Just out of curiousity, what was the price of the one IH was selling relative to what you paid 12 years ago? (you don't need to name a figure -- I just mean in relative terms, was it more, less or the same)

    And please tell us what the scene at the San Diego Comic Con was like!

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  17. I' know someone has already suggested it but I can't help thinking Norman Saunders when I look at the brush strokes. Maybe I'm crazy (or stupid) but that's where I;m leaning

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  18. It was CROWDED! But fun.Chatted with Bill Stout and watched Adam Hughes make some magic. If you don't mind buying work unsigned, there were deals on some nice stuff. The piece that looked similar to what I bought was going for $400. I paid $85-$120 each 10 years ago. I was tempted by a Dean Cornwell pastel sketch for one of his murals for $900 but I have to buy a new driveway. Dang.

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  19. David Roach sends another email which I think is revelatory. I'm adding it here with his permission:

    Hi Leif
    Re the mystery artist - I was leafing through my copy of Men's Adventures; the big Taschen collection of Sweat Mag illo's ( which you really should have), and was amazed to see a cover by Jack Rickard. Looking through the comments to your listing I noticed a few people guessing that it might be a Mad artist and it's just possible Rickard could be our man ( I'm quite sure it's not Bob Clarke) . Certainly looking at the men in the pictures they have the slightly exaggerated features that typify Rickards' work and since we know there is a precedent for him appearing in these titles it's not altogether outlandish is it?
    But then doubtless some other viewers will have their opinions.
    Bye - David

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  20. I'd love to see a scan of it.I think the artist does have to be Southern Calif. based judging by the illustration board brand (local) Thanks to the searchers on this one.I'll try to get on the other scans.

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  21. I don't know who painted those, but the first one is awesome! Wish I could paint like that. Thanks for posting such great stuff...

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  22. WEl I jsut spent 15 minutes writing a reply only top lose it to google so this will be briefer.I did most of the work on the taschen book. There were about 200 artists who signed their work , over 50 differetn magazine titles and thousands of issues. The qualit yranged from peopel who did do work for palces like Ladies Homw Journal to failed comic book artists and other. This does not look like Jack RIckard (who oddly worked for sweeat magas publsihed by Robert Sproul who also published cracked!) To narrow the field are there any indications of whcih mags or are their code numebrs o nthe back especially any starting with BAL or balcourt as that would narrow the field a bit as t owhere it came from as some artists worked mainl yfor some publishers - email me through my comicartfans gallery
    Bets George Hagenauer

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  23. Leif,

    I have wild guess based on a peek I had today at the Playboy Cover to Cover-The 50's Book. Could it be Charles "Chuck" Miller? The book had a b/w guaoche for July 1955 that really made me think of your "whodunnit" post? He also painted some covers for PB in 1962. What do you think, do I get the "noprize"? Or has the mystery been solved by someone else?

    Jonathan Gilpin

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  24. Jonathan; I'm afraid I'm unfamiliar with Chuck Miller's work... but I'm going to make a point of trying to hunt some down - unless you wouldn't mind sending me a scan or two from that book...?

    Thx for your comment - L :^)

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