Friday, August 21, 2009

Still More Briggs for Readers to Digest

A few final pieces by Austin Briggs, courtesy of TI list member Tonci Zonjic, from an old Readers Digest Condensed Book from 1956:

Many thanks to Tonci Zonjic for this week's great Sickles and Briggs scans -- be sure to visit his blog and check out Tonci's excellent work!

* My Austin Briggs Flickr set.


  1. Neil Shapiro sent the following comment to me via email. I'm c&p'ing it here with his permission:

    "Sickles & Briggs were perfect choices for these books. They were printed on cheap rag stock, & the bold line work of both these artists reproduced beautifully. My parents got these books, & our home library was filled with them. Looking back, the very idea of condensing literature to make it more 'palatable', or whatever, to the larger reading public, is kind of pathetic. But this was a great venue for illustrators of the day -- & that's the important thing. God, Briggs was such a fantastic draughtsman."

  2. I concur Neil, what a feast for the appreciative eye, when looking at their work. In reference to what medium and paper Briggs used, I have a quote from Briggs in 1961 for a Blair Spray-fix ad: "Spray-fix doesn't fill the grain of the fine French watercolor paper, 'Arches', which I use for most of my recent work. When I make a line with my carbon drawing stick, I know Spray-fix will hold it exactly as I've drawn it; and allows me to work over it, too."

    I also read a comment by Briggs, that early in his career, he wasn't getting the top jobs, and felt his drawing was weak, so he stopped excepting assignments for a long period of time, and drew every day from life to improve his draftsmanship, developing new samples for his portfolio. Well, it worked!!

    He was a big influence when Bernie Fuchs was starting out.. actually he was a big influence on countless of young illustrators in the e50's and 60's, including myself.

    Tom Watson

  3. Sorry, I meant "accepting assignments" instead of "excepting assignments".

    Tom Watson

  4. Howard Chaykin3:18 PM

    The Readers Digest condensed book collections are a treasure trove of terrific illustration. In addition to the phenomenal Sickles and Briggs stuff, Harry Beckhoff Denver Gillen, Ken Riley, Stevan Dohanos among many others did wonderful work for the line back in the fifties. If you've never seen what Dohanos could do with a pen, it's worth a search.

    By the late 50s to the 70s, Bob Peak, Bob Heindel and Bernie Fuchs were mainstays.

    And speaking of Fuchs, I've heard a story, possibly apocryphal, that Fuchs got his first major advertising assignment for an automobile company when the ad agency felt Briggs was coming in too high with his bid.

    Apparently, Briggs felt he was irreplaceable in this regard, until Fuchs came in and did a terrific job. It's often easy to forget, based on Fuchs' more contemporary work, just how much of an influence on him Briggs' work must have been--both as a painter and a draughtsman.

    I'm proud to own a number of originals by these giants, and I remain awestruck by their greatness.

  5. Thanks for that, Howard;

    You're right about that story (if I recall it correctly). I heard from ( I think, David Apatoff) that Robert Fawcett pulled a rather nasty prank on Fuchs and Briggs that took advantage of that scenario you described. Bernie had just moved to Westport and Fawcett ushered him right into the middle of a dinner party Briggs was throwing (or at least attending) and announced, "Here's the guy who just took that big ad account from you, Austin!") - much to Bernie's mortification. That story may have been in David's issue-long Bernie Fuchs article for Illustration magazine... I'm not sure now. Anyway, happy ending: the two men (Briggs and Fuchs) became life-long friends and Briggs really was a mentor to Bernie.

    And to come full circle, I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for those RDCB's featuring Bernie Fuchs and Bob Peak art!

  6. Chad Sterling3:34 PM

    The artist that so often gets overlooked when discussing great linear draughsmanship in the RD is Britain's own Francis Marshall.Check him out, his line work and design is of the highest order.

  7. So true, Chad; and you'll be happy to hear a week on FM is 'in the pipe'. ;^)

  8. Charlie Allen9:57 PM

    WOW.....Super blog this week on Briggs.....and super comments as well. Tom....what is a 'carbon drawing stick'? Must have alluded me. Mr. Chaykin....I'm in awe that you have originals by those artists. A real treasure. Leif....not surprised at Fawcett's 'joke'. He was one bristly character. Mr. Sterling....will look forward to Francis Marshall's work. Out here in the boonies, haven't heard of him.

  9. Charlie, I have used a carbon pencil years ago, which is somewhat like a charcoal pencil, only not as soft. The point doesn't snap off as easy as charcoal, and the lines are crisper and blacker. It also comes in various degrees of hard to medium soft. I'm only guessing, but I think a carbon stick must be just the carbon without the wood barrel. I've never seen a carbon stick either, but unless it was a miss print, I'll take Briggs at his word. ;-)

    Tom Watson

  10. I think I prefer the Briggs illustrations to Sickles.Briggs line-work seems to have more heft,light and shadow, and texture to it.Sickles work is a little too spartan and angular to my eye.

    Briggs has the advantage of the tasteful spot-colors,crowd scenes, and a more exotic locale to draw,so maybe I'm being too picky.I really enjoy the coloring on the Briggs illos.

    I'm guessing Briggs was an inspiration to Neal Adams.I see some similarities there.

  11. Thanks for scanning this stuff Tonci.
    I've had terrible B&W xeroxes I made years ago from borrowed books.
    This stuff is clear and shows Briggs' intention.
    Everyone give 3 big cheers to Leifpeng for providing this great forum where we can meet and discuss this formerly very obscure and secret stuff!
    Great discussion about the lineage of the influences.