Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Walter Wyles: "he decided that he wanted to be a magazine illustrator"

Guest author: Bryn Havord

Walter Wyles was born in 1925 at Canterbury, in the county of Kent in south-east England. His father, Walter Henry, came from a military family and was a regular soldier in the British Army.

His mother Francesca Calvente came from near Malaga in southern Spain.

At the age of eleven he attended the Sidney Cooper Art School in Canterbury on a part-time basis, after a special recommendation from a teacher at his primary school. In 1939, at the age of fourteen he received a full-time scholarship to the art school...

... but four months later, at the outbreak of World War II, he left to go to work.

He had suffered from poliomyelitis as a child leaving him lame which resulted in him being unfit for military service. He started work as a book-binder and from 1940 to 1942, he worked as a junior draughtsman for two aircraft manufacturing companies helping the war effort. He then went to work for a display company in London’s west end. He became a part-time Air Raid Warden, spending many night-hours during the Blitz on the roof of his employer’s building, watching for fires started by incendiary bombs dropped by Hitler’s Luftwaffe.

He also attended an art school off Fleet Street in his spare time.

There followed a period working for War Artists in London’s Cambridge Circus and Cavendish Studios producing large paintings of air, sea and land battles.

After the war he went freelance on a full-time basis doing a lot of work as a fashion artist for Tailor & Cutter magazine, Man & His Clothes and The Draper’s Record.

In the early ’50s he decided that he wanted to be a magazine illustrator and worked at producing sample illustrations to show to prospective clients.

Woman was the world’s best-selling weekly magazine for women, selling an impressive three and a half million copies every week, and its editor Mary Grieve and art editor George (Tiny) Watts gave Wyles considerable encouragement, giving him his first commission, and later becoming one of his biggest clients.

* Above, a page from Francis Marshall's 1959 book, Magazine Illustration, featuring Walter Wyles. Continued tomorrow.

* In the late 50s and early 60s guest author Bryn Havord was assistant art director of Woman magazine. From 1963 to 1965 he was associate editor and art director of Woman's Mirror; both of which were published in the UK. During that time he commissioned work from all the leading British Illustrators including Walter Wyles, Eric Ernshaw, Michael Johnson and Gerry Fancett. Walter Wyles remains his oldest and closest friend.

* My Walter Wyles Flickr set.

* Meanwhile, things are just ducky at Charlie Allen's Blog. (Check out the latest CAWS to see what I mean)


  1. Wow! Beautiful work! Love the portrait! Thanks for the background info and details!

  2. Chad Sterling10:13 PM

    Very interesting background to a talented British artist. I wonder if our guest author came across the likes of Gerry Fancett,Zelinski,Edwin Phillips, Oliver Brabbins,Coleman,Hants and Laurent? All of these artists and probably others were working in a similar vein at the same time in the UK.Very little info available on them.

  3. Bryon; You're welcome - glad to know you're enjoying this week's series.

    Chad; I have notes from Bryn that mention some others as well: Brian Saunders, Michael Johnson, Cecil Vewing, Michael Leonard... and on one fairly recent occasion he mentions that he spoke with Michael Johnson, so perhaps we can persuade Bryn to further enlighten us with some more guest posts!

  4. I was on WOMAN in the early sixties, in the Fictions Art Illustration Dept. and commissioned Wally Wyles; Eric Earnshaw; Michael Johnso; Lynn Buckham (USA) & many others to illustrate our fiction stories - and for EVERYWOMAN; MOTHER magazine and other magazines in (the then) Odhams Press