Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Second Day of Hess-mas

One thing that always amazes me when I look at Lowell Hess' work is how frequently he had to roll up his sleeves and get busy on a BIG SCENE.

The results were always nothing less than spectacular. Yesterday I showed you one Lowell's last Boys' Life covers... here's one of his first - from December 1950.

Lowell told me more than once that Jan Balet was a big influence on him during the early days of his career. But personally I think he was already coming into his own style with that Boys' Life cover. By the time he did the massive, magnificent scene below for the December 1957 issue of Today's Living, his work was pure Lowell Hess.

* I have placed extra large scans in this post so go ahead and click on the image to enjoy all the details.

And then of course there is the diametric opposite of the typical Lowell Hess "Big Scene". In fact some of my favourite pieces by Lowell are his many crossword puzzle magazine covers. Each one is a simple, beautiful statement in character design and composition...

... always managing to tell an amusing silent story with a minimal number of visual elements - and always cleverly incorporating the mandatory crossword puzzle grid as apart of the picture.

When I first told Lowell how much I loved these he could hardly imagine why - at the time when they were assigned they were, to him, just low paying "quickies" - but when we spoke again more recently he mentioned that I had convinced him to look again at these 'simple statements', and that he now thought they were "actually pretty good."

No kidding! I think you'll agree: they're wonderful!

* I should mention again that Lowell has a website where you can see many examples of his work. Why not drop by there, have a look, and perhaps leave Lowell a Christmas greeting through his 'Contact Us' page.

* My Lowell Hess Flickr set.


  1. Lowell's art is indeed a delight to behold. There is such a richness in the colour, design and personality - all resulting in art that just makes me smile to look at it. I particularly love that Boy's Life cover, with all of the entertaining little situations - such a feast for the eyes. When I see such wonderful cartoon illustrators like Lowell Hess and Pete Hawley, both of whom injected their work with so much joy and visual appeal, it saddens me to see that there is nobody drawing and painting like that today. Or perhaps more accurately, there seem to be no venues nor art directors willing to encourage that type of art anymore. Instead, all we see today are sterile, computerized graphic designs or childish stickman scrawls masquerading as illustration. Thanks, Leif, for continuing to turn the spotlight on the glorious magazine illustration of the past. Happy Holidays!

  2. What a great comment, Pete - thank you - and Merry Christmas... or should I say, Merry Hess-mas! ;^)

  3. Charlie Allen12:45 AM

    A broken record here. WOW!....for the past few TI weeks! Just great stuff. I lived through that era but missed so much of the art and history that you're posting these days. Many thanks, Leif. Pete Emslie has it right. Without the print media, drawing boards, paints and inks of all kinds, the motivations and goals that artists had in those days, it won't happen again. "You can't go back'....and variations of that quote....we all well know. 'Progress' has replaced thousands of skills, crafts, products, art forms, talents, and creative people for centuries. Hail to the conquering electronic digital revolution currently under way. Is it better? No. Is it change? Yes. Hold on to your hats for more. Oh, that's right.....very few hats these days!

  4. Thank you for sharing these, they are delightful! The Junior Scholastic cover is exactly the kind of illustration that I could spend hours enjoying as a child, lost in all the wonderful little details...

  5. There's so much to observe here. How these elaborate guys played around with graphic elements!

    On the third picture I just noticed those juxtaposed kindred lines - the telegraph wires and the (almost) parallel running snow tracks. With that green car presenting a delightful offtrack accent.

  6. Lowell Hess was a brilliant artist.But Rudolf Hess was a war criminal who rightly spent the latter half of his life in the Spandau prison.I don't think anyone is saying that wasn't the right punishment, regardless of his art talent.

  7. I just "nominated this lovely site for a Kreativ Blogger Award-note link: