Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Barbara Bradley: A Female Illustrator You Should Know

Last week I received, once again, a comment from a reader asking "what about the female illustrators of the mid-20th century?" This is something that comes up again and again, despite my efforts to feature women artists as often as possible. It made me realize that I haven't done enough to get the word out.

With that in mind, I have just created a companion blog to Today's Inspiration called (surprise!) Female Illustrators of the Mid-20th Century.

And who could be a better first subject for this new blog than Barbara Bradley? Its been nearly two years since Barbara passed away. When she was still with us a week rarely went by when I wasn't blessed with an email or two from her. She wrote with rare insight, offered thoughtful, informed analysis, and always, words of encouragement. Barbara was a remarkable person. I still miss her. (The image above, scanned from the original art, was a very thoughtful gift I received from Barbara's family not long after her passing. I absolutely treasure it and feel very privileged to share it with you today.)

*Update* TI list member Heather David sent me a note yesterday. When she received her TI email containing the scan of Barbara's gouache comp she recognized it as the precursor to this finished illustration, for a Bank of America ad! Many thanks Heather... this gives us the rare opportunity to see the beginning and the conclusion of a Barbara Bradley ad art assignment!

1962 Bank of America Ad
In the next few days (and on other occasions in the future) I'll be featuring female artists of the mid-20th century here on Today's Inspiration - some whom I've featured before, some for the first time. In each case, everything about these artists will be collected and reposted on Female Illustrators of the Mid-20th Century.

Multi-part posts previously presented on TI will be collected and "reprinted" as single, full-length posts. In this way, I hope FIotM-20C will become a valuable resource for those specifically interested in finding artwork examples and documentation on the careers of female illustrators from the '40s, '50s and '60s.


  1. Leif, it's about time you created another blog. We were getting awfully sick and tired of you resting on your laurels. After all, you can't sleep and watch TV all day long, can you?

  2. Heh, yes, I was getting bored with all this spare time on my hands, David. Thank goodness I'll have one more thing to keep me from sitting around watching the paint peel!

  3. Here Drawing the Clothed figure book is a must have for artists. It is so nice to see it holding down the fort in Barnes and Noble in the sea of horrible how to draw manga books!

  4. Thanks for another beautiful and thoughtful post. FlotM-20C is an instant add to my feeds!

  5. Heh, not the easiest abbreviation I've seen.

  6. Leif, I think Barbara must have been quite pleased with the Bank of America Illustration. While I was a student in her class, we asked her to show us an example of her work, and she brought in the finished illustration for the B of A ad you posted, which I believe she had just finished. B of A's headquarters were located in S.F., so that would make sense that she did that job while teaching at the Academy of Art in S.F. Anyway, we were quite impressed with her skill in using gouache and her charming stylized realism. She pointed out the emphasis on capturing just the right attitude and expression of determination, and she had fun deciding on what he would take with him. Much to my disappointment, she rarely showed us her samples.. a very modest lady, indeed.

    We were planning to meet at a "Geezers" annual picnic in Marin County, after 50 years of not seeing each other, but she died just a few months before the picnic.. a very sad turn of events. I also miss her extraordinary personality and positive nature, that was so evident in her emails. Her book on drawing is one of the very best that is in print today. She really put her all into it, and it shows her complete dedication to teaching.

    Tom Watson

  7. Terrific idea, Leif. And likewise the samples shown. Sigh, as one of Barbara's students, like Tom, I scratch my head in bewilderment when I think back to just how little of her own work she shared. Modesty incarnate, but the power of her teaching certainly helped overcome that lack. She mentioned that she thought "we wouldn't be interested". Now I marvel at her work, using it as a great teaching tool, and celebrate her memory every time I start to draw.