Friday, April 09, 2010

Greetings from Sheilah Beckett

Sheilah Beckett recalls, "When television came along... that really made things difficult, you know. There wasn't as much illustration - even in advertising."

Like many other illustrators, Sheilah had to find clients outside the traditional magazine and advertising industries. We looked recently at the emerging market in paperback cover art during the 1950s...

... here are a few examples of paperbacks illustrated by Sheilah.

Paperback covers weren't exactly a rare thing for the artist but, like album cover art (see Monday's post), they also weren't a major component of her various commissions.

By contrast, one of Sheilah's long-running clients was American Artist Group greeting cards.

"The change in magazines [around 1960, due to television and photography] didn't effect the market for children's books and it didn't affect greeting cards," Sheilah explains.

"Everything was freelance... but American Artists went on for years and years..."

"... until the price of stamps went up so much. That destroyed that business."

When I told Sheilah I had been completely unaware of that aspect of her career she replied with a chuckle, "I've done murals too! I've done five hospital murals, one community center, and a church."

"What I do is, my son sets up a four by eight foot panel, and then I paint the panels and then they put them together. One really huge one at a hospital I worked on for two years! (Only going once a week though) But that was on the wall... that was kind of fun!"

When I express my amazement at her accomplishment and say, "Wow! So you were like Michaelangelo!" Sheila has a good laugh and corrects me:

"On the wall - not on the ceiling," she says, with another chuckle.

* My Sheilah Beckett Flickr set.

* Sheilah's son Sean has just set up a Facebook Fan Page, The Art of Sheilah Beckett where you'll be able to see many more examples of Sheilah's work. Become a fan!

* Many thanks to Flickr member Pop Kulture for allowing me to use his paperback cover scan near the top of this post.


  1. That Vile Bodies cover painting is delightful!The Midsummer's Night Dream paintings on the facebook page are swell also.Were they published as a children's book?

  2. Thanks for commenting, Steve - perhaps Sean will let us know!

  3. leif,
    the midsummer nights dream pictures were from our second shot at self publishing, the book did not come out as the company doing the book would not follow our instructions,and kept trying to add to my mother's pictures.No matter what we said they felt the work needed some enhancement. So we took the book back.
    Maybe we will find a publisher for this one too

  4. I just saw Sheilah's cover for "Vile Bodies" at a bookstore today! It was like seeing a now-familiar face in an unfamiliar setting. Wonderful.