Friday, April 02, 2010

Happy Sheilah Beckett Easter!

Here's a real Easter treat: an absolutely gorgeous Whitman's ad by the great Sheilah Beckett.
I've been saving all the Sheilah Beckett art I come across for the day when I have a comprehensive biography to present, but for the moment I've only managed to gather together a few tidbits.

While researching the artist online this morning I came across L.A. cartoonist Will Finn's blog. Last April Finn posted a really magnificent pencil drawing by Beckett. That alone would be a wonderful discovery, but even better, Finn had heard from Beckett's son Sean, who told Finn that his mother had recently published a new book. So Sheilah Beckett was still illustrating (and doing so magnificently) as recently as 2009.

Thanks to the link in Will's post I contacted her son and am arranging a phone interview with Sheilah Beckett. So stay tuned - with any luck we may soon be enjoying a whole Whitman's Sampler of sweet Sheilah Beckett treats!

* My Sheilah Beckett Flickr set.


  1. Abslutely beautiful stuff! I can't wait to hear how your interview goes.

  2. Thanks for commenting Jeff. I'm very excited as well, not only at the prospect of hearing about Sheilah Beckett's career - but also hopefully to hear anything she may recall about some of her artist associates and friends from the early days at the Charles E. Cooper studio. As well, many people who are familiar with Beckett's work may not know that she was married to J. Frederick Smith, another wonderful Cooper artist who worked in that more realistic style of the time for which the Cooper artists were renowned. I hope to ask her about JFS as well.

  3. Wow, her illustrations are fantastic! How exciting that you get to interview her!

  4. I respond to stylized and decorative illustration somewhat differently than traditional literal illos. And, I find that Sheilah Beckett's work is a cut above most of the stylized/decorative mid century illos I have seen. I clicked on that pencil sketch you referred to, and it really blew my socks off. Her delicate lines are so sensitive and expressive, that her drawing stands alone without any color needed. She must have been a real treasure for Coopers Studio, and I suspect was kept very busy. The advantage of using this type of illustration is obvious, since it doesn't compete with photography, and her whimsical charm she incorporates into those illos, must have put smiles on a lot of faces that saw them.

    I'm not sure one can be taught the kind of insight, creativity and that magic touch that we see in her work. It has to come deep from her sole, without formulas, systems or theories.. just an abundance of remarkable natural talent in the same tradition I see in Beatrice Potter's unique illustrations.

    Congrats on your up coming interview with Sheilah Beckett, Leif. What an interesting and special treat that will be. Sadly, there's not many of these remarkable mid century illustrators left to interview.

    Tom Watson

  5. How wonderful! We have a couple of her puppet designs on display backstage at the Storybook Puppet Theater of Children's Fairyland. Her drawings are so graceful and appealing! I'm looking forward to learning more about her.

  6. Glad to hear you hooked up with Will; he's a great guy. We worked slightly briefly together at disney in the 90s.