Tracking a mid-century illustrator's career by way of advertising art is always tougher than by way of editorial art. Magazines almost always make sure to include a credit line for the illustrator -- ad art, by its very nature rarely gives credit to the artist and was rarely signed (or more likely the signature was cropped off in production).
Since Mike Ludlow didn't have a particularly unique style for that era I may have seen many examples of Ludlow-illustrated advertisements and not realized it was him and not, say, Lynn Buckham.
What makes it even tougher to determine Ludlow's career trajectory is that, while I've got a good selection of ads placed in trade publications by mid-century art studios, none list Mike Ludlow on their roster.
Since the Charles E. Cooper studio always made a point of listing who their artists were, the one thing I can say with certainty is that Ludlow wasn't a Cooper artist. He certainly had the chops to be... but he clearly wasn't among that "best of the best" group.
Because of Ludlow's long association with paperback cover art for certain publishers, and because he was among a small group of artists who regularly did covers for Bantam Books AD Len Leone, and because other members of that small group were regulars of the Fredman-Chaite studio, I can't help but wonder if Ludlow was also an FC artist. Since Fredman-Chaite never listed their artist roster, there's just no way to say for sure.
What can be surmised is that, just as Mike Ludlow became more prominent in story illustration during the later part of the '50s, so too did he become a more prominent advertising illustrator. The series above for Douglas DC-8 seems to have been a steady monthly assignment throughout 1960, and the two Ballantine Beer ads below are from 1957. All of this work is signed - and this is all the Ludlow advertising art I've ever come across.
Finally, here's an absolutely gorgeous original, again for Ballantine Beer, clearly from a few years later than the two ads above. Ludlow's style here has evolved and matured to a masterful degree and shows the influence brought on by mavericks like Bernie Fuchs and Bob Peak. If Ludlow was still doing Ballantine ads several years later it bodes well for how his career was going at that time.
During the '60s, like many other illustrators, Ludlow was supplementing his income by tapping into new markets. In his case, based on the many Ludlow-signed record jackets I've found (and continue to find) album cover art for RCA Records became a significant component of his workload.
* Many thanks to Flickr member Paul Malon and Ozepic and to Heritage Auctions for the use of their scans in today's post!
* My Mike Ludlow Flickr set.