Monday, July 09, 2012

Lewis Parker, Canadian Illustrator

I'm following up last week's series on Tom McNeely with a look at a few more Canadian illustrators.

Today, a look at the work of Lewis Parker.


Parker had a tremendous gift for creating diverse work.


Just looking at these few examples from some early '60s issues of Maclean's magazine...


... it's hard to believe that they were all done by the same person.


In the '50s and '60s, Parker drew countless illustrations for MacLean's. Sometimes they were for full blown articles.



More often they were small spots for the magazine's news and reviews sections.



He often drew five or more small spots in a single issue of the magazine...


... and those spots were rarely all done in the same style.



Lewis Parker was born in 1926. At age 16, with three years of instruction at Central Technical School, he began his professional art career as a junior apprentice at a Toronto art studio called Rabjohn Illustrators. His pay: three dollars a week.


There he met - and learned from - many artists who went on to become successful in their own right. But of all those with whom he worked, Parker credits Bert Grassik, a Bert Grassick, a staff illustrator who also did political cartoons for Maclean's and the Toronto Telegram (and someone I previously wrote about on Today's Inspiration) as his single biggest influence.


Editorial cartooning was often in the mix of Parker's assignments - he did many for both Maclean's and the Toronto Star - and these examples demonstrate his obvious skill in that area of expertise.



You can read much more about Lewis Parker and see many more examples of his later painted artworks at

Matthew Parker also created a 30 minute retrospective of his father's art which you can find on youtube:


  1. Very good.But the curse of the jack of all trades is that no one style is truly developed,leaving the artist always in the second tier.I think Mr parker could have taken any of these styles and really taken them somewhere and moved into the bigger better paid commissions.
    Often, its only when these artists retire that they do that, by which time there youthful energies are dissipated.

  2. A valid point Remo - unfortunately Canada, being a rather small market for commercial art - especially in those days, meant very few artists had the luxury of making a steady income while pursuing only one style. There were a handful who managed the feat, but even some of the most successful, like James Hill and Oscar Cahen, produced work in a tremendous variety of styles and techniques. Tom McNeely and I discussed this many times during the years we shared a studio. Tom felt it was actually a distinct advantage in the Canadian business that artists had the opportunity to explore their creative potential further than one might in the U.S., where client pidgeon-holing often dictated what type of art you might end up producing for the length of your career.

  3. I can see that Leif, but I tried to do the same thing earlier on in my career, to 'keep the wolf from my door'.All I can say is that it lead to continuous frustration and a feeling of 'second-rateness'.
    And instead of producing a style that was satisfying, reflecting your talents/interests what you might call "pidgeon-holing", you end up producing derivative versions of other people's stuff at a tenth the cost.
    Now I'd do it the other way around.Try to do your own thing first -really go for it- and if that doesn't work then go the 'jack of all trades' route.

  4. Remo; I can appreciate your frustration regarding your own circumstances and the regret you feel in hindsight about some of the choices you made. Let's keep in mind however that style in and of itself won't determine success or personal satisfaction. Different graphic artists have different goals and ambitions. (I use the term "graphic artist" because more and more I find the term "illustrator" to have very limiting connotations that perhaps ultimately lead to the kind of regret you've expressed). Doing your own thing and really going for it - I'm with you all the way on that - doesn't necessarily mean relentlessly pursuing an identifiable style.

  5. Leif, the 'style' can be anything, from bigfoot to photorealism, I'm saying find your thing-what you are all about-and take it somewhere.If you do that with conviction you stand out against the rest.And thats what you need to get hired-recognition and a dependable style.
    I took my own advice, developed my own thing and now It's going fine, so I'm not coming at this from an 'if only I'd done this' point of view.As they say in infomercials;
    " It really works!"

  6. Anonymous1:21 AM

    thanks for posting.

  7. You may want to check out a small portion of Lewis Parker's work at his web site: