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Celebrating Illustration, Design, Cartoon and Comic Art of the Mid-20th Century

More Summer Fun: We're Just Here for the Beer

Friday, June 29, 2012


When it came to beer advertising in the 1950s, it was a veritable Schlitzfest for famous illustrators! More than any other purveyor of suds, Schlitz ads were brimming with art by some of the biggest names in the business. Here are just a few examples...

Jan Balet
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Harry Fredman
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Haddon Sundblom
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(or if not Sunny himself, some of the talented artists of the Sundblom Circle)
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Austin Briggs
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Tom Hall

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Tran Mawicke
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Frederic (Fritz) Seibel
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... and finally, John Falter (Remember his cartoony Sanka coffee ads from the beginning of this week?)
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So, finishing where we started (sort of), let's go grab a cold one! Have a great weekend!

More Summer Fun: Vector Art, 1961 B.A.I. (Before Adobe Illustrator)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Back in the stone age, around the time I was born (the 1960s), GMC ran this bold, bright, clean, simple-yet-elegant ad campaign for their line of trucks.

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I don't know if this is the way you sell trucks, but from a graphic arts perspective, I love it. In the realm of automotive advertising, I doubt you'd ever see a daring campaign like this today.

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For those of you born in the the years A.A.I. (After Adobe Illustrator) let me asure you, these were done by hand by actual human illustrators working at drafting tables with ink, technical pens, rulers and illustration board.

I know; amazing, right?

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At that time there was so much demand for this type of work - so many full-time jobs for Technical Illustrators - that when I attended art college in the early 1980s, we actually had Technical Illustration as one of the areas of study you could choose to specialize in.

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Little did we know all those rulers, tech pens and Linetek illustration board (and all those technical illustration jobs) would be gone just a decade later.

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All that remains to remind us of what once was is the evidence you see right here.

More Summer Fun: Five Fuchs and a Fawcett

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Imagine it's 1959 and you're one of the most highly regarded illustrators in America, with a long and storied career.

You've just landed a fabulous assignment: a series of paintings for a major national advertiser. Not only will this be a very high profile campaign, it'll also be extremely lucrative (I think I can conservatively estimate the payday was, in 1959 dollars, the equivalent of what would be at least $100,000 today).

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You've just completed the first painting in the series when the client calls... telling you they're pulling the job from you and giving it to a hot new talent - a virtual unknown; a mere kid - who is suddenly the talk of the town.

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That's exactly what happened to Austin Briggs when Bernie Fuchs scooped the 1959 Seagrams V.O. campaign out from under him (four illustrations from that series by Fuchs are shown here).

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Considering the hit Briggs took, it's hard to believe that he and Bernie Fuchs subsequently became life-long friends, but in fact they did.

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David Apatoff recounts this incredible story in his issue-length Bernie Fuchs article in Illustration magazine #15. David also describes how Robert Fawcett took great pleasure in surprising Briggs by bringing the young Bernie Fuchs to his house to meet the older artist, specifically to "twist the knife" in Briggs' wound.

Perhaps Fawcett realized what a force they were all dealing with in Fuchs, "a skinny kid who didn't look old enough to order a beer," as one person who was there described him. After all, that same year Fawcett had to share a major ad campaign of his own...

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... with the kid from Detroit; Bernie Fuchs.

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Below, a photo of Bernie Fuchs from Famous Artists magazine, 1967 - courtesy of Matt Dicke.

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More Fun Stuff for Summer: Pete Hawley's Jantzen Ads

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Summer mean its bathing suit time again and without a doubt, nobody ever illustrated the ideal beach wear body like Pete Hawley did for Jantzen in the '40s and '50s.

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Let's take a closer look, shall we?

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I presented a bunch of Pete Hawley's Jantzen ads when I wrote about his career a couple of years ago.... but here are a few more from the early '50s that I've managed to dig up since then.

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*Whew!* Is it just me or is it getting hot in here? One last piece for your viewing pleasure. I found this scan of what looks like an unsigned Pete Hawley original online this morning. No idea what ad this came from, but it must be yet another gorgeous Jantzen ad - very likely also from the early '50s.

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Interested in reading more about Pete Hawley? Just click the links below:

Pete Hawley, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Some Fun Stuff for Summer, Part 1

Monday, June 25, 2012

Summer officially arrived late last week, so I've decided to lighten up for a while. Today's Inspiration will continue - but I'll be doing less intensive research and writing and posting more "just for fun" stuff.

To kick things off, here are several pieces from a fun 1960 ad campaign for Sanka Instant Coffee.

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I 'test-drove' a couple of these images yesterday on Facebook and Flickr and was very pleased by the response they received.

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Many people 'Liked' or 'Favorited' them immediately - suggesting they must be as appealing to today's audience as they no doubt were some fifty years ago.

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No surprise that these fun illustrations enjoyed such an enthusiastic reception...

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... but genuinely surprising (to me anyway) is discovering that John Falter was responsible for painting these images.

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Who was John Falter? Like I said, I'm cutting back on the heavy lifting for the summer. But try Google Image Searching the name "John Falter." I bet you'll be surprised too!

Digest This: William A. Smith Illos from RDCB

Friday, June 22, 2012

Let's finish up this week with a look at two stories by the great William A. Smith.

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The first, once again from a 1960 volume of Reader's Digest Condensed Books, is painted in Smith's typically impressive style.

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Whenever I look at Smith's work, Robert Fawcett comes to mind.

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While Smith's work is far less structurally rigid than Fawcett's, they share a certain visual sensibility that has at it's root the discipline of classical art training.

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(Incidentally, William A. Smith's daughter, Kim tells me that her dad posed as the man in the trenchcoat for the reference photos he shot for this painting)

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Not surprisingly, Smith and Fawcett were friends and had tremendous respect for each other's work. Charlie Allen once shared an amusing anecdote with me about these two men. You can read it at this link.

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Also from 1960 (but from a different edition of RDCB) is this William A. Smith-illustrated story, except this time done in line with flat colours.

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This is a relatively rare example of Smith's ink line style. Aside from his war reportage art, this may be the first time I've ever come across another example of WAS doing line art illustrations.

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It goes without saying that they are of the same exceptional quality we see in Smith's painted work...

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- but more than that, they offer a pleasant surprise...

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Smith shows us a touch of gentle humour in some of his linear interpretations - something not evident in his painted illustrations.

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Maybe it's just me, but I see a little Robert McCloskey in William A. Smith's line art.

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Kim Smith has vague memories of posing for this story when she was a child. Of modelling for her father's reference photos, Kim said, "Much of the time I hated it but was mostly a good sport."

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"Now I think it was an honor and so fun to see myself and my family playing various parts, like a play."

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* Many thanks to Reader's Digest Creative Director, Robert Newman for linking this week's posts to the Reader's Digest art Tumblr page!  Robert has been posting some classics from the back covers of Reader's Digest from those days on the RD tumblr page.  Be sure to take a look!
 

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