Thursday, September 19, 2013
Ed Vebell, Historical Illustrator
Robert Fawcett once described a visit to a Hollywood movie studio: "I was talking to a woman who was in charge of all research," said Fawcett. "I told her of the great value we illustrators place in movie stills as sources of historical reference. We assumed, I said, that the research facilities of the movie industry were much greater than our own and we therefore relied heavily on this research for accuracy. She replied that, on the contrary, if a picture had appeared in a magazine such as The Saturday Evening Post, that constituted authority enough for them!"
If that woman was talking about Ed Vebell's illustrations, she would have been correct.
Vebell's clients often called on him for illustrations of historical subjects. They knew they could count on getting not only solid professional work, but work done with great authenticity.
While others might be satisfied to work from movie stills alone, Ed Vebell said he had little regard for what he called "studio style" art. He began his illustrations with a thumbnail sketch...
... and would then invest a tremendous amount of time and effort photographing the people, scenes and props - the "factual material" Vebell felt was essential to creating an authentic-feeling illustration.
Shortly after WWII, Vebell began collecting military uniforms, weapons and other historic articles and memorabilia. Over time, he amassed the largest private collection of these items in the U.S. When Westport News' Dan Woog visited Vebell in 2010, the artist pointed out, "I've got Buffalo Bill Cody's hat... over there, in a bathtub."
Once Vebell had assembled his photo reference, the drawing began. He felt that a line drawing should not be worked over - preferring to do a new drawing on a clean sheet over the old one on a light box.
During his time in Paris, Vebell had studied lithography on stone at the Beaux Arts. It had given him an appreciation for working with lithographic sticks and tusche. Only rarely would he finish a piece with pen and ink.
(A scan of the final image, found online)
* Images in today's post are from (in order) Pulp Illustration Art.com , Heritage Auctions and American Artist magazine, November 1962.