Ben Denison was a Chicago illustrator during the mid-20th century. For a time before his death, Ben and I corresponded about his career. In this 3rd excerpt from our email exchange, Ben recalls friends and acquaintances from his early days at Stevens,Gross Studios... ~ Leif
Earl Gross, a feisty dapper, super salesman & friend.
(Above: photo of Earl Gross, co-owner Stevens Gross art studio, below, SG trade ad, 1953)
My room mates at SG were Bob Addison and Bob Abbett, both marvelous talents.
Abbett, I can't find him on the internet but last I heard he was doing wild life and western art and was doing very well.
(Below, illustration by Bob Abbett from Reader's Digest Condensed Books, 1964)
Addison, besides his commercial work, did gallery paintings of circus scenes and churches and later a series of silk screen print of country houses.
(Below, illustration by Bob Addison from Childcraft, The How & Why Library, 1964)
They both had photographic memories, musically and artistically, and they were both entertaining and interesting. Wonderful guys. We were the trouble makers of the studio.
(Below, illustration by Ben Denison, date unknown)
Among the other's were H. Charles McBarron, who did military illustration.
We all posed for each other. In top photo forgotten SG salesman and me dead or dying...
... McBarron directing the battle.
Bottom: same salesman and me over the parapets.
Babe Jacobson: Chicago school oil painter I can't find!
Johnny DeLoy: Quit art and became a mail man.
Joyce Ballantyne was there of course.
(Below: detail from the SG trade ad shown above, illustration by Joyce Ballantyne)
... her husband, Eddie Augustiny was at Kling's.
(Below: Eddie Augustiny illustration, 1968)
Kling studio was east on Ohio.
Paul Wagener is the best artist I have ever known, but at Gross was in production and at Encyclopedia Brittanica an art director. Paul was a Captain of a Naval ship in the Pacific during WWII and is still living and drawing, sculpting and painting in Marietta Georgia. He just had his 90th birthday.
Austie White and the Sundblom studio was just around the corner.
Al Buehl's apprentice, Frank Kalan, a wonderful NYC illustrator - did really sweaty bodice ripper book covers. Frank was a best friend and took photos at Jackie and my wedding.
(Below, a Frank Kalan book cover from 1965)
Gil Elvgren was nearby.
(Below: Gil Elvgren pin-up, c. 1940s?))
Tom Hall, Hank and Marilyn Conover were dear friends. Artists whose names I can't remember in and out of Gross Studios.
(Below: Tom Hall illustration c. mid-1950s, bottom, Marilyn Conover book cover)
But most interesting was meeting Hugh Hefner and Art Paul, editor and art director of what was to become the Playboy magazine!
That comes on my next dispatch.
Next: Playboy and Stephens, Biondi, DiCicco