Friday, March 22, 2013

Much More from Mitchell Hooks

Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame inductee (for 1999) Mitchell Hooks passed away last weekend. Here are some examples of his tremendous talent, from various volumes of Readers Digest Condensed Books from the '60s, '70s and '80s.





* Much more of Mitchell Hooks artwork in my Mitchell Hooks Flickr set.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Good-bye Mitchell Hooks (1923 - 2013)

A couple of days ago on Facebook, Dan Zimmer of Illustration Magazine shared some sad news: last weekend, Mitchell Hooks passed away.


How particularly strange to hear Mitch was gone, having just featured his work once again only a couple of weeks ago right here on the TI blog. I had some wonderful phone conversations with Mitch and, in 2010, I actually got to meet him, talk with him in person over a long lunch at the Society of Illustrators and shake the hand of one of my illustration idols. I will always cherish those memories. Mitchell Hooks was a spectacularly talented artist and a warm, humble and generous person.


The illustration at the top was published in Redbook magazine in July 1961. The one immediately below in April '61.


Here are a few more pieces by Mitchell that I haven't previously presented. These are from Reader's Digest Condensed Books, circa 1980.


In Mitchell's memory, I'm re-presenting Part 1 of my interview from 2008...

Mitchell Hooks: "I always drew..."
(First presented on Tuesday, September 09, 2008)

Mitchell Hooks was born in 1923 in Detroit. He didn't come from a particularly artistic family, though he did have an uncle whom he describes as 'quite a good self-taught artist' who encouraged his interest in art. Says Mitch, "I always drew."

His earliest influences were the adventure strips in the newspaper, especially Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon, Jungle Jim and Secret Agent X-9. "As a boy, I followed Raymond's work avidly," chuckles the artist today, "even to the point of clipping out the strips and keeping them in a scrapbook. I'd meticulously cut out the figures of Flash, Dale and Dr. Zarkov."

"I've always had an affinity for anatomical drawing and, in retrospect, I can attribute my abilities to the long hours spent studying Raymond's beautiful drawings."

Mitch attended CAS Technical High School in Detroit, "A marvelous school," that had been created for those city kids who really had no hope of ever attending college."The way we grew up," says Mitch, "we didn't even know how to spell 'college'."


"CAS was loaded with professional illustrators, designers and such, just great people, who taught us everything we needed to know to get a job in the profession."

"I was thrown in with a bunch of kids who were really enthusiastic about illustration. We all knew what was going on out there in the magazines... knew about Al Parker and the Cooper guys and all that, and CAS prepared us to go out in the field - and we did - we all went out and got jobs in the field, straight out of high school!"


"CAS was where I made my big leap from Alex Raymond to wanting to be a professional illustrator, and I knew I wanted to be in New York."

When Mitch graduated from CAS he first found a job at General Motors. The war was on, GM had been converted to supplying the American army with equipment, and Mitch was assigned to take two dimensional blueprints and convert them to three dimensional drawings. "It was important work," says Mitch, "and I hated it."


Hated it so much that just a couple of years later, when he joined the army, he made sure they knew nothing about his artistic abilities. "I was so afraid that they'd assign me to do more of those drawings that I intentionally flunked any tests that might reveal my skills." Mitch decided he's rather risk the shooting war than get stuck doing any more dreaded blueprint drawings! He became an infantryman in 1944 - and served as a second lieutenant with the U.S. occupation forces in Germany after the war ended.

Upon his return to the States, he made his way to New York. He had freelanced in Detroit for a year or so after leaving GM, and had diligently prepared a portfolio of samples he hoped would land him the sort of work he wanted to do. A previous visit to the the Big Apple before his army service had resulted in an opportunity with a minor studio called T.J. Peters. "Peters had a small bullpen of artists and I got on staff there," says Mitch. But all the while he was looking for something bigger, and that came in the form of freelance work done on the side for Al Chaite.

Chaite would go on to form, with artist Harry Fredman, one of the major players in the New York commercial art scene: the high-profile Fredman/Chaite Studios... but for now he was managing a smaller operation called Trager-Phillips. Mitch, while working at Peters, found plenty of freelance opportunities with Trager-Phillips, and "it caused a small conflict with my boss at T.J. Peters."

You can read what became of that conflict - and much, much more - in the remaining three instalments of my 2008 interview with Mitchell Hooks:

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

* Tomorrow I'll present a raft of illustrations by Mitchell from Reader's Digest Condensed Books.

*More art in my Mitchell Hooks Flickr set.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Few More from Robert Shore

Here is the earliest piece I've found by Robert Shore, from 1953.


And this one, below, which was apparently a plate in a 1950s edition of Edgar Allen Poe's "Fall of the House of Usher."


Included in the 1960 American Artist magazine article on Shore was a sketch for an illustration that appeared in an Abbot Laboratories promotional magazine called "What's New."


The sketch resulted from Shore first researching a variety of photographs of actual train wrecks. Shore's composite drawing includes elements culled from the artist's imagination as well as elements of the research photos. The finished illustration, below, was painted in casein on gessoed masonite.


Casein seems to have been Robert Shore's preferred medium at the time of the 1960 article, so it's very likely he employed it for this double page spread in Parents magazine just a year later.


Shore describes working in heavy casein impasto, blocking in major forms...


... then moving on to thin casein glazes mixed with damar emulsion.


"I prefer casein to oil because it suits my temperament," said Shore. "I need to be able to make immediate, intuitive changes. The drying time of oil is too slow for me; I cannot wait to cover a bad area."


Above, a plate from Herman Melville's Billy Budd, which Shore illustrated in 1965 and below, a spread from Boys' Life magazine, 1966.


At a point in the early 60s (and I was unable to determine an exact date) Robert Shore was invited to participate in an unprecedented artistic endeavor.

"In March 1962, James Webb, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, suggested that artists be enlisted to document the historic effort to send the first human beings to the moon."


"John Walker, director of the National Gallery of Art, was among those who applauded the idea, urging that artists be encouraged "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race."


"Working together, James Dean, a young artist employed by the NASA Public Affairs office, and Dr. H. Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art, created a program that dispatched artists to NASA facilities with an invitation to paint whatever interested them."


"The result was an extraordinary collection of works of art proving, as one observer noted, "that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company." ~ quote and images from The Smithsonian National Air and Space museum website


Below, (by coincidence?) Robert Shore was commissioned to paint this very space-like image for Boys' Life, October 1965


Another Boy's Life spread and small spot, this time from 1969, that suggest Shore's style was shifting in new directions.



The final piece I have by Robert Shore (from 1973) shows a surprising degree of realism. And for me, a startling realization that, as a child, I had an intimate familiarity with at least one illustration by the artist. I owned a copy of this book when I was nine...


... and that cover scared the bujeezuz out of me!