Monday, March 10, 2014

Peter Helck: "I drew constantly, had what was called "talent."

Over the years I've showcase the work of quite a few members of the Famous Artists School 'Founding Faculty.' Albert Dorne, Al Parker, Robert Fawcett, Austin Briggs, Jon Whitcomb, Fred Ludekens, Ben Stahl and of course Norman Rockwell have all had their turn on Today's Inspiration. I'm happy to at last present one more member of that most distinguished group; Peter Helck, in his own words, excerpted from various early '60s issues of FAS magazine... ~ Leif

"When I was a kid we were quite poor. I drew constantly, had what was called "talent."


"Some kids do very little with it, and others develop it. I was a miserable student in school because I was always drawing."


"I can't help drawing just for the sheer pleasure of it. I guess that's why I'm an artist."


"[Talent] helps an awful lot [but] practice is what makes the difference."


"There wasn't money for long art schooling. Because a job was necessary I sought and found employment in an art department. I was aware of the financial rewards possible in Commercial Art and the dimmer prospects, for a youngster, to make a living in the Fine Arts. So I became an illustrator."

(Below: a print ad by Peter Helck, 1919)

"I've been fortunate, thanks to this profession, in being able to do things that appeal to me."

(Below: a print ad by Peter Helck, 1925)

"The most gratifying schooling came in night classes of figure drawing after I began my career. What I learned was most useful at the time."


"I had highly orthodox school training, plaster casts and all that. I had practical training in six or seven art departments where I did everything from borders and lettering to 24-sheet posters. As a mural assistant I worked on surfaces 15 feet wide and 50 feet long."


"Frank Brangwyn, the famous English muralist and etcher, was my great influence. All in my age bracket admired Howard Pyle and Harvey Dunn. Dean Cornwell's virtuosity thrilled me, and the periods of study with Harry Wickey and Lewis Daniel had their lasting influence. The work of two artists forgotten today, the American E.G. Teale, and the German Eduard Thöny, still afford considerable inspiration."

(Below: Eduard Thöny, Simplicissimus, 1906)

"As a youngster I was tremendously impressed with German poster art. It had powerful light and shade contrasts, amazing simplification, forceful design. I liked all work that had a sense of strength and vigor. I became a worker in this "flat tint" method of expression because of the dynamic effects which resulted."

(Below: a print ad by Peter Helck, 1925)

"Before World War I the work of half a dozen good American designers derived from this art, but our entry into the war moderated this influence."

(Below: a story illustration by Peter Helck, year unknown)

"Today, however, there is a similar drive toward vivid, startling effects via such simplified means."

Continued tomorrow

* Thanks to Heritage Auctions for allowing me to use the final image above from their archives.

* Two notable events related to the Famous Artists School occurred recently:

The Norman Rockwell Museum recently acquired the art and archives from the Famous Artists School in Westport, Connecticut, nearly doubling the Museum's collections. This major gift comprises more than 5,000 un-catalogued artworks, including several original works created by Norman Rockwell! You can learn more here...

Secondly, the current incarnation of the Famous Artists School is re-offering the original Famous Cartoonists Course online! FAS president Magdalen Livesey wrote to tell me, "we have reissued Book 1 of the FAS Cartooning Course. At this point, it’s only available online, not in printed version, but we are offering Assignments and Critiques as well as the book alone." Learn more here...

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous2:18 PM

    Beautiful stuff. I'm surprised I've never heard of him before.

    He did remind me of Dean Cornwell (whom I've also studied for inspiration!), but there's a uniqueness and strength to his work that reminds me of Leyendecker.

    Thanks for sharing!