Monday, January 28, 2008

A Textbook Example: Sandy Kossin

For the longest time, the only piece by Sandy Kossin I had in my magazine collection was this striking image below.

Boy, did I hope to find more! There's so much raw energy - yet a beautiful accomplished simplicity - in this illustration that I knew I'd love whatever else the artist might have done. But finding other examples in my 1950's issues of the Post, Colliers, etc. proved fruitless.

Then last summer, while on vacation in Orlando, FL, I found an old textbook, "Widening Circles", in a used bookstore. Among the illustration credits: Sandy Kossin.

This Harcourt Brace Primary Reader from 1970 suggested that Kossin's style had changed dramatically since the 1950's. Or was this simply another style that Kossin employed when doing humorous children's material?

I did a little searching around on the internet and discovered that some of Sandy Kossin's originals are available for purchase at Graphic Collectibles. Judging by the dates, Kossin was doing his more realistic style, in a great many variations, well into the 1980's. The images there are fantastic - and I highly recommend you take a look at them. (My favourite is a piece called "Movie Star")

As well, my buddy, Mike Lynch, has a post from September 2006 featuring Sandy Kossin and other members of the reknowned Long Island chapter of the National Cartoonists Society, The Berndt Toast Gang.

The short bio at Graphic Collectibles tells us that Sandy Kossin did in fact do illustrations for all the major magazines so I'll be looking more closely for examples I can bring you in the future. He also did over 500 paperback book covers!

That got me checking the photostream of one of my fellow Flickerites, grrl8trax, who has one of the greatest collections of paperback cover scans on planet Earth. Sure enough, her archive includes a set of 15 Sandy Kossin covers that will blow your mind.

This week, we'll look at some other artists who's work appears in "Widening Circles" and other old textbooks. Some names will be familiar ones and others you'll be hearing for the first time. But all, I think, will prove to be interesting and inspiring.

And that's what its all about, right?

My Sandy Kossin Flickr set.


  1. Wow, I love that first image. And what an able-bodied cartoonist too!


  2. Kossin did a powerful cover for Life magazine in 1963 depicting the bay of pigs invasion with a series of pictures of the tragedy inside.

  3. Man, I love this site. Thanks for introducing me to such wonderful artists.

  4. I agree with Harald 100%-- Kossin's cover story for Life Magazine on the Bay of Pigs was absolutely superb. It was the crowning achievement of his career, as far as I am concerned.

  5. Thanks everyone for your comments!
    Shane; I love that first image too. The first time I saw it I thought, wow... I MUST see more of this guy's stuff... and then, nothing! It was pretty frustrating. Hopefully someone will track down the Bay of Pigs series Harald and David speak so highly of and share it with us.

    Stephen; thanks for the kind words - its always great to hear the blog is doing its job!

  6. The Illustrator in America 1860-2000
    has a reproduction uf the may 10, 1963
    Life cove

  7. Hey! I know Sandy!!!!!!!

    I'll have to let him know about all this!!!! Sandy not only can draw better than any of us, but he's also a heckuva nice guy too.

  8. Leif, I took your message to heart and posted some of Kossin's illustrations fro the Bay of Pigs. I think you will find them quite extraordinary, and very different from his other work.

  9. Anonymous11:03 PM

    I remember the day that John Kennedy was assassinated. My dad was very serious; he said he had to leave for Dallas. He wouldn't talk to me much, I was only 9 years old. Then he got a call from Life magazine and they said "never mind, don't come down to do the illustations". They had just bought the Zapruder films. -David Kossin

  10. Anonymous6:48 PM

    I never realized how much my grandfather has impacted people. I suppose it's because I grew up with him being so famous and never really realized why. I remember when I was a kid, I would sit in the living room of my grandparent's house and look at all the paintings on the walls and never really realized how amazing they were. But as I get older, I've really begun to truely appreciate the work he does.

    By the way, the post before this is from my father, Sandy's first son.

  11. Anonymous1:08 PM

    I knew Sandy when he was in art school in LA. One of his assignments was to do a portrait using pastels. I posed - he drew (even tho he has no memory of having done this).....and I have a lovely framed portrait of myself -age 18 hanging on my wall. Next birthday in a few weeks, I turn 80. (I need to pose again!)

  12. I came across an edition of Melville's The Confidence Man and bought it solely for the awesome image on the cover.