Monday, September 08, 2008

Mitchell Hooks: A "vibrant, descriptive line"

On Saturday I spent an hour speaking with a legend. Thanks to Mark Korsak of the Society of Illustrators, who provided me with the contact info, I enjoyed a thrilling hour on the phone with 1999 SoI Hall of Fame recipient, Mitchell Hooks.

What a gentleman.

I can't begin to tell you how gracious Mitch was about answering my many questions. He told me the details of his early career, and about the illustration business in New York during the 50's. He provided an insider's view of the Fredman/Chaite art studio: the place that was really Charles E. Cooper's main competition back then, and the place where Mitch, Bob Peak, Robert McGinnis and many other great mid-century illustrators first made their mark in 'the big time'.

While I had no recording device to capture every detail of our meandering discussion, I jotted notes frantically, and Mitch agreed to a follow-up call to clarify anything I might have missed.

I'm looking forward to sharing the details of that conversation with you... and to showing you more of Mitch's distinctive, energetic artwork.

As well, a recently acquired 1960 issue of American Artist magazine containing an extensive article on Mitch will provide valuable technical details and some excellent quotes.

So this week, let's look at what that article describes as "vividly colourful and strident [work]" and a "vibrant, descriptive line... seen at its best". Let's look at the art and life of Mitchell Hooks.

* My Mitchell Hooks Flickr set.


  1. I am looking forward to this week, Lief, as I have always wanted to know more about Hooks. He falls into that "in between" category-- old enough to have a whole career full of accomplishment and to be voted into the Hall of Fame, but still too recent to be enshrined in biographies and monographs. As we have seen from the dozens of books that have emerged about other illustrators, there usually seems to be a gap of several decades. It's great that you are filling that gap, and especially that you are getting information right from the horse's mouth.

  2. Fantastic post Leif!
    Looking forward to one of my all time heroes!
    great stuff!

  3. Looks good. I will stayed tuned all week for this one!

  4. I am really pleased to have information about an artist whose work I like a lot. Thank you much!

  5. impressive samples- it'll be a great week, yes!

  6. Anonymous4:25 PM

    Leif, When I discovered this post that you just put up on Mitch Hooks. It's like the sun just opened and blessed the day. Mitch is absolutely one of the kindest men in the business. I had the blessing of visiting his apartment studio a few times back in the late 1980's when I used to work for his rep Joe Mendola at Mendola Ltd. Back then my job was almost akin to Joe Bowler's when he apprenticed at Cooper. I had to deliver the illustrations around Manhattan to the clients for Joe. I remember Mitch came into the office with a sketch of a female nude for a hardcover Ian Fleming James Bond compilation. It was one of the most gorgeous drawing you'd ever laid eyes on. Even the finished painting which was beautiful, was still topped by the sketch. Mitch invited me over to give me some critiques on my painting, he always used to tell me, when it came to painting women. "Keep the flesh tones clean, no black, and keep the features simple". At the time it was 1989 and he'd been doing these beautiful B&W fiction drawings for Woman's World and I was so moved by them, I collected every one I could get my hands on. But one day he showed me some the originals. He told me how much he loved doing them. I asked him if I could possibly have a preliminary sketch or something to keep as a keepsake of my times with him, he looked around and then went into a closet in his studio. He said, I'm not sure if I have any more sketches around, but will this painting do?"
    I almost fell down, It was a painting of Woman's Head from I think a book promotion. I stuttered and said, "Yes, that would be great, Wow!!!Thank You!! As I said, one of "the" kindest ment in the business. A great human being.

  7. That's a wonderful story, michael n, and many thanks for sharing it with us. After spending some time this past week speaking at length with Mitch, I'm not at all surprised to hear of such generosity. I could tell right away that he was a caring, thoughtful individual and it was a pleasure and great gift having an extended dialogue with him.

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