Monday, May 25, 2009

Pete Hawley Remembered

One of the nicest things about putting together Today's Inspiration is being contacted by people who have a personal connection to an artist I've featured. Often they will share with me some fond memories of that loved one whom we know only through the work we admire. This is always especially exciting for me! Its wonderful to learn a little about the person behind the art from someone who knew them as a teacher, friend, or family member. This week I'd like to share some of those correspondences with you.

A little while ago I receive an email from Shelley Nugent. In July of 2007 I wrote about her grandpa, Pete Hawley. Shelley offered to fill in some background details about his career. We began corresponding and I asked Shelley to tell me what she remembered about her grandpa. Here's what she wrote...

"My grandparents lived in Sedona and we lived in Phoenix (120 miles apart) so we saw my grandparents a lot. Actually, I was born in Cottonwood (15 minutes from Sedona, there wasn't a hospital there yet). My parents lived up there when my dad came back from Vietnam. I was born , the first grandchild on July 13th on my grandpa's birthday 5 weeks early. He used to like to say he got a pear tree and a granddaughter that year for his birthday. I'll be 41 this July."

"We saw them a lot. My dad was very close to his parents. He never missed a Mother's or Father's Day with them. He has an older sister Susan who still lives in my grandparent's house and a younger sister Jane. She died in 1993. She was my favorite Aunt. My grandpa had a studio off the kitchen with it's own bathroom. It had windows all the way around it. When you'd open the door, you'd have to step down 2 steps. It always smelled like old man Old Spice and paint."

"He would take pictures of neighbor kids or us kids to use for his drawings. He used his kids a lot when they were little, they were beautiful kids. He had this black & white Polaroid camera that spit the pictures out and they smelled really bad until they dried. I don't know exactly when he retired, my dad might know. I remember him working until I was in my teens I think."

"When I was little I would bring him his cookies and Instant breakfast at lunchtime and stir his water bowl (where he'd rinse his brush) and make all his cigarette ashes come back to the top. (He smoked for a little while) Unless he needed my help with something, we didn't bother him. If I was quiet I could color on the floor. He worked for American Greetings then."

"He would on his own make Xmas cards for his friends depicting the menagerie of dogs & cats he and my grandma had. He had really nice handwriting. I know that he wrote left handed, but I actually think he could paint with both."

Above, a photo from 1979. Shelley writes, "12/21/1979 My Aunt Jane (now deceased), my younger sister, my grandpa and me."

* Shelley is helping me develop a week-long series about her grandpa, Pete Hawley, which I hope to bring to you some time soon.

* My Pete Hawley Flickr set.


  1. Nice !
    Fabulous art and a warm story.
    Thanks Leif.

  2. Woohoo, this is going to be great week!


  3. The Valentine's Day Cards brought back memories from my childhood!
    For some reason, I remembered getting the Pete Hawley cards although I was too young to remember the illustrator's name!

  4. Charlie Allen5:47 PM

    I remember the great cartoon work and style....don't think I knew the artist's name. He did a lot of national stuff....but Arizona seems a strange base for those days. Usually you needed a large city, west, mid west, or east with more contacts. Thanks for the ongoing education and entertainment, Leif.

  5. TI: can't wait for the extended post on Pete Hawley. I love, love, love the stuff he did for Jensen (sp?) Swimm Wear in the late 40s and early 50s. -- Mykal

  6. Wonderful! Thanks for sharing this correspondence and all the great art from one of my all time favorites.
    I had a very nice phone conversation with Pete's daughter Susan several years ago after I tracked her down with the help of Jantzen archivist Arthur McArthur, who actually flw to Sedona to meet with Pete's kids Susan and Michael- it was clear that he had a very loving and proud family.
    It's wonderful to see Pete getting the attention his incredible work deserves. When I first began collecting and researching his work about 15 years ago there was no information to be found anywhere.
    Thanks, Leif!

  7. It's easy to overlook the great artistry in kitsch. Something about Hawley really resonates with me: I'm a sucker for volume, form, and life and Hawley made magic on a flat page.

    Thanks for going to the trouble, Lief!

  8. Thanks Leif. Looking forward to the week!!!

  9. I have liked and admired the illustrations of children in the bell telephone ads. I have clipped a bunch of them. He was able to animate them & keep them cute with realistic lighting.

  10. Howard Chaykin10:09 AM


    Looking forward to seeing this material. I have to name check Shane Glines for pointing me in the direction of the JANTZEN ads Hawley did. I was always hip to the BETSY BELL stuff, but the swimsuit ads are amazing.

    He's another guy of that era who could have been a phenomenal addition to the PLAYBOY cartoon stable.

    Again, big thanks for all the terrific work.

  11. Thanks everyone, for the great comments! Shane; thanks for the encouragement - like Howard, I owe you a huge debt of gratitude for making me aware of Pete Hawley's work way back when I began Today's Inspiration. I'm glad to be able to now fill in the blanks on his career with Shelley's generous assistance.

    1. Hi Leif
      Hope you don't mind me messaging but I'm keen to see if some art I have might be petes. Do you have an email that I could send a pic to?
      Bit of a long shit but thought I'd try :)

    2. Shot! So sorry!

  12. Hey Leif, like so many of your blog followers, I've been a big fan of Mr. Hawley's art all of my life without knowing it.

    I rediscovered his work through your flickr collection two years ago. Guess I didn't know he was responsible for those particular little Valentines cards that I recall trading with my fellow elementary schoolers.

    From an aesthetic standpoint, Those Peter Pan almond eyes he renders on all of his figures are just the cat's meow. I also dig his strong and organic holding lines. Gives it a bold and happy style. It actually surprised me to read from his granddaughter that he used models for his assignments--especially for children! Every aspect of their anatomy is distinctively Hawley that seems completely born of his imagination.

  13. Anonymous3:32 PM

    I just found an old picture from my father in law who was a doctor. It is the "socialized medicine" one and is so cute. I know found information of the artist and seeing the other pictures he done warms my heart and makes it even more special. Just think, socialized medicine has been talked about for years even in this darling little pictures. Thank you for sharing

  14. I love reading these shares and comments. I married Petes grandson, Ty Hawley. I have had the pleasure of going through all the works the family has had and seeing an abundance of range in work. Pete kept each photograph used for the models for each picture and it is so amazing to put all the pieces together with the final product and sketches in between. Would love to share his works, please do contact me if you have interest. Thank you so much for keeping his art alive.

  15. Hi Mandy.
    Bit of a long shot but I just purchased a piece of art that looks just like Pete's work. Any chance I can send you a photo to see what you think?
    Thanks for your time :)

  16. Earl Johnson2:19 PM

    As Pete was my father's cousin he was known to us as Uncle Pete, I grew up with his artwork as a child I believe I always received a commercial card with his art and we would get his family Christmas cards. As I am a lot older now I can truly appreciate his talent