Friday, June 12, 2009

Bob Jones: Of Mice and... Mendola (oh, and Mad magazine)

From The Art of Humorous Illustration by Nick Meglin:

In 1957 Jones worked up a full color illustration of a cute mouse with a hammer breaking a Christmas candy jar. He brought the design to the Book-of-the-Month Club. Besides their vast book-by-mail operation, this organization also produces their own line of Christmas greetings for sale to Club members. The Club purchased it. Since that time Jones has sold a new animal painting for this purpose each year developing a series.

The second design depicted a mouse-dog situation, the third and fourth a mouse-cat,

... and finally, from the fifth design on, the mouse-cat-dog trio.

This "family" of characters has proven to be a favorite with the club members year after year.

Nick Meglin's interview with Bob Jones for The Art of Humorous Illustration resulted in a lucky break for the artist. Bob told me, "After we finished the interview, Nick said, "Why don't you bring your portfolio to Mad and we'll see if we can get something for you."

Below, the first cover Bob ever did for Mad. Bob said, "That was my body, where he's holding the rabbit." He laughs, "Of course I put Alfred E. Neuman's head on it!"

Bob initially did some interior art, but says, "I never got into the stuff like Mort Drucker and those guys. Jack Davis and all those guys doing these huge things with thousands of figures! I never got into that."

Although work for Mad did not pay as well as Bob's advertising clients, he emphasizes "that style of art was extremely popular in the 60's, 70's and 80's... and I got a lot of work because of the stuff I did for Mad. I was more than happy to work for them. You know, sometimes there's that void in your work schedule... and I was grateful for Mad being there to fill that."

As well, Bob fondly remembers the Mad artists with whom he attended the famous Bill Gaines annual trips the publishers threw each year for his "usual gang of idiots."

Bob tells me, "They were all wonderful people."

In the years after leaving the Cooper studio Bob says, "I did a lot of stuff for General Foods. I did Fred Flintstone on the back of cereal boxes for years. Coco Pebbles and all that stuff? -- for years -- and boy, that was good money!"

He chuckles, "Nothing lasts forever, let me tell you that!"

Art by Bob Jones? Perhaps..., with thanks to grickily. This scan is from his Flickr collection.

"At that time," says Bob, "I had Exxon, General Food, I was working for Mad... and I had other freelance stuff. I was working so hard... and I loved the stuff, but... I was working so hard I was killing myself. I was thinking, "How do I get out of this?"

Bob's workload during those years might explain why, when I asked him about the album cover below, he couldn't remember ever doing it. "Did I sign it?" he initially asked, and even when I sent him the scan, he replied, "I have absolutely no recollection that I did that. But my name on it tells it all----oh well."

Bob said he only did 4 or 5 album covers, and (with the exception of this forgotten one) they were all humorous in nature. "Incidentally, the head art director of RCA Records was also named Bob Jones," he chuckles, "and they used to call him 'Bob Jones Sr.' and me 'Bob Jones Jr'."

During those post- Cooper days, Bob was represented by Joe Mendola but, he says that eventually "for some reason that Mad magazine style of stuff started dropping off. So I left Joe, because I wasn't making any money with him."

Peter Schlegel, a former Mendola salesman, became Bob's next rep. "Peter left Joe and I went away with him," says Bob. "Peter was also interested in landscape painting which I was doing at that time (and which I'm doing now)."

"Peter was a wonderful agent and a wonderful guy. He was terrific. He passed away about five years ago."

Bob's tireless interest in seeing what he was capable of is the reason he has enjoyed such a varied career. His beautiful landscapes are the latest example of how he enjoys rising to the challenge. "Its why I took up painting," he says. His attitude has always been, as he puts it, "Let's see if I can do this."

Bob pauses thoughtfully and concludes, "Its been a great career... I've had a wonderful time."

* My Bob Jones Flickr set.

* Many thanks to Nick Meglin for allowing me to excerpt a passage from his book, The Art of Humorous Illustration. A revised edition, Humorous Illustration, is available and contains much more about Bob Jones, including sections on Bob's materials and techniques!

* My thanks to Heritage Auctions for allowing me to use the two Mad magazine cover scans in this post.

* Finally, thanks to Dan Goodsell for the use of his Fruity Pebbles scan in this post.


  1. The landscapes are of Block Island. Where did you find them?

  2. Murphy;

    The scans were provided by the artist.

  3. I worked for Joe Mendola and directly with Peter Schlegel, who was a great guy, for about 4 years in the late 80's.

    I had the pleasure of meeting Bob at the office a few times. It was a big thrill for me because I grew up on MAD magazine. I was surprised to learn of how many other iconic works he was responsible for in advertising, I was just a kid then.

    Great to hear he's doing what he loves best!

    1. Hi. Please send a message to Bob for me. This is Rita Centrone's son Luca. Please send him my best, he is often on my mind. My mother was very fond of him. If Bob wishes to chat, which I would love. Please have him call me. He knows who I am.
      Thank you 914 494 8319.