Monday, June 29, 2009

Fred Ludekens, Close-up

The Summer 1964 issue of Famous Artists Magazine contains an extensive interview with Fred Ludekens (1900-1982), a member of the Famous Artists School's founding faculty.

Ludekens was born in Huoneme, California on May 13, 1900. When his father died the family moved to Canada and the artist grew up there, in Victoria, BC. After returning to California as a young man, Ludekens took a night class in art at the University of California Extension School. This would be his only formal training. Ludekens enjoyed drawing but was unsure of his ability to pursue commercial art as a profession - so he never submitted a single drawing until the last day of the class. His teacher, Otis Shepard, praised it highly, and this gave Ludekens the confidence to try free-lancing.

Ludekens worked for San Francisco ad agency, Foster and Kleiser painting billboards. In 1931 he joined another SF agency, Lord and Thomas, as an art director and moved in 1939 to that agency's New York office.

He returned to San Francisco in 1945 and devoted himself to illustration for the next period of his career.

He later became co-creative director of one of the most prestigious advertising agencies in the world, Foote, Cone and Belding (FCB).

With his extensive understanding of both the free-lancer's and the art director's perspective on advertising art, Ludeken's interview in Famous Artist Magazine provides the reader with some remarkably astute advice - as relevant today (dare I say, even more so) than when the interview was conducted nearly half a century ago.

This week, let's listen to what Fred Ludekens had to say about commercial art and artists. Along the way we will learn a little about this most distinguished mid-century illustrator - and about ourselves as well.

* My Fred Ludekens Flickr set.


  1. This confidence building man, Otis Shepard, must have been a born teacher.

  2. Hi Leif,
    Fred Ludekens was one of my all time favorite illustrators, I'm anxious to see this weeks posts.

  3. Charlie Allen12:46 AM

    Fred Ludekins was, next to Robert Fawcett. the most intimidating illustrator/AD I ever met. He tolerated nothing less than the best....radiated confidence and discipline in his work, and expected that of others. I received a compliment from him one day....and he called me Charlie. That was enough!

  4. I'm Otis Shepard's granddaughter and it was with pleasure that I read your article on Fred Ludekens, who was an amazing artist and a very close friend of my grandparents.

    I have a brochure of one of his showings, I'll scan and upload to Flickr to share.

    Thanks for the lovely post.

  5. Rich; I hope that sheppy will tell us abit about her grandfather, who so boosted young Fred Ludekens' confidence.

  6. Harry; I can easily imagine that FL would be one of your great inspirations - hopefully this week's offerings will not dissapoint! :^)

  7. tonci; yay, indeed, my friend... what do you think of that blue and black "Battle" scene? A bit Jorge Zaffino-ish, no?

  8. Charlie; Your comment says it all - if Ludekens merits that kind of praise from you, no one can questions his stature.

  9. Sheppy; well, small world! What a delight to hear from you - and thanks for offering to share that brochure with us. :^)

  10. leif: that black and blue scene knocked my socks off today- also reminded me of the sickles' the searchers illustration

  11. Hi,

    I forwarded the post to my father, who said:

    "I could write a medium size book about Fred & Eva Ludekins! Suffice it to say, they were my parents best friends. I have several of mother's albums which record their trip to Europe in 1936. Fred built an absolutely fabulous house overlooking Richardson Bay on the back side of Belvedere island. It was "Architectural Digest" in innovation and imagination. They were both VERY bright people but also very intense. I remember helping Fred with photos of current air force planes for illustrations he was doing. I can also remember he showed us the marketing for the Edsel LONG before the car was debuted."

    As for my grandparents, I have some information and photos that I can share, but have to piece it together...

    More later!

  12. Thanks sheppy! Its great to learn about these family connections and hear anecdotes we might otherwise never know about. I appreciate you following up on my request. :^)

  13. I am Fred Ludekens grandson. He was indeed an amazing man, self taught, exceedingly driven, bright, creative, visionary and generous. His life was truly rich ..starting off as a young man, working in the salmon factories, later as a cowboy, and then becoming a self taught artist and extremely accomplished businessman / art director. His vision of the Famous Artists School, resulted in his recruiting "successful" artists and writers (e.g Ansel Adams, Norman Rockwell) as teachers. He wished to help others find and nurture their creative skills. More than anything he loved to paint and draw, even in his final years, when his sight was severly limited he would paint, usually pictures of his beloved western themes. I will always treasure the memories of my all too brief opportunities to spend time with him, fishing, hunting, or just listening to him. John R.

    1. I know Fred Ludekens is a relative of my husband, just not sure how. Maybe you can fill in some blanks for me? My husband's grandmother was Doris Ludekens, she would have been approx the same age as Fred. Her father was Frank Ludekens. She married Joseph Valvo in Jackson, CA. I know her father and family owned quite a bit of land in Amador County, CA. Her father owned a toll road there. Near where the toll house is there is a Ludekens family cemetary. We have an original by Fred, I've not been able to find anything about it. The closest I can find is the Ring necked pheasant painting. The one we have has the pheasant heading in the opposite direction though.

  14. John; I know many of us who work in the business today are glad to have learned about your grandfather and his career... having the benefit of your insight adds a nice personal touch - thank you! :^)

  15. Recently a very elderly woman handed me a 12” X 15” envelope full of Stan Galli and Fred Ludekens prints. The envelope is addressed to the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company, and on the Ship-To mailing label is typed these words… “Herbert C. Hoover, c/o Wilkins Pack, Graham, Washington. The postage is dated December 22nd, 1954.

    The contents: 30 each, 11” X 14” prints…
    The actual images on the prints are around 9 ½ X 7 ½ inches…
    All titles are followed by the words “on a western tree farm… illustrated for Weyerhaeuser Timber Company – (and the artist’s name)”

    Their titles are as follows…

    BEAR CUBS on a western tree farm - Stan Galli
    FAWN AND SQUIRREL - Stan Galli
    GREAT HORNED OWL - Stan Galli
    ELK HERD - Stan Galli
    COUGAR AND CUBS - Stan Galli
    MOTHER FOX AND KITS - Stan Galli
    QUAIL - Stan Galli
    RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH - Stan Galli (2 identical prints)
    MINK - Stan Galli
    RACOONS - Stan Galli
    RUFFED GROUSE - Stan Galli
    KINGFISHERS - Stan Galli
    BLACKTAIL DEER - Stan Galli

    SKUNKS AND CHIPMUNKS - Fred Ludekens
    GREAT BALD EAGLES - Fred Ludekens
    BROWN BEAR AND CUBS - Fred Ludekens
    MOUNTAIN GOAT on a western tree farm - Fred Ludekens
    LOWLAND BEAVERS on a western tree farm - Fred Ludekens
    GOLDEN-MANTLED GROUND SQUIRREL on a western tree farm - Fred Ludekens
    SPRING SALMON - Fred Ludekens
    SNOWSHOE RABBIT - Fred Ludekens
    CHICKAREE - Fred Ludekens
    CANADIAN GEESE - Fred Ludekens

    I am curious about the value of these extraordinary images.
    Do you have an idea of the worth of this package?

    Kenneth Dahl

  16. Anonymous2:46 AM

    Around 1956 my mother took a flight on a United Airlines plane (DC-6B I'm pretty sure). She brought back a print of a watercolor painting United Airlines must have commissioned Fred Ludekens to do. The title of the painting was Mainliner Over the Grand Canyon. It depicted exactly what the title implies: a DC-6B flying over the Grand Canyon. Has anyone seen the original painting or know anything about it? Do I have the only example of the print of that painting?

  17. I know this is a pretty old thread; but my grandfather had a couple of originals from Mr. Ludekens that I liked as a kid. My grandma recently got them out of storage and gave them too me. The story is that my grandpa worked at a publishing company when he got back from serving in WW2. The paintings were the originals that appeared in magazines to sell war bonds. One is a fighter plane flying into the sun and the other a soldier in a tank. Reading about the artist makes them even cooler. Thanks for the info. If their is any way to share these with anyone who might be interested please let me know. Also I thought it would be nice if I could find the magazines that these images might have showed up in. If anyone knows where I would start looking I'd appreciate it.