Friday, October 09, 2009

Pete Hawley: Betsy Bell Ushers In the 60's

Scroll back through this week's posts and look closely at Pete Hawley's many Jantzen ads. Once you regain your composure from the sight of all those gorgeous gals in their unmentionables you'll notice those ads often featured cute little kids and critters - not exactly co-starring - but certainly acting in a supporting role.

As Hawley's Jantzen girls began to bow out at the end of the 50's it was his affinity for drawing cute characters that increasingly took centre stage with his clients.

Around 1958 Pete Hawley began working on a new, long series of ads for a major national account: he created a little cutie named 'Betsy Bell' for the Bell Telephone System.

She must have been extremely popular, because for the next several years Bell regularly called on Hawley to create more Betsy ads.

As mentioned often on this blog, the 60's was a time of tremendous change in the illustration business. Television was increasingly grabbing available ad dollars and the diminished surviving magazines increasingly turned to photography for visual content.

Illustrators with contemporary styles could still grab the attention of art directors, but the market for traditional illustration simply no longer existed.

Many illustrators who had been wildly successful during the 40's and 50's doing art for magazines and print advertising found themselves out in the cold. As one of those veteran artists with twenty-plus years of professional experience under his belt, one might expect that Pete Hawley would be one of those illustrators struggling to compete in the new order of things.

In fact he continued to be consistently busy.

Frustratingly, the 60's decade is the one of which we have the least specific detail about Hawley's business arrangements. I don't know if he was still working with his old rep, Betty Irely, or with someone he'd met at Stephan Lion Inc., or with another completely unknown salesperson...

After all those years in the business, he may have simply been so well established that he could rely on his network of clients to keep coming back with new assignments...

Whatever the case, Hawley managed to continue to do high profile advertising art.

Beginning in the early 50's, he'd connected with the film industry and begun doing movie posters, like this one from 1953...

... and this from 1954.

That relationship continued into the 1960's. Here's a poster Pete Hawley did in 1963. How many posters he did over the years is unclear, but once again, it was a long (and no doubt enviably lucrative) relationship with a major account.

In 1964 Pete and Micky Hawley packed up their clan and moved across the country to a beautiful home on the outskirts of Sedona, Arizona. Pete had visited Sedona with a buddy on an earlier occasion and had fallen in love with the arid climate and wide open spaces.

Pete's granddaughter, Shelley, provided this photo of the Hawley family home. That's Pete's studio just beyond the patio railing. Shelley remembers, "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 Spice and paint."

Despite the remote location (and remember, this was long before fax machines and FedEx!) Hawley maintained a busy schedule with his many clients, including RCA Records.

Shelley recalls, "When I was a kid we used to get in his Jeep and go with him to the post office..."

"Everybody knew him so well at the post office!"

"At the time I thought it was just that sort of 'small town' thing... now I realize it was because he was constantly mailing away finished jobs."

She concludes, "I guess I wish we'd talked more about his work, but as my Grandpa it was going for walks, collecting rocks & flowers, riding around town in his red Jeep -- you know, kid/grandpa stuff. As a teenager you get selfish and want to talk about yourself and boys... We walked a lot and talked about life in general, but I never asked for details about his work. He was either in the studio working or he was with us, out of the work mode."

* Many thanks to Shelley Nugent for all her invaluable assistance with this week's series on her grandpa, Pete Hawley.

* Thanks as well to Shane Glines of Cartoon Retro for generously allowing me to use several of his Pete Hawley scans today.

* My Pete Hawley Flickr set.


  1. Charlie Allen4:48 PM

    Great week on Pete Hawley, Leif. Just amazing versatility. I must have been too busy and preoccupied to appreciate the range of his work in those days. Remember well, Betsy Bell. There was a touch of J.C. Leyendecker in the way he simplified and cartooned....evident, for example, on his way of handling her hair. Thanks a lot for some fine illustration history.

  2. I agree with Charlie.Hawley's work is delightful.The week before featured some great stuff also,with Hess,Ross,and the others.All good choices.

  3. Awesome retrospective...his work is so alive and not dated; almost as if he were consciously working outside anything that would tinge his art of creative the way, perhaps it has been mentioned, but doesn't Dean Yeagle's work bear a very strong Hawley influence? Especially the eyes, and the brisk ease of the figures. I mean that completely as a positive thing, Yeagle is also a favorite artist of mine.

  4. Personally, what I see in Hawley's figures is a bit of Jack Rickard, who I think was about the same age. Maybe they all drank from the same well.

  5. Jeffkers3:26 PM

    Pete Hawley kept working because he had real talent and wasn't a one trick pony.You can see clear progress in his work from the early days and 100% meritted his success.

  6. I remember Betsy Bell, and loved the loose feel of the work. I'm sure there were imitators but I seem to recall valentines done by him. Did he ever do card?

    Great stuff.

  7. Thank you all for your comments - I certainly appreciate them and I know they'll be enjoyed by Pete's family as well.

    Charlie; I see what you mean about the hair ( and elsewhere ) perhaps even in the stylized design of some of the Jantzen ads... I may not even have posted some of the more obviously influenced ones...

    But yes, an excellent point - thanks!

  8. Steve; Thanks you - I'm glad you've been enjoying recent subjects... there are so many more to come, you'll be amazed by what's ahead.

    Vanderwolff; that's an interesting observation. I'm not super familiar with Dean Yeagle's work but I've seen it (its terrific ) and I'll bet he is aware of pete Hawley as are so many others. Legend has it that early one during the initial design sessions of the Batman Animated series, Shane Glines brought some Hawley examples for everyone to drool over and that his ( Hawley's) work was quite influential in the mix that ultimately became the 'look' of that series. I don't know if that's true or not.. or if Shane's ever talked about it in interviews, but "I heard it through the grape vine"

    *Shane, btw, deserves huge thanks for prompting me to seek out Hawley's work for Today's Inspiration and for generously sharing so much rare material from his Cartoon Retro site with us this week. If you're reading this, Shane - many, many thanks! :^)

  9. db; another great comparison... I see what you mean. I agreed with Les Toil's observation about Frazetta and Hawley having somsimilarities of style (esp. when you look at their movie poster work for comedies, imo) but - yeah, I think you may be right about that well. I wonder where that well is...?

  10. Jeffkers, I don't disagree - but I also think there is a certain amount of luck involved - and perseverence.

    Talent, luck and perseverence... Pete Hawley had all these qualities and his work and career are a testament to the success of that formula.

  11. Joel;

    You are correct, sir! The final stage of Pete Hawley's career was a long stint with American Greeting Cards - which I hope to post about this weekend as the conclusion to his story. :^)

  12. Wow, I've been trying to find that Lena Horne cover for years- It's a beauty.
    Pete kept a detailed ledger of every job he ever did, and Arthur McArthur of Jantzen gave me a copy years ago. It's been a big help in tracking down much of Hawley's work.
    Some great comments here- I agree with the comparisons to Leyendecker, Frazetta and Rickard and I would include Chuck Jones in that mix.

    1. Hi Shane, I'm the new proud owner of the Lena Horne painting.

  13. Arthur Zerbey9:20 PM

    I was the (five year old) model for an illustration Pete Hawley did for the back cover of American Weekly magazine in January 1959. It's of a small boy asleep in a dog basket with a Bassett hound looking askance at the sleeping kid. I still have it hanging on the wall in my kids' bedroom.

    I remember when Mr. Hawley moved to Arizona- his daughter was a playmate and she promised to send me a pony which I was sorry never arrived. I had no idea he was such a prolific artist. It's a pleasure looking at your site!

  14. Some time around 1952 (+/-) my sister and I posed for a Jantzen ad that Peter Hawley did (he lived just a few doors away in Riversdie, CT). Interestingly, he was always known to my family as "Peter" Hawley - never "Pete" Hawley. I was 12 at the time - my sister just 8 years old. The ad had us in a sailboat. He posed us in his living room using an assortment of furniture turned every which way so that he'd have us in the correct position. I remember the ad well, though I've never been successful in finding a copy.

    That particular summer of 1952 he used a number of neighborhood kids for different ads. I particularly remember a Florida orange juice ad featuring a red-headed neighbor with lots of freckles.

    If I remember correctly, he had sinus problems that would get triggered by the warm, humid Connecticut summers. His move to Arizona was, in part, to get some relief.

  15. Arthur and Joe; Thank you for adding your recollections to help fill in even more about Pete Hawley's career - its much appreciated! :^)

  16. Anonymous5:49 PM

    My Dad worked Northwestern Bell and I recently
    Found three of the Betsy Bell prints he ordered.
    They are so cute. I wonder how many were made.

  17. Great post! Can you add a search field for your blog? I'd love to see what else you have on Peter Hawley (and probably other illustrators - I'm just afraid I'll end up losing track of time here!)