Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Henry C. Pitz: The Versatile Illustrator

William Caxton Jr. wrote an article in the Summer 1957 issue of American Artist magazine about Henry C. Pitz. Pitz wasn't the cover artist of that issue, but I found another summer issue, from 1952, with a Pitz cover, so I've placed it at the top of this post for... decorum.

"The world of art," wrote Caxton, "is studded with artists whom we must recognize for their exceptional ability to practice in allied, or even divergent, fields with marked success in each. At random, Rubens was also a professional diplomat; Da Vinci was scientist and engineer; Michaelangelo was architect, sculptor, painter, and poet; and in our own country, three celebrated examples - John James Audobon, ornithologist and painter; Samuel F. B. Morse, inventor of the telegraph and portraitist; Joseph Pennell, noted etcher and writer."

"While the illustrations that accompany this article belong in the field of graphics, and therefore could be duplicated in quality from the hands of other talented artists, they do not, in themselves, represent the versatility which the writer claims for his subject. Many-sidedness can be a fetish of the amateur, but on the professional level it is rare to the point of being a virtue."

"When an artist becomes a successful teacher there are those who say that he teaches at the expense of his own practice, forgetting that since time immemorial even the masters were originally students of teachers. What Paucity there might have been had not Duveneck, Eakins, Henri, and Pyle - and others of like distinction - been willing to teach. And when in addition to his teaching such an artist practices painting, drawing, and printmaking in sufficient volume to make his mark in national competition, garnering medals and prizes, year after year, not only do we look up to such a one with respect, but imagine the authoritative effect of such a career in his classroom."

"But this is not all. The same artist has executive ability. He heads a large department of graphics, directing the teaching of other artists; he writes books and articles on art; lectures throughout the country; and in between times - and this is the wonder - illustrates books and magazines in several media and for such a variety of subjects that there are but few important publishers who have not used his services."

"Perhaps it has taken quite a space before naming Henry C. Pitz as the man and artist I have briefly described, but then it is consistently true that it is only after twenty five years of watching and evaluating his career that I could be as sure of his versatility as I am."

When I read William Caxton's introduction to the career of Henry C. Pitz, I knew that this week was the right time to present it here on the Today's Inspiration blog. It provided me with the ideal backdrop to make a public announcement about my own circumstances...

Because this week, after twenty-plus years as a full-time freelance illustrator, I began the next phase of my career as a graphic arts professional. I have taken a full time position as a "Professor of Graphic Arts" in the Graphic Design program at Mohawk College here in Hamilton.

I am very excited about this outstanding opportunity to test myself with the new challenges that teaching will present, and its hugely inspiring to think I'll be following in the footsteps of illustrators like Henry C. Pitz.

More importantly, I'm forever indebted and inspired by those who went to bat for me when I first decided to apply for this position. I wanted to publicly acknowledge and thank Murray Tinkelman, Neil Shapiro, Melanie Reim, Don Kilpatrick, Chuck Pyle, David Apatoff and Jaleen Grove. When asked for their help, these remarkable people overwhelmed me with their generous and immediate assistance. To each of them, my heartfelt thanks.

As I embark on this next phase of my career this blog will remain key to what I have planned for myself, for my students and for all of you who care to join me on the journey. It is my sincere hope that I am one day worthy of being considered a "versatile illustrator" of the sort that Henry C. Pitz was - and that those I have just mentioned above are.

Here's to "practices in allied, or even divergent, fields... with marked success in each!"

* My Henry C. Pitz Flickr set


  1. I think your students are fortunate
    to have someone as interested in as
    many areas of design & illustration
    as you are.

  2. Oh dear. Does this mean the blog is over?

    Well, congratulations, and thanks so much for all you've presented and done here!

  3. Sharp Objects8:34 PM

    Congratulations on the new 'gig', Leif. "harald" is correct, your students are indeed fortunate.

    I hope the blog can continue as it's a valuable resource, even for someone who can't colour within the lines and can only draw breath.

  4. Thanks Harald, Pat & SO; you bet - the blog will absolutely continue! It was the blog that played a key role in my successful candidacy when I applied for this position and I intend to utilize the art and information I present here as part of the curriculum I'm developing for my students.

    As well, it's probably obvious by now that I have an almost fanatical devotion to this blog. No one's taking it from me "unless they pry it from my cold, dead hands."

  5. Congratulations Leif!
    I'm sure you will inspire a lot of students!


  6. Congratulations, Leif-- That's great news. They are indeed lucky to have you. And may I say, I never had an easier product to sell.

  7. Leif, that’s wonderful news! I’m looking forward to the new direction your life takes as you let us come along for the ride. I have discovered a cornucopia of illustrators here that has fed my mind for quite some time. Thank you.

  8. This blog is like a delightful college course to me, so I can only imagine what a treat is in store for your lucky students. Congratulations on this well-deserved appointment!

  9. Hi Leif,
    It's certainly terrific that you are teaching.... lucky students !. I'm sure that you will enjoy it too.

  10. Congratulations, Leif. Pay it forward.

  11. That´s great, congratulations from me as well! Your blog is a great source of information and inspiration, glad you keep posting!

  12. congratulations Leif!....with all your experience in the art field,and this blog,i'm sure it was an easy decision to hire you...best,brian...

  13. Congrats, Leif!
    Happy students - an inspiring, versatile teacher they have got.

  14. Hey that's great news, congrats Leif! Your students are going to be knocked out of their socks when they realize the ridiculously huge amount of knowledge you'll be carrying into the classroom.

  15. This is wonderful news, Leif! As one who has been teaching at Sheridan College now for the last 6 years, I can certainly tell you that working with the students is very fulfilling, as you'll find yourself being as inspired by them as they are by you. By the way, it was a real pleasure to finally meet you at the NCS party last week. I only wish it hadn't been so loud, as it was a strain on the voice to converse with everybody. I hope I'll get to chat with you again in more conducive surroundings sometime. Again, congratulations on the position at Mohawk!

  16. Hey Lief,
    From one prof to another, congratulations!! I think you'll find it both fulfilling and challenging.

  17. Anonymous5:34 PM

    Congratulations and good luck on the new adventure, Leif!

    Bill Angus

  18. EXCELLENT!!!!! Let me know if I can help by being a guest speaker, ok?