Friday, January 28, 2011

Mike Ludlow, Advertising Artist

Tracking a mid-century illustrator's career by way of advertising art is always tougher than by way of editorial art. Magazines almost always make sure to include a credit line for the illustrator -- ad art, by its very nature rarely gives credit to the artist and was rarely signed (or more likely the signature was cropped off in production).


Since Mike Ludlow didn't have a particularly unique style for that era I may have seen many examples of Ludlow-illustrated advertisements and not realized it was him and not, say, Lynn Buckham.


What makes it even tougher to determine Ludlow's career trajectory is that, while I've got a good selection of ads placed in trade publications by mid-century art studios, none list Mike Ludlow on their roster.


Since the Charles E. Cooper studio always made a point of listing who their artists were, the one thing I can say with certainty is that Ludlow wasn't a Cooper artist. He certainly had the chops to be... but he clearly wasn't among that "best of the best" group.


Because of Ludlow's long association with paperback cover art for certain publishers, and because he was among a small group of artists who regularly did covers for Bantam Books AD Len Leone, and because other members of that small group were regulars of the Fredman-Chaite studio, I can't help but wonder if Ludlow was also an FC artist. Since Fredman-Chaite never listed their artist roster, there's just no way to say for sure.


What can be surmised is that, just as Mike Ludlow became more prominent in story illustration during the later part of the '50s, so too did he become a more prominent advertising illustrator. The series above for Douglas DC-8 seems to have been a steady monthly assignment throughout 1960, and the two Ballantine Beer ads below are from 1957. All of this work is signed - and this is all the Ludlow advertising art I've ever come across.



Finally, here's an absolutely gorgeous original, again for Ballantine Beer, clearly from a few years later than the two ads above. Ludlow's style here has evolved and matured to a masterful degree and shows the influence brought on by mavericks like Bernie Fuchs and Bob Peak. If Ludlow was still doing Ballantine ads several years later it bodes well for how his career was going at that time.


During the '60s, like many other illustrators, Ludlow was supplementing his income by tapping into new markets. In his case, based on the many Ludlow-signed record jackets I've found (and continue to find) album cover art for RCA Records became a significant component of his workload.

Mike Ludlow

* Many thanks to Flickr member Paul Malon and Ozepic and to Heritage Auctions for the use of their scans in today's post!

* My Mike Ludlow Flickr set.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Mike Ludlow, Story Illustrator

In the early '50s Mike Ludlow illustrations began appearing occasionally in some of the major magazines of the day. The earliest I've found are from 1954. As we saw yesterday, Ludlow had already been doing paperback covers for several years at that point.

the accidental murders

I say "occasionally" because, unlike some of the mid-century illustrators we've looked at on Today's Inspiration over the years who enjoyed monthly story assignments in one magazine or another (or several), Ludlow did not.


If any one magazine could be called a steady client of Ludlow's, it would be Woman's Day. Not a bad thing - but I suspect any mid-century illustrator aspiring to do magazine story illustrations was aiming for Collier's, The Saturday Evening Post, Good Housekeeping or Ladies Home Journal. These were the publications with the highest circulations (and no doubt the best budgets) and the homes of the top tier of illustrators. Al Parker, Robert Fawcett, and Coby Whitmore among others called the pages of these magazines "home." The be in their company on a steady basis would mean you had arrived.


Around 1957 Mike Ludlow finally arrived. His work began appearing steadily in the Saturday Evening Post.


Interestingly, the Parkers, Fawcetts and Whitmores stopped appearing in the Post's pages around that same time. Ludlow was more often in the company of other 'late arrivals' like Mitchell Hooks and Bob McGinnis. Is it only a coincidence that these were all artists who had forged their careers doing paperback cover art in the preceding years? (And of course continued to do so)


In 1960 Ludlow was pretty much a monthly contributor to the Post. Here are Ludlow pieces from March...


... April...


... a funny one from July...


... and one of my favourites, from August 1960.


The shame is that illustration of this type - and magazine illustration in general - was undergoing a dramatic diminishment just when Ludlow seems to have established himself as a story artist. Still, I would guess it was better to have been at the top for only a short time than to have never reached the pinnacle at all.

* My Mike Ludlow Flickr set.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mike Ludlow, Paperback Cover Artist

Biographical information about Mike Ludlow is very limited. The most comprehensive description I've found is in Charles Martignette and Louis Meisel's book, The Great American Pin-up. The authors write that, along with his pin-up art and his advertising and magazine illustrations, Ludlow "painted many front covers for paperback novels."

Here's the earliest Ludlow paperback cover I was able to locate, from 1950.

Pocket Book 709 _ Mike Ludlow cover

And here's another from 1951. Martignette and Meisel write that Ludlow did covers for Pocket Books, Dell and Bantam Books.

Dell Books 689 - Leslie Ford - The Bahamas Murder Case

Here are some more Ludlow covers, all from 1952.

Dell Books D108 - Jack Lait & Lee Mortimer - Washington Confidential

See You at the Morgue

The two authors continue, "All [of Ludlow's] paperback covers had a strong air of sensuality..."

Dell 625 _ Mike Ludlow cover

"... and featured sexy pin-up girls as the main figures."

Bedrooms Have Windows

No kidding - and sometimes even purple ones!

Dell Books 600 - L Sprague de Camp - Rogue Queen

In the mid-'50s you begin to notice a change in Ludlow's art. Its probably not a coincidence that when Leonard Leone began art directing for Bantam in 1955, bringing with him a new and modern graphic approach, Mitchell Hooks and Mike Ludlow were among his stable of regular cover artists. Leone worked closely with his artists and Bantam's printers, switching the stock used for covers to a better paper and a finer screen. Leone wanted his artists to be able to draw in pencil and have the fine lines show in reproduction.

dell K108

Could it be that Leone influenced the new look of mid-'50s illustration to some degree?

Dell 9541 _ Mike Ludlow cover

Here's a later period Mike Ludlow cover, from 1981. Certainly not his best work, but its kind of nice to see he still had a knack for illustrating beautiful women after all those years.

bantam 0-553-20091-7

* Today's post could not have been possible if not for the hard work and generosity of those Flickr members who so diligently archive old paperback covers. Chief among them, my friend Uilke ( AKA UK Vintage) but also swallace99, McClaverty, and Kyle Katz. Thank you to all of them for preserving these rare images and sharing them with us!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mike Ludlow's Esquire Girls

Here is one of Mike Ludlow's gorgeous 'centerfolds' for Esquire magazine - from the August 1956 issue.


Ludlow is often referred to as a pin-up artist and considering he painted the entire 1957 Esquire pin-up calendar (the last ever published by the magazine) I suppose the designation fits. But beyond his pin-up work for Esquire, I have never seen any other examples.


I find Ludlow's work fresh and distinct - stylistically similar to Cooper studio artists of the day like Joe DeMers, Coby Whitmore and Joe Bowler. As pin-up artists go, Ludlow was no Sundblom clone!


Here are the last few pages from the '57 Esquire calendar for your enjoyment.






You can find the rest in my Mike Ludlow Flickr set.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mike Ludlow (1921-2010)

If you've been following this blog for a long time you might remember that I've written about Mike Ludlow before. This illustration below, from an old issue of Esquire magazine, was the first scan I ever sent out to a small group of friends some ten years ago under the subject line, "Today's Inspiration."


Last week a TI list member very thoughtfully sent me this obituary notice.


Over these last few years I've had the tremendous pleasure of connecting with so many wonderful illustrators and their families. Its always been my hope that it would happen again with Mike Ludlow - the original 'inspiration' behind Today's Inspiration. I'm saddened that I missed my chance.


This week, in memory of Mike Ludlow, I'll be presenting whatever Ludlow images I still have in my collection that aren't yet in my Flickr archives.