Monday, February 06, 2012

Female Illustrators You Should Know

Sheilah Beckett

She was one of the elite team of illustrators at the most prestigious art studio in America, The Charles E. Cooper studio.


This wonderful artist and remarkable woman is still going strong at 99 years of age!


Barbara Bradley

Barbara came to New York with the single-minded goal of getting a job at the best studio in America... and she succeeded.


Years later she became the tough but much loved teacher and ultimately, Director of Illustration at The Academy of Art University in San Francisco.


Naiad Einsel (With husband, Walter)

She worked for CBS. He worked for NBC. They fell in love and created a perfect union - two people whose styles were so similar that when they collaborated it became hard to tell who had done what.


Together they produced an endless stream of delightful images for every major publication and many national advertisers, as well as record albums and books.


Lucia Larner

Described by those who worked with and admired her as "the Queen" of powerhouse Chicago ad art studio, Stephens, Biondi, DiCicco.


A single mother in an era when such a thing was far from normal, Lucia, who had the only private office/studio of all the artists on staff at SBD, commanded top dollar for her work on some of the biggest national accounts in America.


Evaline Ness

Ex-wife of the famous FBI investigator Elliot Ness, "Eness" as she signed her work, had begun her career as a fashion model, then became a fashion illustrator.


Over time she branched out into advertising, editorial and children's book illustration.


Alice Provensen

A&M Provensen15

With husband Martin, she created one of America's most memorable and beloved advertising icons, Tony the Tiger...

A&M Provensen08.jpg

... and dramatically influenced the look of children's book illustration for the next generation of artists and readers.

A&M Provensen01.jpg

Today, there are just as many women illustrators as men (perhaps even more). But it wasn't always so. These remarkable ladies were very much in the minority during the heyday of their careers. They are female illustrators you should know. This Wednesday evening I'll be at The Nook talking about these and other Female Illustrators of the Mid-20th Century.


  1. Sheilah Beckett has a fan page on facebook with a lot of her marvelous artwork. When I commented on one I was delighted to see that she responded! I hope I can still be drawing & learning at age 99.

  2. That's great Heather - she truly is an inspiration to us all :^)

    Btw, readers can go directly to Sheilah's Fb page by clicking her name at the top of today's post.

  3. Thanks for this lovely post! I viewed all of Sheilah Beckett's work on facebook. How satisfying it must be for her to look back at all the marvelous work she has done. Evaline Ness is one of my favorite female illustrators. I like reading about husband and wife teams too, what a special relationship those people had to share their creative lives.

  4. Thanks Jil; I'm very glad to read that you enjoyed this post - another to follow tomorrow! Thanks also for taking a look at Sheilah's Fb page. I really encourage you and everyone to comment to Sheilah on her Fb page so she'll know how much you like her work. :^)

    And I agree - husband and wife creative teams are wonderful. There are a few more I'm aware of from that era... I get the feeling its much more common today.

  5. As a "female illustrator" I think this tribute to some of the women who paved the way is great. Thanks.

  6. Footnote to Lucia having her own office when others did not: in studies of women who worked for newspapers and other media companies, women were often given a segregated space. Rather than an honour (although it may have been presented in the guise of such chivalry), this served to isolate a lone woman (or in newspapers, the whole "women's page" staff, usually about three women) from the all-male workforce - and made it easier for the men not to feel like they had to act differently because a lady was present, ie, carry on business as usual in all its stag glory. The effect of course was to remove the woman from the daily office culture, leave her out of all the informal decision making, and never really include her in anything social or important. I don't know if this was Lucia's experience - but a lot of the other facts you put in your original post on her hint at just such an isolation dressed up as "honouring". I have been corresponding with a female art director who is now 83. She stayed with newspapers, corporations and magazines, because she couldn't stand how awful men in advertising were - she told me this when I asked what she thought about Mad Men.

  7. I hope you include Lorainne Fox and Mary Blair in there somewhere- two of my favorites.

  8. What about Joyce Ballantyne? I love her pin-up illustrations!

  9. One of my favourites Mary Blair who did some stuff on the Little Golden Books series..and also Walt Disney's color stylist.

    Alice Provensen is also for me one of the best in children's illustration

    Nice post Leif!

  10. Thanks so much for this post! I was fortunate enough to study with Barbara Bradley's protégés at the Academy and actually used her book! I learned so much I cannot even put it into words. I was also lucky enough to stumble upon one of her workshops on drawing children... priceless. She was a gem. Priceless. Love.

  11. Thank you all for your enthusiastic comments! I think its safe to say, there's a lot of appreciation for these fabulous ladies and their remarkable accomplishments.

    Jaleen, your expertise and perspective is always greatly appreciated. I hadn't considered that Lucia might be being isolated for some ulterior purpose. I never got that when Will Nelson, her coworker, related to me that she was the only artist at SBD to have her own private space. I think from his perspective, it was a status symbol... much like Will Davies was the only artist at TDF to have his own office. Until you were so highly prized that the 'suits' didn't want to risk losing you, you worked in the bullpen. But perhaps you're right... I wish there was some way to know for sure.