Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Al Parker Illustrates the Grand Prix... Creatively!

Here's a bunch of gorgeous illustrations by Al Parker from the May 1964 issue of Sports Illustrated. Parker created these pictures for that year's Grand Prix. They provide us, I think, with a suitable segue from last week's series on reportage art by guest author Daniel Zalkus.


Al Parker wrote a fantastic intro for the Autumn '64 issue of Famous Artists Magazine on the nature of creativity. Considering the relative time period in which Parker gave us these words and these pictures, I thought it might be interesting to bring them together in today's post.


"Are you creative?" asked Parker. "Creativeness in the artist is that quality of the imagination that makes his pictures stand out significantly from others - even others using the same subject matter."


"Some artists are by nature remarkably creative. Most of us are between the rare genius at one end of the creative scale and those at the other extreme who lack imagination but can enjoy the tangible rewards of learning and craftsmanship. To see how you can develop your own creative ability, let's look at some qualities creative artists have in common."

"First of all, they work hard at being creative, for they recognize they must develop every bit of innate ability they may have."

"They don't wait for flashes of inspiration to guide their work. But when ideas seem to come out of the blue, the creative artist knows he must develop them thoughtfully. Even Vincent Van Gogh, whose paintings often seem to have been created in a frenzied, emotional state, left behind him thousands of carefully planned preliminary sketches for his pictures."


"Though creative artists think in an original and personal way, they constantly keep in mind the meaning their pictures must convey. This requires their sensitive analysis of a creative thought - and then selection and emphasis of the pictorial elements necessary to communicate their artistic meaning in the most direct and effective way."


"The creative artist is always a student. He continually works to perfect his craft so that it will never be inadequate to express his creative thought."

"He expresses his artistic self, avoiding, if he can, the imitation of other artists. This is true whether he is creating within the limitations of the commercial problem, or making a personal artistic statement. The result bears the stamp of his own personality."


"The creative artist constantly investigates new techniques and contemporary art trends because, in order to grow, he must be sensitive to the latest developments in the ever-changing world around him."


"Truly creative artists set high artistic standards for themselves - standards they never attain - for, whenever they draw near their goals, they raise them. they do their best, then demand more of themselves. it's a tough course they set, but chances are not one really creative artist would change it - even if he could."

* Many thanks to TI list member Tom Johnson for today's Al Parker scans.


  1. I remember this series of illustrations, and they do look as though he
    drew them as he watched the spectacle.

  2. Do you think he drew them on the spot and painted them later, Harald? Anyone know?

  3. Hi Leif! He did not draw them on the spot. He used reference photographs which he later cut up and pieced together to create the new scenes. My sources also tell me that he used ketchup and mustard squirt bottles filled with paint to create the work. We have two of these paintings in the Modern Graphic History Library. They're awesome!

  4. Thanks so much for sharing that with us, Skye. Readers should check out the treasures at the MGHL blog. For example, a recent post shows Al Parker's reference photo superimposed over his finished illustration to neat effect!


  5. Love the illustrations, but these paragraphs on creativity in art is spot on. Nice to see it said in such a thoughtful way.

    Love these posts!!

  6. Thank you, Donna - I'm so pleased to get a comment on that. being so relentlessly innovative, it's no surprise that Al Parker would have thoughtful - and thought provoking advice on the subject.

  7. i will second the ketchup and mustard squirt bottles filled with paint to create the work- tid bit. Marshall Arisman told me that story about these images when I was doing my masters at SVA. THought it was a very cool technique and used very well to achieve the speed in the image.

  8. There is no better evidence of Parker's "creativity" than his ability to turn an assignment to paint cars into an excuse to paint a great big (4 feet wide) painting of a luscious girl in a pink bikini.

    The original of that painting is bright and bold and juicy. I understand that Parker and SI art director Dick Gangel had a good time with the assignment.

  9. Squeezy bottle of paint? Cut up photos? Who cares? I know that Skye is NOT complaining, rather, explaining, but, the resultant IMPRESSION they give of immediacy, speed, power and zooming automobiles, which owes a lot to reportage art, that is what counts. Parker was an inveterate experimenter with media and approach and so it kept him fresh for many decades. Thanks for posting these old friends. Last time I saw them, they were on Parker's wall!