Wednesday, May 02, 2012

VISUAL JOURNALISM: The Artist as Reporter - Part 3

By guest author, Daniel Zalkus

Richard Gangel, the art director of Sports Illustrated from 1960-1981, encouraged reportage drawing. He sent artists all over the world to cover topics such as golf, spring training in Florida, and football.

Gangel sent Bob Peak on an assignment to travel with the Shah of Iran during a tiger hunt.


Peak said it was his most exotic assignment as well as his most rewarding: “To do pictures for this assignment I spent seventeen days on horseback (the grandstand at the racetrack was my only previous relationship with horses)..."


"... lived in the Shah’s hunting palace..."


"... had eight-course meals at dusk in tents with Persian rugs."


"It was an unbelievable experience – exhausting physically, but an emotional skyrocket. I did some sketches on location, but one doesn’t sketch well on top of an Arabian Steed, so I took a couple of thousand photographs. The days and evenings kept me so busy that I didn’t have the pictures processed until my return to New York."


"There a case of dysentery, picked up by drinking from a sparkling, apparently harmless stream in Iran, put me in the hospital."

"Ninety percent of the drawings were done on butcher’s paper with watercolor and crayon while I was flat on my back. The finished art in this case is hardly discernible from the on-the-spot sketches."


"Although I worked largely from photographs, I could never have understood the fantastic color and uniqueness of this subject without having experienced it myself. Reportage of this kind is one of the most valid functions of the illustrator.”

*Bob Peak quote from the 1967 Famous Artists Course Book

Austin Briggs traveled to Idaho to follow a group of elk hunters for this series in 1962.


The feature was printed as a portfolio with the text consisting of Briggs talking about his experience on the trip.





Continued tomorrow.

* Daniel Zalkus is an illustrator with a passion for on-the-spot drawing. You can see some of Daniel's own excellent work at his website.

* The Bob Peak scans in today's post are courtesy David Apatoff


  1. a tremendous collection. i wonder if the ipad will somehow bring this type if on location drawing back.

  2. It's interesting how different Austin Briggs work is in today's post when you compare it to the stuff from Monday.

  3. Tomer, maybe Asif? interesting that you mention the ipad as a location vehicle. didn't even think that but well i guess you can say it is already here with George Columbo's NYer covers. Though that to me is more of a painting of a spot used for atmosphere. More of a fine art feel than reportage. But would be cool to see artists doing reportage series on the ipad. hummm...

  4. Leif and Daniel,
    You have done a tremendous job illuminating the often unknown and under-explored world of reportage illustration.
    Your scholarship honors the illustrators you mentioned, as well as other great on-the-spot illustrators like David J. Passalacqua, Feliks Topolski and many others.
    The legacy of Reportage Illustration lives on in the teaching of Dalvero Academy ( as well as the work of Veronica Lawlor, Margaret Hurst and Studio 1482 (
    Dalvero Academy and Mystic Seaport have a show of Reportage art called: "Restoring a Past, Charting a Future" – The artist/illustrators from Dalvero documented the restoration of the worlds last wooden whale ship - The Charles W. Morgan.
    For more info, visit
    We love your series. Thank you!

  5. Alex-

    I'm glad you're enjoying the article this week. It's funny that you mention Topolski's work. Be sure to look for tomorrows post.

  6. Photography can't do this. And all the photoshopping of the world would be helpless to achieve these results.

  7. This is so exceptional. Sketch Crawl on steroids. These guys did great work and Gangel was a terrific art director. So fresh and powerful. What about Al Parker's Monaco GranPrix series?

  8. Photography can't do that. And all the photoshopping won't achieve this visual thing portrayed here.

  9. Field sketching is a pretty under rated experience. You get a sense of dimension, scale and motion that a photograph can't provide. There is also a level of excitement and spontaneity that carries over to the work. It's pretty apparent in these sketches.

  10. Alex; Thanks for your note - all the credit goes to Daniel. I'm just happy to provide a venue for his excellent series this week.

    Chuck; You'll definitely see Al Parker's Grand Prix illustrations here - - just not this week. But soon!

  11. Thank you both! Gave you guys a shout out in an article about the show. Great, great article! Sometimes it feels like reportage art exists in a void. Daniel, your series provides an eloquent and necessary context.

  12. Thanks Alex! I love on-the-spot drawing and I'm happy to write about it. Hopefully it'll get people to see what's been done in the past and see the possibilities in it.

    Then again I'm biased because I do reportage drawing in my own work too.

  13. I like the way Peak used little vignettes opposite the big rectangular images in the Shah hunting assignment.