Monday, May 2, 2016

In the Beginning: James Bama

James Bama (b. 1926), like all young illustrators, had to begin somewhere. In his case, this often meant doing illustrations for men's adventure magazines in the 1950s where the subject matter was usually war, other dangers, or personal conflict. Naturally this called for plenty of gorgeous, scantily clad women, eeeevil Nazis, flying bullets and other neat stuff.

As this Wikipedia biography notes, Bama graduated to illustrating covers for paperback books, including more than 60 for the Doc Savage series, perhaps the commercial work he is best known for.

But during the 1970s he had left New York City for a small town near Cody, Wyoming and successfully transitioned to painting Western scenes.

Bama always painted in a realistic style, though his style varied from hard-edge to slightly softened, depending on his needs.

Below are some examples of illustrations from the years he was getting established. Most are a far cry from what he produced later.


The painting for his first Doc Savage cover, I believe.

Joe DiMaggio, for the Baseball Hall of Fame: 1955.

UPDATE: A sharp-eyed reader (see Comments) writes that Mayo Olmstead was the artist for this. I have to use the Internet as image sources, and try to confirm who actually did a piece of work, though sometimes all I can do is rely on a previous caption, which is the case here.

A 1957 illustration.

Above are spreads from men's magazines with Bama illustrations.

Another men's magazine illustration.

And yet another.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

More and Better Karl Godwin

Karl Godwin (1893-1962) was an illustrator who never attained the first rank, yet did some interesting work in color in the late 1920s and early 1930s. I posted some images of his work here and here, and noted that about all the biographical information about him I could find was here.

Since then, I've made new scans of details of advertisements for Hudson cars and located images of one complete ad along with two others in the series. They are shown below along with other Godwin illustrations, some of which were in the posts noted above.  Click on them to enlarge.


From Hudson advertisement

Entire ad spread - Literary Digest - 15 June 1929

From Hudson advertisement - 1929
I haven't yet found the actual ad this was part of.

Hudson advertisement - Literary Digest - 23 March 1929
Illustration signed by Godwin.

Hudson advertisement - Literary Digest - 16 January 1929
Unsigned, but could have been by Godwin.

Couple with wagon wheel
Magazine cover or story illustration. I don't have a date for this.

Ethyl advertisement - 1932

American Magazine story illustration - June 1933

The Augsburg Sailors - story illustration - 1940

Monday, April 25, 2016

Guilty Pleasures: Will Eisner's Women

Will Eisner (1917-2005), businessman and philosopher-practitioner of cartooning, was an important innovator in that corner of the illustration world. His Wikipedia entry is here. I mentioned him here in conjunction with my visit to the comic strip museum in Brussels.

My guilty pleasure having to do with Eisner is ogling the beautiful girls he included in his works. Most are found in his famous Spirit comic book insert for newspapers. Some are shown below, as is a character he created for a U.S. Army publication dealing with equipment maintenance that I used to read in my army days.


Book cover featuring a Spirit femme fatale.

Eisner was especially good with eyes.

Apparently the head required some tweaking here.

The Spirit and a babe are stranded on a desert island so small there is no room for the obligatory palm tree.

P'Gell, featured in a number of Spirit episodes.

Here she is again.

A one-off by Eisner for a friend.

PS The Preventive Maintenance Monthly is covered by Wikipedia here. Above is a recurring character, Miss Connie Rodd. Without her, PS readership would have been drastically fewer.

Let me explain her name to non- English speakers and others not familiar with piston-driven motors. It refers to connecting rods that link pistons to crank shafts. Her first name, Connie, is a diminutive of Constance, and the extra "d" on the last name creates an actual last name found here and there.

In the first image of Connie, she is all dressed up, something unusual. Normally Eisner had her dressed in army fatigue clothing as seen here. Note how skillfully Eisner depicts her gestures in the bottom image.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Towards the End: Grant Wood

Grant Wood (1891-1942) was what was called a "Regionalist" or "American Scene" painter, his best-known work being the truly iconic "American Gothic." His Wikipedia entry is here.

I wrote an "In the Beginning" post about Wood here, and included images of paintings from mid-career along with one from the year before his death from pancreatic cancer.

The present post features paintings dated 1939, 1940 and 1941, when he was 48-50, prime ages for many artists. So, unlike some Towards the End subjects, there is not much difference from his most famous works made when he was in his early-mid 40s. The main difference is that some tend to be a little bit less Moderne, simplified, geometrically-solid than the early 1930s paintings.


Haying - 1939

New Road - 1939

Parson Weems' Fable - 1939

January - 1940

Sentimental Ballad - 1940

Spring in the Country - 1941

Spring in Town - 1941

Monday, April 18, 2016

McClelland Barclay's Gentle Smiles

McClelland Barclay (1891-1943) had a highly successful career in illustration until the ship he was on was sunk by the Japanese in the South Pacific during World War 2. Biographical information is here, and one of my previous references to him is here.

The theme of the present post originated in a fragment of an illustration for a Buick advertisement I noticed in a book. I don't know whether or not the image was cropped (I've failed to locate the original ad on the Internet), but what I have bears no signature.

The man and women pictured  in the car have gentle little smiles, an expression that strikes me as being surprisingly rare in advertising. So who painted that illustration? My guess is that it was Barclay. As evidence, I present below several known Barclay illustrations showing people with similar expressions. Furthermore, it is known that Barclay occasionally illustrated Buick advertisements. Let me know whether or not my guess is correct.


Illustration for Buick advertisement - 1930
This is the unsigned (or cropped out) image and those gentle smiles.

College Humor cover - February 1926

Fond Departure - c.1922

Fisher Body advertisement - 1929

Fisher Body advertisement - 1928

Jantzen advertisement - 1926

Country Gentleman cover - February 1928

Country Gentlemen cover - April 1926

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Glen Orbik's Drawings

I was shocked to learn that Glen Orbik (1963-2015) died. He didn't die as young as Toulouse-Lautrec and others who never saw their 40th birthdays. But getting snuffed out by cancer at 51 or 52 makes for a relatively short lifespan nowadays. I enjoyed viewing most of his illustration work and regret that no further "noir" paperback book covers will be forthcoming.

There is surprisingly little in the way of biographical regarding Orbik. A brief Wikipedia entry is here, and here is a snippet on his Web site.

Orbik was a student of illustrator Fred Fixler and eventually took over Fixler's teaching duties while pursuing commercial work. He cites as influences "Robert McGinnis, Gil Elvgren, Dean Cornwell, Mead Schaeffer, Andrew Loomis, John Buscema... and a healthy dose of Norman Rockwell." That is a fine set of inspirations.

I will deal with Orbik's painted work in another post. For now, I'd like to show some of this drawings, many of which were "timed" (by the clock). These usually combine sensitive lines with broad, bold strokes of graphite that might be described as "painterly."


This might be a study for a book cover illustration.

A very quick timed drawing.

This and some of the other images demonstrate how Orbik would set up his drawing. Here and elsewhere he had little time to refine details (note the treatment of hands and legs).

Monday, April 11, 2016

In the Beginning: Oskar Kokoschka

Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980), along with his contemporary Egon Schiele (1890-1918), represents an aspect of the Vienna Secession form of expressionism that I dislike. More about Kokoschka's career is here.

It seems that Kokoschka's art training was unconventional for its time, lacking in instruction regarding oil painting. Which might be a small part of the reason his paintings are such messes.

This post is in my "In the Beginning" or "Artists' early work" series, and shown below are some Kokoschka paintings made before he was 30. By that point they are not very different from paintings he made later in life.


Portrait of Lotte Franzos - 1909

Martha Hirsch - 1909

Adolf Loos - 1909
Loos was an early modernist architect who famously criticized ornamentation.

Crucifixion (Golgotha) - 1912

Carl Moll - 1913
A founder of the Vienna Secession and step-father of Alma Mahler.

Alma Mahler and Kokoschka - 1912-13
Information on her and her parade of men can be found here.

Bride of the Wind / Tempest - 1913-14
Painted after the end of Kokoschka's affair with Alma who was seven years older.  The Wikipedia account above states that he never really got over the relationship, though he later married.