Monday, February 16, 2015

Tom Lovell: Illustrator, Personified

Tom Lovell (1909-1997), like many illustrators of his generation, eventually left the trade to become a Fine Arts painter -- in his case, doing western scenes from his Santa Fe, New Mexico base. But during his active years, roughly 1930-70, he forged a splendid career.

Lovell's Wikipedia entry is here, his Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame page is here, and two blog posts worth viewing are here and here.

He began by illustrating for "pulp" (cheap) magazines while still at Syracuse University in upstate New York. From pulps, he soon moved up to the prestigious and better-paying "slick" magazines and remained there for the rest of his illustration career.

Lovell characterized himself as a visual story teller (his pulp period was good training for that, he allowed) and researcher. Regarding the latter point, he felt that his duty was to get details right, and this required a good deal of preparation because many of his subjects were historical. Motivation for this almost surely was the fact that illustrations with incorrect details are criticism-fodder for sharp-eyed readers.

One observer has commented that Lovell's style didn't change much over his career. This seems to be generally true, though he clearly adjusted it to the requirements of the subject. On the other hand, Lovell's style was not as distinctive as those of some other top-notch illustrators. That is, a typical Lovell illustration is clearly very competently done, yet it can be difficult to instantly identify it as his work without searching for his signature.


Baloonists in trouble

Disposing of the body

Frightened woman

Houdini jumping off the Wheeling, West Virginia bridge

Painting the Orient
A Marine Corps sergeant on Asiatic duties in the 1930s, I think. Painted by Lovell when he was in the Corps during World War 2.

"Saratoga Trunk" illustration

Surrender at Appomattox
That's Robert E. Lee, at the left, surrendering his army to Ulysses Grant (at the table to the right), effectively ending the American Civil War.

Woman's Home Companion story illustration - May 1942

Couple lounging

It's raining

On the rocks

Stranded family

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