Friday, November 28, 2008

Catalog season was a real challenge

Comet 1

The car catalog season was an extremely busy time for artists in Detroit. Our freelance group was hard at work on Chevrolet art when another catalog assignment popped up. Jack Mills and I were asked to do all of the illustrations for the 1962 Mercury Comet catalog, the ad agency was Kenyon & Eckhardt and I believe that the art director was Lowell Jackson. We were doing art for two catalogs which wasn't unusual, as many artists would often work for competing clients or ad agencies at the same time.

Comet 10

On this illustration I hired a model to photograph the foreground gal and used my kids and Bob Witmer, our rep, for the other figures.

Comet 2

I had to search for reference on this scene, fortunately I lived near a couple of marinas. After composing the scene and doing a small color sketch I would do a pencil drawing and then block in the background with paint to establish color values and lighting, then Jack would render the car. When he was pretty much finished, I would continue working on the background, adding details and modifying color, until I was done, then he would add the final touches to the car.

Comet 9

A close up of the illustration to show you the details. Another hired model was used for this illustration.

Comet 3

Not all the illustrations required a full background. I rounded up some neighborhood girls to pose for me on this one. Like many illustrators, I used a Poloroid camera for most of the figure shots because you got an instant photo, no need for film development or a darkroom, a real time saver. Also you could immediately see if the pose was right or if you needed to take more shots. All these illustrations were rendered on Whatman cold-pressed illustration board with Windsor and Newton Designer's Colors. When we finished the illustration, our rep would take it over to the agency for the art director's and the automotive engineer's approval. More Comet illustrations on the next post.

Comet 8

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Unique to Detroit: Catalog season !

When the automotive catalog season hit it meant that many illustrators would be tied to their drawing boards for a few months and working long hours, usually from April through July. Before that, in February and March, we would be preparing catalog and ad layouts, doing comps for the agencies to present to their clients. Once the layouts and car views were approved we would start by first having "car pencilers" come in and draw up the cars, then would begin rendering them as the pencil drawings were completed.

Chevy 8

This is an illustration that I did for the back cover of the 1962 Chevrolet catalog saver, even rendering the cars. The art director was Tom Clarke at Campbell Ewald, he used to refer to the agency as "Camp Bellywald".

Chevy 9

Another illustration painted for the same catalog. When I went on vacations or traveled anywhere I would frequently photograph scenes that could be used as backgrounds for car illustrations. You often don't have the time to look for and photograph background material when a job comes in with a tight deadline, it pays to think ahead. The above scene was shot in Manistee, Michigan

Chevy 12

In catalogs there are always a lot of smaller "spot" illustrations, these still have to be carefully checked for accuracy by the Chevy engineers.

Chevy 11

Another spot illustration. They are fun and easier to do than the larger, more complicated illustrations but you still have to come up with interesting background situations.

Chevy  10

Reference photographs of the new cars were supplied by the agency. We would have photostats made of the views we needed, then cut them apart to elongate or widen the cars before tracing the images on illustration board.
When the deadline approached I usually would pitch in and paint a few cars just to help get the work done. The deadlines were dead serious as the printers that were waiting for the art also had their own deadlines to meet. The catalogs and other promotional material had to be at the dealers when the new cars arrived in September or so. It all had the potential of turning into a complicated nightmare.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Another career phase: Freelancing

Welcome to the world of freelancing ! It can be a tough way to go as you don't have a regular check coming in every week and you also have get out and hustle. You have rent, telephone, other bills including paying your apprentice. Sometimes you even have to prod your clients to get paid.
But in the early '60's it was a good time to go on your own, the art business was booming, there was enormous demand for artists in Detroit, primarily because of the automobile business. Art studios were trying to hire freelancers as well as artists from competing studios, there was a lot of moving around going on. Out of town illustrators such as Bernie Fuchs, Mark English, Charlie Shridde, Tom Shoemaker, Del Nichols, Frank Saso and others moved to the Motor City. Detroit was brimming with great talent and the prices generally were higher than those in Chicago or New York.
When I first began freelancing I shared studio space with Dave Lindsay, Ted Lodigensky and Jack Mills, some of the best automotive artists in the business. Later top illustrators such as Jim Jackson, Charlie Schridde, Del Nichols and others joined us and we even hired a rep, Bob Witmer. Del and I were also represented in New York by Neeley-Mulvey Associates.

Chevy 1

I did a few ink line Chevrolet ads for Campbell Ewald, Joe Kidd was the Art director. Shown is the line art from which I had a film positive made, then I finished the illustration by painting the car's gray tones underneath the film positive on illustration board.

Chevy 2

Another ad done for Joe Kidd. When you finished the art you had to have it approved by Chevrolet engineers that scrutinized your illustration, every chrome strip in the grill was counted, they checked every little detail on the car. Sometimes there was a design change in the chrome trim, hubcap or logo and you had to correct the art. This could be rather trying as you also had a deadline to meet as well as an art director to satisfy. It could get complicated.

Chevy 3

This art was done for art director Jim Bernadin, I believe there were a couple of other illustrations for the same ad but I don't have copies of them.
In addition to newspaper ad art we also had to illustrate various smaller views of all the different models, these were called "mat cars" and would be sent out in proof form to the Chevrolet dealers so they could assemble their own ads. Of course, when finished, all these car illustrations had to go through the same grueling detail check by the engineers. It's a wonder how we ever met our tight deadlines.

Friday, November 21, 2008

My time at Campbell Ewald

CE 3

Jim Hastings, the creative director at Campbell Ewald was not only a good art director he was a terrific ink line artist as well and had a great influence on me. Above is an example of his work, an ad that he did for artist/idea man Bill Tara from Los Angeles. Bill did a great deal of freelance work for us at CE and spent a lot of time in Detroit.

CE 4

A photo of CEO Ted Little and me, I'm not sure who the other fellow is. Mr. Little was my boss when I was in the special "Plus One" group.
Would you believe it, we all wore suits in those days!

A freestanding sculptural display piece that I designed to promote The Chevy Show featuring Dinah Shore. Dinah used to sing the theme, "See the USA in your Chevrolet..."
I don't have much of the material that I worked on during this period.

In 1958 I was transferred out of the sales promotion department and became art director on all of the Chevrolet magazine advertising. This involved a lot of travel to Los Angeles as I used Todd Walker for most of the photography. We did a lot of photo shoots at Warner Brothers because we couldn't take the new Chevys out in public, everything was very secretive when it came to the new car models. Once when we were shooting outside on the back lot a small, low-flying airplane was approaching, the Chevrolet security guys immediately covered the cars with tarpaulins, it was very funny but they were dead serious about secrecy. I'm sure that they thought it was a Ford spy trying to snap a photo of the new Chevys, maybe they were right as everyone wanted to get photos of their competitor's newest car models.
Most of our photography was done indoors in one of the large studios. It was strange, the union would not allow Todd to plug in any of his lighting equipment, he had to stand there and tell them which plug should go in which socket so that they could do the plugging.
In the studio next door they were filming "The Old Man And The Sea" which starred Spencer Tracy, he used to let us in to watch the filming, it was wild, the whole studio was filled with water. Spencer Tracy was curious about the new car and came over one day to have a look but the Chevy security guys refused to let him in, after that we were never again allowed on his set. At the time we also photographed Dinah Shore and Pat Boone between their filming of The Chevy Show.
After a year I was offered a unique position in a special group called "Plus One". This group consisted of Fenton Luedke, a writer, and myself, we were in direct competition with the regular Chevrolet group and were responsible only to Henry Little, our offices were even in another building. We presented our campaigns along with the regular Chevrolet group, it was a very interesting period for me. We were encouraged to experiment and try new approaches, it was a great concept and it kept everyone on their toes.
Jim Hastings was moving up in the ranks and offered me his job as creative director. The job would entail a great many administrative duties as well as the creative responsibilities. I was getting a little weary of the agency internal politics and the incessant meetings and chose not to take his offer, deciding to quit and freelance. Some may have thought of this as a dumb move, but I didn't want an executive job, I really wanted to get back into the illustration field.
After I quit CE, to my surprise, I was immediately rehired as a freelancer, they even set me up in an office in the GM Building. My assignment was to work on a very secret project, to create all of the promotion and announcement ads for a brand new car, the Corvair. I couldn't let anyone in my office, everyone at the agency was very curious about what I was up to. It was so secret that when I ordered type, I had to break up the headlines and send the pieces to different typesetters, a real nightmare. It all worked out well and it was a great way to start freelancing. I later moved into nearby studio space with Dave Lindsay and Ted Lodigensky, both automotive illustrators who also were starting to freelance. We, naturally, did a great deal of business with Campbell Ewald.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Starting a new career

In the last post I discussed my Chevrolet photo shoot in the Andes. If I can locate the photos I took during that time I will post them and tell you a bit more about that crazy venture. Meanwhile....

How I was hired in a top position at Campbell Ewald is also an interesting story. When Dave Lindsay, one of the top Detroit automotive artists, and I left McNamara Brothers studio we joined MDM Studios and became partners with Gordon McGowan, Mike Doyle and Len McCullogh, all illustrators that had started the studio about a year before.
In the tough, competitive advertising art world of Detroit we did quite well as we had some very talented designers and illustrators. Our sales staff brought in a lot of catalogs, brochures and other automotive related design assignments which in turn created illustration work for our artists. During this period I didn't do any illustration, only graphic design work. We were incredibly busy and I literally worked day and night. After a year I was burned out and decided to quit the studio art business and try to get a job as an art director in an ad agency. Dave also quit and went back to McNamara Brothers.
I decided to talk to Jim Hastings who had been hired by Ted Little, CEO of Campbell Ewald, to work on the Chevrolet account and to bring new life to the agency. Jim knew of my work and was very interested in hiring me, even though I had never worked in an agency before. He liked to hire art directors with art studio experience.
At the same time, the head art director on Chevrolet Sales Promotion was out in Los Angeles on a photo shoot with Dinah Shore who was the star of the weekly Chevy Show on TV. Well, he got drunk one night and knocked on her door in the middle of the night. She was furious and called her good friend and President of General Motors who promptly called CE and told them to fire the art director. I was immediately hired. Talk about being at the right place at the right time !
Another interesting thing that worked in my favor was that when I walked into my first meeting with the Chevrolet advertising managers, they all said "Hi Harry !". Ted Little, Jim Hastings and the rest of the CE staff were very surprised and impressed. I had met most of the ad managers previously, as at McNamara's we used to do a lot of work directly with Chevrolet.

CE 1

My first assignment was to design and produce the 1957 Chevy catalog. I used McNamara Studios because I wanted Dave Lindsay to paint the cars. On the above cover Dave did the cars and Jim Jackson painted the figures.

CE 2

I also had the responsibility to create all of the promotion for the Corvette. This cover was painted by Bob Sutton, I'm not sure which studio he was with, possibly Graphic House. Bob and I had previously worked together at McNamara's.

My department was extremely busy with a mountain of Chevrolet promotion material including all the catalogs as well as the Corvette Magazine. At the time, I only had one other art director, Paul Samuelson, and had to hire two more to help out, Jim Bernardin who had previously worked on the Studebaker account and Tom Clarke.

Monday, November 17, 2008

What was I doing 51 years ago ?

About this time in 1957 I just arrived back from Argentina after being on a six week photo shoot for Chevrolet. I was the head art director on Chevrolet Sales Promotion at Campbell Ewald. Chevrolet wanted to show how well their cars and trucks could handle tough mountain roads and decided to have us drive across the rugged Andes from Argentina to Chile after having sent out a reconnaissance team to check things out. I was in charge of the still photography and hired Todd Walker, a photographer from Los Angeles to join me on this trip. We also had a separate TV crew that shot the footage for TV ads.
Why did it take us six weeks ? We had shipped the cars and trucks down in advance, but when we arrived, the dockworkers went on strike and refused to unload the vehicles. We called our office and asked what we should do, they said to stay until the strike ended. So, the trip inadvertently turned into a vacation in wonderful Buenos Aires ! We sure enjoyed ourselves, but after a while we were getting antsy about our photo shoot because of the production deadlines involved. John Bracken, the Chevrolet account executive, decided to make some kind of a deal with the union which fortunately worked out and our vehicles were promptly unloaded after which the strike resumed.
We finally were on our way to cross the rugged mountain roads of the Andes which would finally end in Santiago, Chile. We had quite an entourage, including a truck full of camera equipment. When we crossed Argentina and reached Mendoza, we stayed at the summer retreat of former president Juan Peron. It was now a grand hotel run by his servants. The place was full of Argentine military personnel, except for our group. The Generals and other officers were all very friendly and invited us to a dance they were having that evening. They even invited us to their army maneuvers the next day which turned out to be an incredible experience. The event took place in a mountainous area and they even had bombs going off and troops charging up the mountains. It was very surreal to say the least.
The next few days were spent taking photographs, when we finally reached the border we couldn't drive across the mountain pass to get to Chile because of heavy snowfall and ended up driving through a railroad tunnel. It would take many blogs to tell you all the insanity we went through during this venture, so I'll just leave it at this. Anyway, it was a never-to-forget experience and we did come back with some great promotional photographs. Incidentally, Betty Skelton, the famous pilot and race car driver, worked for CE and was with us on this adventure, if I remember correctly she was the head of the whole group.

Here are a couple of photos of me during the Andes trip. I'm sitting in a very foggy mountain situation wondering how we were going to take photos this day and where the hell is the car? In the other shot we had just arrived in a small mountain village and were swarmed by a bunch of young boys. They were showing us the local newspaper that had photos of us on the front page. To them, we were like men from Mars. Everyone was flabbergasted by the new Chevrolets.

A shot of Photographer Todd Walker and Writer Barney Clark on the dangerous slopes of the Andes somewhere in Argentina near the Chilean border. Not much traffic in these parts. Once in a while we would see a cog railway train with cars loaded on it, apparently the drivers chose not to drive these wicked mountain roads. The train moved very slowly, in fact, you could walk and keep up with it easily. Barney even hopped on the train and had a glass of wine with a friendly passenger. We picked him up a couple of miles later after shooting some interesting scenes of the Chevy in action.

Friday, November 14, 2008

More aircraft drawings

Air 12

An illustration sample I did of a German Messerschmitt ME 109 in the war skies over Spain during their civil war in 1936. When doing this type of work accuracy is very important, I have a fairly extensive aircraft library that is essential for doing my research.

Air 12a

I adapted the illustration for one of my comic book cover parodies by scanning the drawing and adding color and the other elements to it on the computer.
The following drawings are a demonstration from my 1977 "Drawing In Ink" book.

Air 13

When starting an illustration I usually do a few small pencil sketches until I create an interesting, dramatic composition. For these preliminary sketches I usually have picked out specific views of the aircraft from reference books or photos that I happen to have.

Air 14

Once I establish the composition the next step is to do a tight pencil drawing with gray tones which will be used as a guide for the the final ink rendering.

Air 15

I begin the final rendering by first doing an accurate outline drawing on high quality illustration board using a technical pen with a ruler, triangle, French curves and oval guides.

Air 17

I start the inking process by painting in some of the solid black areas. Then I ink in most of the middle values using a crowquill pen, gradually building up the tones. At this stage the illustration is about half finished.

Air 16

To carefully rule in straight lines I use a ruler as a guide. This photo also gives you an idea of the size of the original drawing.

Air 18

This finished illustration was rendered on Whatman hot pressed illustration board, an excellent surface for this type of work.

Air 19jpg

A close up detail of a section of the illustration.

Air 20

Color can be added to black and white ink drawings by first having a film positive made of the art. Then a tracing of the art must be done on illustration board after which the color is added. The film positive must be positioned over your color art so that you can frequently check to see if the color values you are painting are correct. This color version was done for my 1979 book, "Art And Illustration Techniques"

Air 21

The ink line art was used for the cover of my book "Drawing In Ink", published in 1977. If you are interested in this book, used copies are still available at Amazon and other used book dealers. Shown here is the Japanese edition.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

My fascination with airplanes

Air 1

Above is a page from a sketchbook when I was fourteen years old, a pencil drawing of a Curtiss P-40 in action. I loved drawing airplanes and was also an avid model builder.

Air 3

Another piece from 1942, an ink line crosshatch drawing of a P-40 of the American Volunteer Group known as the Flying Tigers who flew with the Chinese Air Force. Little did I know at the time that I would later specialize in this type of art. World War II was raging and these aircraft were always in the news.

Air 4

An ink and watercolor illustration of an North American SNJ-2 I did in 1942.

Air 6

I loved the way the Flying Tigers decorated their P-40 aircraft. This is one of my first attempts at working on Scratchboard, a specially coated illustration board on which you can do an ink drawing and then use a special tool to scrape in textures and lines. This unique illustration board is still available today.

Air 7

My first published art was in the May 1943 issue of Wings Comics which held a monthly contest to which readers could submit their aircraft drawings and designs.

Air 8

Here are some aircraft ink drawings that were a series of prints for Avitat, a division of Imperial Oil-Esso. The prints were given to their clients as part of an advertising promotion. The art director was Bob Pearson at Cockfield Brown in Toronto, the year was 1971. Back in 1962, when I worked with a group of freelancers in Detroit, Bob was our apprentice, years later he moved to Toronto. Bob visited me recently and brought back the original art used for these prints!

Air 9

Air 10

Air 11

These drawings were done on Whatman hot-pressed illustration board, a great surface for ink line work. The tough surface of this board can withstand the electric eraser in case you have correct any mistakes, a much better method than using white paint.

Air 11a

I recently adapted the above drawings to my series of comic book cover parodies which are done on the computer. I scanned the images, then added the type and color using Photoshop Elements 2.0

Air 12

Monday, November 10, 2008

Some of my toughest ink line assignments


Talk about a tough assignment ! My Chicago rep, Bob Witmer, brought in a series of ads for Jacobsen. You can't imagine what it's like to have to draw all these weird contraptions, even with good reference material. Again, my experience with automotive art proved very helpful. Often the client's product engineers scrutinize finished art for accuracy, so your drawings better be correct. One of the interesting things about this assignment was that these ads came in late in the year and the ad agency wanted to have the art costs put in the present year's budget rather then in the following year, so they paid me in advance for all the art ! This has got to be a first, I've never heard of this happening before or since.


Here are some close ups of the machines to give you a better idea of the detail involved. Even drawing the background ink lines to create a fairly flat tone was quite a chore




I also had to draw outline ink drawings of different machines and and their various components, not an easy task.


Another series of complicated machines done for International Harvester, again, an assignment out of Chicago brought in by my rep Bob Witmer.


These are a few of the smaller spot illustrations used in the ads.