This one's for Connie Moon. Years ago when I was showing my late mother-in-law some of my illustration collection she promptly told me her favorite illustrator was Jon Whitcomb. And I could easily see why. For women of her generation, Whitcomb was the epitome of fashion and style.
|(Connie and Bill looking like the perfect Whitcomb couple.)|
The family moved to Oshkosh, WI when Jon was six. He attended college at Ohio Wesleyan University, but after flunking Greek, an ancient language, he transferred to Ohio State to finish his degree. It was here that he became friends with the great cartoonist Milton Caniff. (Why do so many of the greats, like Bob McGinnis, come from Ohio State? Couldn't they have gone to Michigan?)
At this time his work was divided between story illustration (80%) and advertising (20%). While advertising payed more, he discovered there was much less editorial interference as a storyteller. Whitcomb soon left the Fawn Agency he was working for and with Charles E. Cooper created the famous Cooper Agency. He also discovered Hollywood. He had used a model for the first installment of a story and when she left for the west coast, he was unable to recapture the look with anyone else. Consequently, he followed the model, who turned out to be a young Susan Hayward, and was soon creating glamorous portraits for many of the classic hollywood faces. His love of Hollywood and the movies lasted a lifetime.
|(Susan Hayward who didn't let a pretty face keep her from becoming a great actress.)|
Fortunately, that wasn't the case for long, and in the fifties and well into the seventies Jon Whitcomb continued to be one of the masters of American Illustration. He would begin an illustration with a series of rough sketches to work out the story and the composition. These would follow with intermediate drawings, where he would use models (photographed by himself) for artistic verisimilitude. The final rough was then blown up on illustration board with a projector. Transparent washes of inks/designer colors (which unfortunately for later illustration collectors were not lightfast) were added. At various stages of the painting, fixative was sprayed on the piece to eliminate smearing and also an aid if corrections were needed later. Final touches were done with pencil, crayon or pastel.
Some interesting Whitcomb quotes:
Oh himself as an artist: "You can say I don't think of myself as an artist. I'm a manufacturer, supplying some
thing editors want to buy. Somewhere I discovered what these people want and through a fortunate chain of circumstances I find myself able to produce it."
On teaching : "the self analysis required in preparing a course makes me terribly aware of my limitations."
On commerceality: "I believe that the things that make artists interesting to a buyer are their shortcomings. Flaws plus virtues add up to character."
On photography and the camera lens: " does not receive the same messages as a human eye. To this extent, every photograph is a lie, and all cameras are liars."
More Jon Whitcomb illustration next week.