Thursday, May 25, 2017


Ludekens used himself as a model for this illustration.

Years ago when I was at a San Diego Comiccon I was leafing through the bin of some dealers box of miscellaneous illustration when in this box of very average pictures I came across this masterful work of two lions and a row of zebras behind them. One glance at the signature and I knew I had a find: Fred Ludekens. Of course I was familiar with the name from the Famous Artists course, but this was the first original of his I had ever seen. I bought it immediately and to this day it hangs on my wall. I can never get over the bold and broad brushwork on the lions, contrasted with the incredibly delicate lines used on the graphic arrangement on the zebras in the background.

Fred Ludekens had already taught me a lot through the Farmous Artist course. His demonstration on how he creates a picture in line was, along with Harry Borgman's demonstration, the most helpful and informative simplification of the process that I've ever found. As much as possible I try to incorporate it my working style and it rarely lets me down.

And next to the great Bob Kuhn, Ludekens was the master of drawing animals. He wasn't creating his pictures from photo reference but from his own firsthand experience. And like Sickles and Toth and so many of the great ones, the simplicity of his work belies the underlying knowledge of anatomy and composition.

Fred Ludekens (1900-1982) was born in Huoneme and was a third generation Californian. He grew up in Victoria, British Columbia, and during those years made several trips to Alaska.
His only art training was a night class under Otis Shepard at the University of California Extension.
Ludekens worked for the Foster and Kleiser outdoor advertising agency in San Francisco, then free-lanced for a time, and later became art director for the San Francisco office, of Lord and Thomas. This gave him an insight into advertising art from the business point of view which helped him eventually to become one of the best advertising illustrators in the country.
A commission to illustrate a book about his boyhood country, Ghost Town, led The Saturday Evening Post to assign him a Western serial story. The success of these pictures thus launched his second career as an editorial illustrator, and he pursued both, later adding another top position as a co-creative director of Foote, Cone and Belding.  He also, with Albert Dorne, founded the Famous Artists School in Westport, Connecticut and was Chairman of the Board of Directors prior to his death.
(From, The Illustrator in America by Walt and Roger Reed)

Next Week: More Ludeken's illustration and a fascinating interview with him from American Artist.

1 comment:

  1. Finally got round to reading this article. WOW! He certainly filled the canvas with a solid object, didn't he? I love the "certainty" or solidity of the buffalo and rhino! Gorgeous composition