|(Perhaps my favorite Fawcett.)
|(Dean Cornwell WWII defense ad.)
|(Bernie Fuchs at his best.)
Years ago when Howard Chaykin and I shared a studio, one of the treasures I discovered was his several volumes of an illustration tear sheet collection he had put together. For the uninitiated, tear sheets are those pages with something of interest that you rip out of a book or magazine.Those volumes were how I was introduced to the work of Al Parker, Robert Fawcett, Austin Briggs, Dean Cornwell and dozens of other great illustrators.
|(Early Robert Fawcett)
|(Anonymous....but absolutely great.!)
|(Above and below Austin Briggs in b&w and illustrating Nero Wolfe.)
Needless to say, I couldn’t wait to get started on my own collection. In a way, this process wasn’t new for me. For years I had been ripping reference out of magazines and keeping it in a collection of file folders. (Chaykin also refined this process for me by showing me the Famous Illustrators filing system for all of this so you could actually find something when you were looking for it.) For the next ten to twelve years this became my new hobby.
|(Robert Fawcett illustrating P.G. Wodehouse.)
Every time I got a day off, I headed into Pasadena, Glendale or Burbank to the old bookstores and would pore through their stacks of old magazines looking for illustration by my favorites artists. There was a ton of these periodicals at various prices; my usual rule was one had to have at least three solid pieces in it before I was willing to fork over the $2-3 price. For a new Fawcett or a couple of other of the greats, that rule often got tossed out.
|(Above and Below Bernie Fuchs)
Since magazine illustration started to dry up in the 60’s, most of the material I was looking for was already dated by 30-50 years. Saturday Evening Post, Collier’s and Cosmopolitan were some of my favorite titles, but Holiday, Life and The Woman’s Home Journal were other great sources. And sometimes you found treasures in the oddest places. Unfortunately, This Week Magazine, a newspaper supplement, was very difficult to find, since the majority of newsprint was carted off for recycling over the years ( by well-meaning entrepreneurs like my dad for our local church).
|(Three gorgeous Bob McGinnis paintings for Sat. Evening Post.)
Since then I’ve discovered that other fellow artists also had been collecting this work for years. My friend Bill Stout has a remarkable Lyendecker tear sheet collection; he claims it’s 90-95% complete, and I don’t doubt him. I’m not sure you could afford to collect like that today. The age of the material makes it very fragile, and the cost of a single issue might be your day’s budget for a search. Not too long ago I actually picked up a treasure trove of Fawcett material from another artist who had put together a remarkable pile of the work. While the majority of it was work I already had, there were many, many pieces that I had never seen, or only had xeroxs of and now I had an original magazine page. I was in heaven.
|(An Illustrator I liked a lot but could find little on over the years was Robert Jones.)
When I first started my tear sheet hunt it was the only way to see the work if you were interested. Your chances of seeing originals were slim to none unless you were in NYC or knew one of the artists. As no one was aware of the commercial value of the work (until the great Walt Reed came along) it would have been difficult to track down. I was fortunate enough to pick up several originals of Fawcett and other artists, before they shot completely out of my price range.
|(Above a Bob Peak clothing ad and below one of his story illos.)
Now of course you have Google if you hear of a new artist, and there are several online illustration blogs that are constantly posting the work. But even then you might be limited by poor reproduction of low resolution. If you have a chance to see the original work, that is always the ultimate viewing opportunity. After that, high resolution photos of the work before it was published is your next best best. (Illustration House and other auction houses like Heritage usually keep a record of this type of anything that hits the market). Then comes the tear sheet, which even in the best case depends on the quality of the printing and how well the page has been preserved. After that it’s finding it on line.
|(Coby Whitmore, above and below, was the idol of virtually every illustrator in the late 50's and early 60's.)
|(Robert Fawcett doing P.G. Wodehouse again.)
So pick out your favorite illustrators and start hunting them down. Bookstores are a good place to start, but you might also want to check out grandma’s garage or attic for old magazines. Use your internet sources. A couple of great blogs to try are Today’s Inspiration and Illustration Art Archives on Facebook. Happy hunting, and don’t forget to share your discoveries on line.