When it comes to favorite artists, my mind is immediately drawn to the artist/illustrators that enriched our lives by bringing to life the classic books we grew up on. What could bring a child’s attention to reading more than to have his favorite character depicted right before their very eyes?
What could be greater than to see Treasure Island, by Robert Lewis Stevenson, come alive in the wonderful illustrations of artist/illustrator, Newell Convers Wyeth? He also brought to life, Kidnapped by Stevenson, Drums by James Boyd, King Arthur, Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper, and a slew of other children’s classics.
Another famous artist/illustrator of note was Maynard Dixon, of the amazing impressionistic depictions of the west and southwest. He brought to life such lasting characters as Hopalong Cassidy by Clarence E. Mulford, made the Oregon Trail by Francis Parkman worth reading as he showed what one would encounter along the way. His illustrations were rich in color, lots of action, and showed the wonderful cloud formations of the Southwest!
Keith Ward was the originator of several well-known characters that are still enjoyed today. This artist/illustrator, of whom I was well acquainted by letters and books that he signed for me, had an ability to not only invent his characters, but bring them before us in all their blazing glory! He made the Dick and Jane books enjoyable reading as he showed them cavorting on the beach, visiting the farm, etc. The other stories in the Scott/Forsman series were also tangible as Keith made them live. He invented Elsie the Borden family in 1939 when the Borden Company needed a representative to go around the country for their advertisement during the now famous New York World’s Fair of 1939/40. Who has not used a container of Elmer’s Glue? What about the Texaco Dalmations in the red fire hats, another Keith Ward invention? After sending Keith a poem about his adventures as an artist that I wrote for him, he was kind enough to send me a hand-written autobiography of his early days as an illustrator for Scott/Forsman, and the Elson Readers. This autobiography is a treasured possession to this day. Unknown to most art collectors, Keith Ward was a very apt impressionist painter and taught that particular phase of art until he was taken away from us.
From the late 1800’s up until about 1940, the artist/illustrator who made magazines live with his careful designs of everyday life was none other than Clarence Herbert Rowe. He was prolific in many well-known magazines of the period. Some he did were: Saturday Evening Post, Scribner’s Magazine, Life (earlier version), Outing Magazine, and one of the early pulp magazines, Argosy. His depictions of early cowboys would always be known by the leather wrist cuffs always present in his illustrations.
The reason Illustrators always intrigue me is by thinking of the speed they had to have in order to meet deadlines. It is almost inconceivable to understand how that they could possibly make anything recognizable in such short periods of time. They did not have weeks to create their pictures. Sometimes only hours! After an illustrator became connected to a certain venue, He could, usually without fail, meet any deadline an editor would place before him as he already knew how the editor thought! There are many artist/illustrators that could be written about here. But my creative writing teacher, Sterling Warner, always told his students, “Write what you know about, otherwise it becomes a figment of your imagination!” I try very hard to stay within this bit of sage advice!