The Fantastic World of Virgil Finlay

In five scratchboard illustrations and one gouache.

In his 35-year career, Virgil Finlay produced over 2,600 illustrations, a remarkable achievement considering his labor-intensive and time-consuming drawing style.

”Instead of the typical pen and ink or carbon pencil drawings produced by most pulp illustrators, Finlay used a unique technique combining scratchboard—in which a clay-covered board is coated with black ink and the artist scratches away white lines from the black using a sharp blade—with intricate pen cross-hatching and an astonishingly painstaking method of creating tones called stipple.

Contrasted with hatching, or crossed lines, stippling is a time-consuming process in which tones are created with hundreds of tiny individual dots, carefully placed and dripped off the end of an ultra-fine dip pen, one dot at time.” [source]Face in the Abyss
Gouache on illustration board
Appeared on the cover of Famous Fantastic Mysteries magazine for ”Face in the Abyss” by A. Merritt, Frank A. Munsey Co., October 1940

”He came out of his coma. We left a sketch pad and pencils by the bed. He did a drawing, he went back into the coma, and died.”– Lail Finlay, Virgil Finlay’s daughter

Three Against the Stars
Scratchboard, pen and ink
Interior illustration in Fantastic Novels Magazine for ”Three Against the Stars”, by Eric North, New Publications, Inc., May 1950


The Lovers
Scratchboard, pen and ink
Appeared in Startling Stories magazine for ”The Lovers” by Philip José Farmer, Better Publications, August 1952

For the first time in science fiction history an Earth man and an alien woman have a sexual love affair in Philip José Farmer’s ”The Lovers”. This was quite groundbreaking yet controversial in 1950s American pop culture; however, it would seem quite tame compared to today’s science fiction books and films.


Woman reclining in lunar landscape, c. 1955
Scratchboard, pen and ink


Conquest of the Moon Pool
Scratchboard, pen and ink
Interior illustration in Fantastic Novels magazine for ”Conquest of the Moon Pool” by A. Merritt, New Publications, September 1948

From ”Conquest of the Moon Pool”:
”… and suddenly there before us stood two figures! One was a girl – a girl whose eyes were golden… whose softly curved lips were red as the royal coral and whose golden-brown hair reached to her knees! And the second was a gigantic frog – a woman frog… six feet high if an inch and with one webbed paw of its short, powerfully muscled forelegs resting upon the white should of the golden-eyed girl!”


Lur the Witch Woman with Her Consorts, Dwellers in the Mirage
Scratchboard, pen and ink
Appeared on the cover of Fantastic Novels for ”Dwellers in the Mirage”, written by A. Merritt, Frank A. Munsey Co., NY, April 1941

”Dwellers in the Mirage” introduction:
”The strangest adventure any man had encountered since time began faced Leif Langdon when he tumbled through that Alaskan mirage into a lost world.”

Adenturer Leif Langdon stumbles upon an uncommonly warm, hidden Arctic valley where he finds and falls in love with Evalie. Also in this valley are the Little People – elfin warriors fighting against Lur the Witch Woman and her demon riders who raid the Little People’s land for sacrifices to Kraken, their dark lord. Tapping into buried memories of another lifetime, Langdon realizes he had a past life as Kraken and as Lur’s lover. So begins Langdon’s inner struggle between his two selves.


All artwork by Virgil Finlay (1914 – 1971), photographed at the Society of Illustrators

August 15th, 2017

 

”A good start is half the journey”

A lot of advertising of that period would, in one way or another, be considered inappropriate or offensive by today’s standards. But, make no mistake: the Cream of Wheat Chef knows exactly what every boy and girl needs and serves it with a smile!

Edward V. Brewer (1883-1971)
“A Good Start is Half the Journey”
Cream of Wheat advertisement, 1926
Museum of American Illustration, Permanent Collection
Oil paint on canvas

Apparently Emery Mapes, one of the owners of the Diamond Milling Company that produced Cream of Wheat, preferred to hire local talent rather than nationally known illustrators. So, from 1911 to 1926, St. Paul native Edward Brewer was the dominant hand in advertising the porridge. This work, done at the end of his tenure with the cereal maker, typifies the homespun ethos the company wished to convey to the general public, something at which Brewer showed great skill. It was Mapes who originated the concept of ”Rastus” the chef, the logo which had from 1890 to the 1920s appeared as a woodcut image. Brewer developed the image that we see here. It is believed to be the face of a Chicago chef, Frank L. White, who received $5 to model in his chef’s garb and which remains the face of Cream of Wheat today.


The Society of Illustrators

June 3rd, 2017

The Society of Illustrators Annual Student Competition 2017

A jury of professional peers including illustrators and art directors have chosen the most outstanding works created by college level illustration and animation students throughout the year. Pieces are accepted based on the quality of technique, concept and skill of medium used. After reviewing 8.082 submissions, only 220 were selected for this year’s exhibition and 25 have received financial awards.

The works were on view between May & June 2017; these images are but a fraction, just enough to get an idea. Individual styles, different types of media, several Art Schools, all sharing a common quality: it was hard to believe these works were created by students, not professionals.

Carina Chong, F is for Fox
Gouache and pencil, Pratt Institute, Instructor: Pat Cummings


Mei Kanamoto, Insignificant Others
Silkscreen on paper, Parsons School of Design, Instructors: Jordin Isip and Steven Guarnaccia 


Amanda Chung, The Fool
Mixed media, Parsons School of Design, Instructors: Jordin Isip


Kyoosang Choi, Illusion
Acrylic and oil on panel, School of Visual Arts, Instructors: Thomas Woodruff and TM Davy


 Oh, look! Steadman was here Varvara Nedilska, The Collector
Watercolour and gouache, OCAD University, Instructor: Jon Todd


Clarissa Liu, Felt Tattoo
Felt, Rhode Island School of Design, Instructor: Melissa Ferreira

Nina Charuza, Train

Acrylic, California College of the Arts, Instructor: Bob Ciano


Mack Muller, Sax man
Monoprint, Syracuse University, Instructor: James Ransome


June 3rd, 2017

That’s The Spirit…!

Of being an old soul but never wanting to grow up.

The Spirit: ”Il Duce’s Locket” page 1
May 25, 1947
Ink on paper

P’Gell, a femme fatale with an impossibly narrow waist, was among the more prominent and persistent in a series of beautiful criminals in Eisner’s long-running Spirit. P’Gell, though a deadly adversary couldn’t shake her love interest in The Spirit. He seldom returned her affectionate overtures. P’Gell was named after the Quartier Pigalle, the notorious red light district of Paris


The Spirit: ”Quirte” seven-page story
November 21, 1948
Ink on paper


The Spirit: ”John Lindsay’s Mayoral Race”, five-page story
New York Herald Tribune magazine (January 9, 1966)
Will Eisner and Chuck Kramer
Ink on paper with wash

Will Eisner had not drawn a new Spirit story since 1952 when the New York Herald Tribune’s Sunday magazine contacted him in late 1965 to create a story based on the city’s mayoral election. The lettering (done on clear acetate) is missing from the original pages, but the story can be read on the smaller reproductions of the published version.


Portrait of Will Eisner by The Spirit
circa 1985
Ink on paper


Spirit Magazine #20 cover art
1979

Ink with watercolour on board


Samples of Eisner’s used pens and brushes
Jules Feiffer script for unpublished Spirit Story
1952
manuscript 


Smash Comics #8: ”Espionage”, page 3
1940
Ink on paper

This original ”Espionage” page on display is among a very small handful of Will Eisner’s surviving comic book pages from the 1930s when the Eisner & Iger Studio ”packaged” stories for client publishers. During that period (and later) publishers routinely destroyed original art after publication. Decades before organized fandom saw value in both vintage comics and art, publishers saw no reason to save such ”production” material. As a result, original art from the comic book industry’s early years is extremely rare. 


Portrait of a Nude Woman
1936

Oil on stretched canvas

A teen-aged Will Eisner painted this model while attending life drawing classes at the Art Students League in New York. Eisner’s disapproving and practical mother was shocked to learn that her young son was painting naked women and she discouraged him from pursuing art, a career she felt would be unremunerative. Eisner’s father, who when younger had aspired to be an artist, quietly gave his son encouragement. 


Late Train
New York City lithograph series
1988
Ink with watercolour on board


Turf War
New York City lithograph series
1988
Ink with watercolour on board


A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories: ”The Super”, ten-page excerpt
1978
Ink on vellum, adhered to board


Images from WILL EISNER: The Centennial Celebration 1917-2017, a retrospective comprising over 150 pieces of artwork, graphic novel sequences, original pages of The Spirit and Mr. Eisner’s personal items. The exhibition was curated by Denis Kitchen and John Lind and ran between March & June 2017 at the Society of Illustrators. It was the largest Eisner exhibition ever in the United States and made me very happy indeed.

June 3rd, 2017

Reflecting on art

Literally.

Light reflects on the glass adding – or hiding – details. I tried to filter them out somewhat and the result was this mellow, pastel effect. Still, rather pleasing.

”Repent in Haste”, Gouache on board, by Harry Anderson (1906-1996)

Illustration for the story by Katherine Greer.
Caption: ”Here, in this very window, might be her ring!”
Redbook magazine, January 1950

Couple on balcony in formal evening dress. Pastel, guache and charcoal on board, by John La Gatta (1894-1977)

Caption: ”It was restful to be near Sara, thought Vilas. You didn’t have to explain things to her. She understood.”
Cosmopolitan magazine, 1949

The Clever Sister. Guache on bard, by Edwin Georgi (1896-1964)

Illustration from ”The Clever Sister” by Margaret Culkin Banning
Caption: ”Beneath the strangely different melodies of their lives ran hidden themes that others never heard; yet one refrain they had in common: ‘Whom does Barney love – my sister or me?”’
Woman’s Home Companion, January 1947

The Butterfly Man. Watercolour on paper, by Harrison Fisher (1875-1934)

Illustration for the book by George Barr McCutcheon
Caption: ”They, too, were seen together very often of late.”
This work also appeared in ”A Garden of Girls”, published by Dodd, Mead & Co., 1910

The Temptress. Oil paint on linen, by Mortimer Wilson, Jr. (1906-1996)

Title illustration for the story by Ann Pinchot
Caption: ”This way, darling” she said… He followed her, as he would follow her anywhere.
The American Magazine, ca. 1945

James McVane, M.D. Oil paint on board, by John La Gatta (1894-1977)

Illustration for a story by Philip Wylie
Caption: ”Every night I dream I’m being chased by a green locomotive. Does that mean  I should give up Creme de Menthe?”
Redbook magazine, April 1938

 

<<The Permanent Collection of the Museum of Illustration at the Society of Illustrators is one of the most comprehensive collections of this genre in the world. Comprised of over 3,000 works by many of the greatest names in illustration and comic and cartoon art, this celebrated collection is ever expanding thanks to purchase and donation from our membership, art patrons and estates. These works are fully catalogued with portions of the collection constantly on rotating display.>>

February 11th, 2017