Last week one of the sites I follow linked to a collection of Al Parker illustrations on flickr. His name and style, even his signature, brought back memories.
I've shared the old story before, but to recap, when I was six or seven I sent a drawing to the Famous Artists School (We're looking for people who like to draw?). When the inevitable salesman called he was surprised to learn that I wasn't home because I was in school at the time, finishing second grade. My dad, who liked to draw too, decided to take the course and for the next few years, I poured over the giant ring binders when ever I was allowed, and looked forward to my dad's returned lessons, with their comments from famous illustrators.
My guess would be that Norman Rockwell, Ben Stahl, Albert Dorne nor Al Parker ever saw my dad's work. I didn't realize that then, though. I thought we were all a close nit group and the lessons that I was looking at had been prepared by the artists especially for my dad.
Parker's style is unmistakeable on the 11" X 14" pages. Here he gives some personalized lessons (see the signature?) on creating an "ideal" from photographs. Photos of models were a big part of the lessons. The instructions were frequently built on working from specific shots. Here in the "Don't" version Parker says that the "slick meaningless lines used here dont make hair." I wanted to remember everything these masters said.
The course contained a large section on studio technique, too. The tools, the working methods, the "technology" that had to be mastered before anyone could do professional quality work. I played with a pantograph for enlarging, and at 12 received a collection of drafting tools, ruling pens, french curves. A highly specialized and very important tool is shown here: Rubber Cement. How to maintain your bottle, how to set the brush. Instructions for thinning and using a "pick-up." Any bit of cement left on a layout would collect dirt and cast a shadow that caused extra work for the camera man.
My dad passed in '85. I remember a visit before he died. There was a lot of hoopla about these new personal computers. "Can they do anything that I can't do without one?" he asked. "Not really," I told him. I wish he could have seen Photoshop or Freehand.
If you have time and enjoy classic illustration, the flickr site is a treat. Within the illustrations is a set of pages from a 1958 Cosmopolitan that contain a Cosmo styled article on Parker- their top illustrator. I think it's worth a read, and I've linked to them in order here. This is what would have gone on in the art room on Madmen. Thanks to Leif Peng, a commercial artist in Canada, for his wonderful collection, and post, of the classic illustrations.