Sunday, August 25, 2019


Austin Briggs studied hard to become a full fledged painter.  He mastered color theory and pigments and painting technique, and for years his full color paintings were in high demand from the top magazines and advertisers in America.

But at heart, Briggs was a "drawing" guy and as he developed, his line work kept pushing its way through the paint to dominate his pictures.

Briggs' career took an unusual turn.  He started out using basic drawing tools, like every beginning student, and worked his way up to using a full set of Winsor & Newton oil paints.  But at the peak of his success he began to find greater satisfaction in using the simpler, more humble tools-- a litho crayon or a piece of vine charcoal-- this time, with all the wisdom gained from decades of experience.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019


The very first book about the great illustrator Austin Briggs has just been published by Auad Publishing (previous publisher of books about Robert Fawcett, Albert Dorne, Henry Raleigh and other classic illustrators).

I had the great pleasure of writing the text for the book.  

Briggs was one of the true greats of 20th century illustration.  I've often written about him on this blog, especially about his drawing which I greatly admire.   But Briggs worked in every kind of medium and played a significant role in every type of illustration from comic strips (Flash Gordon) to pulp magazines to the early movies to magazines, books and records. He ended his life painting landscapes and gallery paintings in Paris.

I was able to delve into his fascinating life with the cooperation of the Briggs family.

The Briggs book is  9 x12, 160 pages, $34.95, available from the Auad web site.

In the days ahead, I'll be posting additional images by Briggs that I particularly like, to supplement the new book.  

Friday, August 16, 2019


The great illustrator Mark English, who played a dominant role in American illustration for decades, passed away on August 8.

Through a rare combination of moxie and creative talent, English worked his way from picking cotton in the fields near Hubbard Texas for $1.50 per day to becoming a nationally renowned illustrator who received more awards from the Society of Illustrators than any other artist. 

He was the last remaining member of a small band of artists who clawed their way up from small towns, secured low paying jobs in Detroit working on car ads, and from that rigorous training ground launched hugely successful free lance careers.  That path is now closed to young artists, but while it was still available, audacious young talent such as English, Bernie Fuchs and Bob Heindel were able to distinguish themselves and come to the attention of the top art directors in the country.

Like Fuchs and Heindel, English took big gambles.  I've previously quoted his recollections of the chances he took moving his young family from Detroit to become an illustrator in Connecticut:
I had moved to Connecticut and in my first year there I made 20% of the salary that I had made in my last year.... It was a tough year and I had a lot of time on my hands.  I think not having much work enhanced my career more than anything else.  I spent a lot of time experimenting, trying to come up with something unique and different, and I think toward the end of that year I managed to do that on a job for the Readers Digest [for the book, Little Women]....I think that three or four of the illustrations were accepted into the Society's annual exhibition that year.  One of them won an award and got me a little attention.  After that I got into magazines and my career was launched.
English recalled that during that dry spell he went eight months without getting a single assignment. His wife became worried as money became very tight but he wouldn't turn back. "I think [it was] the best thing that ever happened to me, but at the time I didn't think so.... I don't think that I ever worked harder at anytime than I did during those eight months, trying to get better and be more competitive."

When the lucrative illustration market began to dry up, like Fuchs and Heindel English didn't quit or become paralyzed with fear.  He boldly pushed forward in new directions and became a highly successful gallery painter.

English was the last of a truly remarkable generation of artists in America.  He made excellent use of his years so that, in the words of John Milton, he could present a true account of his talents to his maker.  For this, he deserves to be remembered and celebrated.  I highly recommend his biography by Jill Bossert.