A lethal looking lady with a cigar perched in her elegant hand may be intimidating enough, but it’s the automatic tucked beneath her arm that you need to worry about. Some stylish neo-noir from Colorado artist Shawn Shea, whose work and posters can be found at Pixels, Fine Art America and Daily Paint Works.
Not talking about the 1989 Aerosmith song (and anyway, that Janie, not Jenny). This is handsome gaming art by Pennsylvania fine artist, concept artist and illustrator John Pacer: “.41 Derringer” above, and “Jenny’s Twin .45’s” below, these two for Fantasy Flight Games. Look for more of the artist’s work at his site, www.johnpacer.com.
“30’s Music” by sculptor and character artist Gleb Fedorovsky.
Let’s honor the postwar master artist/illustrator Robert Maguire (8.3.1921 – 2.26.2005), who only has one more to go before the century mark, and is credited with over 1,200 paperback covers in addition to his work in magazines, advertising and other media. Maguire was attending Duke University when the U.S entered WWII, and ended up in the infantry in the Italian campaign. Once mustered out, he studied at the Art Students League, graduating in 1949 and quickly finding work, first with Trojan Publications’ “pocket pulps” like Hollywood Detective Magazine.
Sadly, (but very understandably) the Robert Maguire website at ramaguirecoverart.com (a terrific site cataloging the master’s work and showcasing intriguing studio photos, sketches and more) was shuttered not all that long ago. You can still land at the URL, and see for yourself why it had to be taken down. Doubly sad that Maguire’s and so many of his revered postwar era peers’ work has been ‘appropriated’ by the less than scrupulous, showing up with frightening frequency on quickie sex and crime ebook covers and online ‘sale-ables’.
Jim Silke’s 2009 Dames, Dolls And Gun Molls – The Art Of Robert Maguire is a treasured tome in my writing lair’s bookcases. It would be impossible for me to load up all my favorite Maguire covers here, so only a few will have to do, like The Damned Lovely up above from 1955, The Brass Bed from 1960 and Mona Knox from 1962 below. It’s barely scratching the surface of this talented artist’s many works and diverse styles, but it’s good to remember – and honor – one of the very, very best of the 1950’s-60’s era PBO cover artists, whose work graces so very many mystery and crime fiction classics and quirky cult faves often seen here and at fellow noir culture fans’ sites. I’m sure someone (or someones) much better informed and scholarly than I will have suitable tributes come this time next year.
While working at his family’s New Jersey general store, McCauley “Mac” Conner (1913 – 2018) started his art training during the Depression through the International Correspondence School, later attending the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art and New York’s Grand Central School of Art. While still there he was drafted into the Navy during WWII, stationed in New York and assigned to produce training materials. Once discharged, he began his illustration career in earnest, opening The Neeley Studio with two partners, quickly in demand as a go-to artist for the Saturday Evening Post, Cosmopolitan and other glossies along with multiple advertising accounts.
Editors and art directors relied on Conner’s work to be up-to-date right down to the details of the season’s fashions from hemlines to accessories, and though many regard Conner as an expert with female subjects (and thus, numerous romance story assignments) he actually enjoyed mystery and crime story projects. His 1950’s era work (the examples shown here) are mostly gouache, ink and graphite on board, and are dramatically different from his later work, Conner intentionally reinventing himself during the 1960’s when he witnessed the rapid decline of magazine and advertising illustration work, which was being supplanted by photography. He turned to carefully rendered and less stylized painting and quickly became popular with romance paperback publishers like Harlequin and Warner. In his well-deserved retirement, Conner continued painting, turning to portraiture. Mac Conner passed away at 105 in 2018.
McCauley “Mac” Conner (1913 – 2018) often said that he considered himself a storyteller more than an artist, and didn’t care if his work ended up hanging on a wall in a museum or in the trash.
As it turned out, the successful postwar era illustrator’s work did indeed end up hanging on museum walls in the Museum Of The City Of New York’s 2014 retrospective, “Mac Conner: A New York Life” which showcased a generous selection of his prodigious output, linking his subjects and style to the so-called “Mad Men” era and aesthetic.
More of the artist’s work follows in the next post…
I may not be able to get inside any comics shops ‘round here yet, but I haven’t gone comics-free during the past few months. Though I already have Joelle Jones Lady Killer in trade pb editions, I couldn’t resist the new Dark Horse May 2020 Library “Deluxe Edition”, an absolutely gorgeous oversize hardcover that covers the entire series, including Book One: Seattle 1962 written by Jamie S. Rich (Joelle Jones’ collaborator on the wonderful You Have Killed Me), and Book Two: Florida 1963, with both the art and story by the Goddess of Comic Art, Joelle Jones herself. This nearly 300-page edition includes an introduction by Chelsea Cain and over 30 pages of extras.
And yes, I had to read it all over again before I slid it into a place of honor on my bookshelves. Big surprise there.
Mort Kunstler – The Godfather Of Pulp Fiction Illustrators by Robert Deis & Wyatt Doyle (and Mort Kunstler) was the first book to arrive as I replenish my woefully empty to-be-read spot on the writing lair’s endtable. Mind you, the actual reading went quick, this very handsome 130+ page 2019 hardcover being a little light on text. But the nine-page intro by Mort Kunstler himself (as told to Robert Deis) was an intriguing read nonetheless. As he explains right at the start, “The word Kunstler means artist in German”, his immigrant father (an amateur artist himself) kept the spelling, and the rest was probably destiny.
The book’s heavy on Mort Kunstler’s pulpy ‘men’s sweats’ and adventure magazine illustration work, filled with WWII combat scenes, Cold War era spies and exotic safaris, with only a few examples of the master’s crime pulp work included. But trust me, it’s worth it for that intro alone, even if you’ve already seen many of the illustrations included here at any of your favorite pulp, vintage illustration and retro-kitsch sites and blogs.
Exit Dying, 1960
A very happy birthday to Robert McGinnis, born today in Cincinnati back in 1926 and still with us at 94. Apprenticed at Walt Disney Studios and studying art at Ohio State, McGinnis served in the Merchant Marine, then worked in advertising after WWII, where a chance 1958 meeting with illustrator Mitchell Hooks led to work at Dell Publishing. The result? In addition to editorial work for glossy magazines and over 40 movie posters, he’s credited with over 1,200 book covers, his well-known series work for Mike Shayne and other detective novels a key part of those books’ branded marketing. McGinnis is a member of the Society Of Illustrators Hall Of Fame, and after ‘retirement’ (if we want to call it that) has focused on non-commercial western themed art fine art painting.
There are too many ‘favorite’ Robert McGinnis cover illustrations to count, much less post here, and so many are already familiar to any visitor to this site. Still, I’ll post a few particular ‘faves’ I’ve always cherished, even before I knew they were McGinnis works, in some cases.
Too Hot To Hold, 1959
Never Kill A Client, 1963
Kill Now, Pay Later 1960
I first spotted one Ingrid Boot painting at Noirsville (www.noirsville.blogspot.com), which promptly sent me hunting for more info about this artist.
Background info is sparse, but the intriguing artwork speaks for itself.
Making her home in New Zealand since 2000, Ingrid Boot studied art at Westminster University in London and completed a degree in Illustration at De Monfort. The artist’s work ranges from glamorous retro nostalgia lifted right from a vintage Vogue magazine editorial (go to the artist’s own site at http://www.ingrid.co.nz to view more of those), to ominous yet alluring film noir-inspired pieces, those comprising a 2018 solo show, aptly titled “Film Noir”, at the Bread & Butter Gallery. More from this incredible painter follows in the next post…