On the Shoulders of Giants

As a youngster interested in art and illustration, I found inspiration on the covers and pages of magazines like Saturday Evening Post and Ladies Home Journal. This was the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, an era known as the Golden Age of magazine illustration. Personal computers and Corel Painter were the stuff of science fiction. Compelling illustration demanded expert drawing and painting skills. Illustrators like Al Parker, Coby Whitmore, and Albert Dorne were among the superheros of the medium.

When a magazine arrived in the mailbox, I would pour over the illustrations and marvel at the magnificent creativity of the illustrations within. I collected these illustrations and endlessly studied them. Eventually, my collection evaporated with the passage of time. Photography and digital art have since replaced this traditional art form. If only I could once again access these long lost inspiring resources!

Thanks to the very technology that has replaced classic advertising illustration, it is now possible to once again study and draw inspiration from the golden age of illustration. Canadian illustrator and Painter user Leif Peng maintains an excellent blog, Today’s Inspiration, dedicated to the magazine illustration’s glory days. Leif is probably one of the most knowledgeable individuals around with respect to classic illustration and his Today’s Inspiration blog is on my daily reading list.

It is fascinating to read about the careers and techniques employed by these artists. For example, Leif documents how the popularity of gouache designer’s colors affected a change in 50’s illustration style. Even more so, it is highly educational to learn how these illustrators approached their art. The content may have changed, but the principles of design remain highly relevant today.

Leif additionally maintains an incredible library of high-resolution scans of illustration from the golden age on the Flickr photo-sharing site. This resource has enabled me to once again enjoy and study the illustrators I grew up admiring. There are hundreds of examples archived. You can check out this collection via Classic Illustrators by Name.

In reacquainting myself with the illustration heroes of my youth, it has become apparent to me that these artists’ work was a big influence on my desire to emulate the techniques that they employed. This desire ultimately found its way into many of Painter’s tools as we originally developed it. Consequentially, it is a real pleasure to see the echoes of these giants of illustration appear in many Painter artists’ work today.

Whether for pleasure or education, Leif’s blog and illustration archive provide a valuable resource to learn from past masters. Thanks to the golden age of illustration, Painter in part strives to embody the tools of this era.

We are truly standing on the shoulders of giants.