Tuesday, August 5, 2008

"Hands, those essential tools..."

Several weeks back the subject of hands came up, and it aroused a few slumbering grey cells. Hands, those essential tools for work and every day living and so vital in human communication, have been subjects for artists, photographers, and advertisers for a long time.

Handshakes, high fives, thumbs up, V for victory signs, hands of strength, of beauty....the list goes on and on....both positive and negative. Can't forget the exuberant fist pump by Tiger Woods on sinking a 40 foot winning putt! Not that dramatic, but over the years I had drawn hands many times. Following are a few examples exhumed from an old proof drawer.

In the example below, middle daughter, Mary Jane, posed for a Standard/Chevron ad in 1957. Back in the 'good old days' when full service, clean restrooms, and leaded high octane were promoted heavily. Oh yes....gas was about 29 cents per gallon!

Next, a generic car in 'good hands' for the same folks.

Both were Higgins Ink wash illustrations. The hands for the Pac Tel and Vought Aircraft ads (at top) were done with Perma-Grey gouache paints....better and easier to use than Windsor Newton greys. Finally, a 1950's Kaiser Aluminum ad, done in Windsor Newton Designers Gouache, the usual color medium in those days. Added note, aeronautique: Not sure who 'owned' the big fist in the sky, traveling at about 50 0 knots....we'll call it 'The Force'.

In static testing the force is usually down on a wing. However in flight, the force (and failure mode) is UP. On the next flight, check your jet's wing flexing 3 or 4 feet up in flight. After the AD's concept layout had been through several meetings with Kaiser ad and engineering honchos, mine was not to reason why....just do the illustration....or else!

* Note: After many months, I checked in to Leif's CA Flickr Set last week. It's awesome in size, and still growing! Thanks (I think) to Leif for storing all that ancient stuff. Awesome, too, knowing every flaw....but thinking back, it was always thus. Deadlines provided a necessary but an irrevocable discipline. Good or bad, the jobs went out for all the world to see. I also want to thank the viewers for the interesting comments....and the jokesters are a hoot! Rich and others offer more credit than deserved....and for Picture Book and r8r... gas refrigerators were quiet (no motor), and some foods are noisy!


Bruce Hettema said...

When I went to the Academy of Art, Barbara Bradley used to bring out Charlies hand illustrations to show us students "how it's done". One of his best wasn't included "mudpies". If you'd like to see it, click here:www.phcreative.com/mudpies.jpg

Tom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tom said...

One of my illustration teachers would say, if you learn to draw hands and ears accurately from all positions, chances are everything else will be drawn accurately. I believe that to be true and Charlie Allen proves it to be true. I would see difficulty renderings that Charlie did that for the life of me, I couldn't figure out how he could pull it off so well. Closeup of glass bottles or drinking glasses and lots of other very hard subjects done in just pen and ink line, and looked they almost looked like a halftone photo only better. They were never over-worked nor under-worked. That kind of literal illustration can't be faked!

Not then and not now, do I ever get tired of looking at Charlie's illustrations. They can be a good lesson for any illustrator.

Tom Watson

Anonymous said...


So true what you say about hands, and what Tom says: If you're able to draw hands that way, you're able to draw anything.

"Hands, those essential tools..."

The artisan uses them, and the artist. The illustrator, artisan and artist at the same time, uses them and depicts them.

Feet may be equally challenging, but perhaps less suitable for the ads-business - especially bare feet. Although you, Charlie, would certainly present us with somethin'kickin...kicking a**...

That punch on the precedent of a B-52 (B 48??)is very impressive. I recently saw a Youtube movie of the Boeing B 777 test rig. They pulled the wings upwards, not downwards, as you explain in your aerodynamics lecture, until they snapped, at a load far exceeding the wing loads of even the worst flight in passenger revenue service. They were pulled upwards, not downwards, as you say.

By chance, I just recently came across a German airline captain's book, he's no more among us, who was quite prolific.

You say that it was not up to you to question, when you did your jobs for all those companies.

Well, this man had a similar experience: They wanted to make a film of one of his books, which dealt with his time as a co-pilot of Superconnies etc. Poor man, he tried in vain to persuade the film company, that to cross the Atlantic Ocean from Shannon to New York Idlewild in a DC 3 didn't make too much sense.
But the company told him it was too expensive to hire a Super Constellation, so they offered him a DC3.
Such experiences made him doubt his future as a bestseller author. In those times he took the pains to travel around from city to city, consulting different archives, just to find out if a certain Lufthansa flight took place on 12th September 1949 or if it was the 15th of August...

May be I'm diverting a bit, but I just wanted to tell you...

nuff said

Anonymous said...

AGAIN...Thanks for the comments. Always interesting, and too kind. To Rich....thanks for the long commentary. I'm not an engineer, so not an authority on things aeronautique. Should have said 'static testing WAS usually down, etc.' In the olden days aircraft wings were loaded with sandbags, on top, until they failed. All very scientific, of course, but today, in the digital age, everything has changed. Remember, the blog and I are all about the olden days! The plane,by the way, was a B-47, if I remember correctly. Chas.