Monday, October 26, 2009


Wait a second....we've used that song! But....that's pretty much the way it happened. orange colored sky. It was 1981 and business was just so-so, A few lower paying jobs from Gallo, Del Monte, the same old stuff. Ad agencies were shrinking, or gone....newer agencies specializing in TV replaced them....magazines and newspaper ads mostly gone. TV had won the budget battle. The 70's had been a decade of political turmoil, gas lines, hyper inflation....a time when the phrase 'cash is trash' became popular. In spite of double digit interest rates, people were investing in 'limited partnerships', farm and orchard land, other strange odds and ends, and....'collectibles'. One example of this fad became limited edition prints....a 'manufactured collectible'. The business still exists to some extent, though with a fraction of the popularity of the 80's. The CAWS will describe just a bit of the arcane world of limited edition Duck Stamp Prints this week. Two or three more blogs would still not cover the history and lore of that 'collectible' print phase in our time.

Going back to the title....I was walking by a small frame and print store in nearby Walnut Creek when I noticed a nicely framed and matted 6 1/2 x 9 inch print for sale in the window. The illustration was of a pair of pintail ducks in flight....and a small matted window below the print contained a stamp. I had enjoyed duck hunting a few times each year in the Sacramento Valley during my 40's. At that time for hunters, a Federal duck stamp was required and a California hunting license. I walked in and asked about the print....found out the stamp was a California duck stamp, required of hunters since the mid 70's. Also, that the print was a signed and numbered limited edition print....a larger replica of the stamp....and was the result of a once a year design competition sponsored by the Calif. Dept. of Fish and Game. I sent off for the rules and entry forms....and in 1982 entered the required small 5 x 7 inch design in the competition. Subject, a pair of Green Wing Teal. Although the ad illustration business was highly competitive, this was the first judged competition I had entered in over 30 years of illustration. About 95 designs were entered....and mine was the winner. California was the first state to require a hunters stamp....Nevada and others soon followed. I then discovered Nevada held a competition very similar to California's. A month after the California win, I entered the Nevada contest (no names permitted on the entries)....and from about 150 entries, I won again.

The CAWS will post a scan of the California 6 1/2 x 9 inch print of Green Wing Teal....and then a scan of the similar size Nevada print of a pair of Gadwall Ducks. Briefly, I learned that I knew very little about the various ducks I had hunted, plucked, and eaten during my hunting years! I also learned that the judges were primarily Fish and Game people, duck hunters, environmental officials, an ornithologist, and one (I believe) college art professor. Later on, with a few artist friends, we called them 'feather counters'. Whatever....I found it was an entirely different ball game from advertising illustration. 1982 was still very early in the duck stamp business....mine was the third or fourth in the California yearly series, and the second year in the Nevada series. I'll post a descriptive blurb from the print cover. The prints, cover, ads, etc. were all published by a small midwest publisher, Voyager Art. The midwest, the center of the huge Mississippi River flyway of migratory waterfowl, was and still is, the center of Duck Stamp related art, and of many wildlife related artists and subjects.

The CAWS will press 'doggedly' on next week with the second chapter of the 1980's duck stamp least as it related to, by then, an aging career in illustration.

* Charlie Allen's Flickr set.

Monday, October 19, 2009

This week's CAWS, which includes four African animal illustrations, offers a chance to quote the well known A.A. Milne and to post a small Ernest H. Shepard illustration or two. Milne, for the few who may not know, was the brilliant children's author from the 1920's who introduced Christopher Robin, Pooh Bear, plus his innumerable friends, to a huge worldwide audience. Ernest Shepard was the equally brilliant illustrator who, with small sketchy line drawings and cartoons, gave the Milne rhymes and stories visual meaning and life. None of the more recent replicas and illustrations for products, videos, and other media have come close to the charm, humor, and creativity of the original Shepard drawings.

I was lucky enough to grow up at the time, the 1920's, when the Milne series was first published, with a smart and foresighted mother who read them to us at an early age. My admiration for Shepard began then and continues to this day.

We'll move on to the 'would have been' animal prints from the late 60's and early 70's. I have seldom dated the time it seemed unimportant. Today it would be interesting. These were in acrylic and gouache, done in the then current technique (for me) in those years. Once again, they were 'portraits'....and the animals seem just a bit confrontational.

The intent was to engage the viewer....not showing violent hunting action....but alert, on guard, aware. The subjects are a pair of African male elephants, a black rhinoceros, a pair of lions, and a leopard in the twilight.

These were painted on gessoed illustration board....and for some reason, the original size on all of the illustrations in the series was 12 3/4 by 17 1/2 inches.

I paired the animals from different reference sources....and the backgrounds and scenes were my concept of African locations.

Totally unrelated, but to clear the decks, the start of another antique race car. It was not finished....the gear shift and brake handles on the near side are missing. As said before, old planes and cars appealed to me as subjects....the other subjects chosen for variety....and I still have no idea of the reception by potential customers.

Last, another page from Milne's 'When We Were Very Young'? Why not!

"When We Were Very Young" is © 1924 by E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc.
Copyright Renewal, 1952, by A.A. Milne
All Rights Reserved

* Charlie Allen's Flickr set.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


From the late 60's and early 70's....another post in the series of prints planned to sell, described in an earlier CAWS. We've shown most, if not all, of the antique auto prints and WWI airplane illustrations. The other two 'selected' categories, four in each, were of horses and African animals. All of these, as mentioned, were 'portraits' of the subjects in what I deemed natural settings. And all were crisp but conservative renderings in gouache. Intended for youngsters and consumer sales, my amateur research indicated that the public cared very little for painting techniques....subject and content were the basic objectives. Many folks I had talked to did not differentiate between photos and illustrations. It was the image, impact, and subject matter that counted. These illustrations were done over two or three years....and at the time to be 'serious' about the project, I thought a backlog of illustrations was needed.

The first scan, not one of the intended prints, was our youngest daughter at about seven or eight with our first venture into 'horsedom'....a Shetland pony named 'Trixie'.

Her only trick, and she was quite adept at it, was a quick shrug or change of pace at a trot....effectively ejecting our daughters onto the ground. She was primarily a 'pettin' pony....combed, brushed, and fed well for several years by our daughters and neighborhood friends. This gouache, in an antique oval frame, has resided on our bedroom wall for many years.

Following, the four horse prints as mentioned.

Horses seem to come in as many breeds, sizes, and differences as the canine world. Many we see are a mix called the American saddle horse....somewhat generic. These scans show the purer breeds....each 'designed' to do well for given events or purposes. The scenes were done from B&W photo reference of individual horses plus created locations.

Black and white reference was actually preferable and offered freedom for color interpretation and composition. On the thoroughbred racing scene, I had a good shot of the horse, and separate shots of the modified Santa Anita track in southern California. The San Jacinto mountain range was in the background. The painting of the Morgan horse and the scene ( the English saddled and dressed rider) was made up, with the exception of the were the fields and hills behind the corral fenced black Arabian.

In the 1950's our fields and hills to the south of Walnut Creek were that pristine. Now, and sadly, mostly developed with streets and homes. The rodeo illustration was, again, from B&W reference. Had good reference on the Quarter Horse and calf roper....the buttes and hills were my idea of an Arizona location.

Next week, I have a hunch we'll pay a quick visit to Africa.

* Charlie Allen's Flickr set.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Well....many are right here in the California State Legislature....and a whole passel more are our elected representatives and senators in the U.S. Congress. And, I might add, are about as sad in performance and demeanor as this weeks' first scan of an Art Center model back in 1947. This was from an illustration class....the difference....he was a real McCoy clown.

Before proceeding, however, the above lyric title line is from the fine show and popular song composed by Stephen Sondheim, 'Send In The Clowns'. The Broadway musical was called, I believe, 'A Little Night Music', and here recommended if available on DVD or otherwise.

The posed clown study was done in an illustration class, a one half or all day pose, and one of the early gouache illustrations I had tried. The school was fortunate to be located fairly near Hollywood....and in those days there were numerous 'extras' and characters from the film industry available for a days' modeling job at Art Center. Following that, a gouache cartoon done about the same time.

The illustration assignment....portray a person or persons succeeding in spite of difficult or dangerous conditions. I was too busy at the time to try a 'cliffhanger' or serious illustration took the easier road with the cartoon. The instructor was not all that pleased, as I recall, but it got the assignment done.

Still going back to 'roots', a small southern California magazine, 'Western Family', used illustrated covers. I made a sketch for this while at Art Center and did the speculative illustration during 1948, my first year at Patterson and Hall. The magazine accepted it....and I was paid the grand amount of $75 for the design. Considering the post-war economy, that was almost to be expected from a publication of that kind.

Next, several years later in the 50's, a 'sample' painted during 'down' time....ergo, a slow period. I had clipped a small B&W photo of the glass carriers from a magazine. It fascinated me....and the men were almost as interesting in character as shown in the illustration. I placed them in an industrial setting in color and loosened up....this was the result.

Finally, four small rough concept comps done in the 50's, as a start toward better comps.

Again, during a slow period....the purpose, a 'western' calendar theme.

There were theme calendars, and several calendar publishers in those days.

The project was really too ambitious for the time available between jobs.

These were pretty much off the top, and a lot more time and research would have been needed to go further.

* Charlie Allen's Flickr set.