Monday, March 10, 2014

Bolles Fan-tastic!

Even the most casual web-search for Enoch Bolles will reveal a slew of products slathered with his copies of his magazine cover images, some tastefully done, others not so.  While it is gratifying to see how popular Bolles work remains, the majority of these products give Bolles no credit at all. Worse, much of it is simply ripped from existing scans (some from this site), many of which are not particularly detailed.  So when I came across Dan Gantner’s work I was blown away.  They are not simply high dpi scans taken from well preserved or careful photoshopped magazine covers, the images you see are reworked directly from high resolution scans of the original paintings. And the Film Fun logo isn't scanned from a cover that's pasted in, it's totally revectored. I was able to talk to Dan and learn more about his work and passion for Enoch Bolles. 

This is the obvious question but what you do requires incredible amounts of time,effort and attention to detail. What ultimately motivates you?
I do it because I love to work with the images--from the retouching to the printing, framing and shipping handsomely. What more could you ask for than to work with great images all day?

There are so many artists and pinup illustrators you could have chosen. What is it about Bolles that you like in particular?
He obviously took so much joy and care in his work and his technique is just sublime. His girls instantly transport you to another place and time in a way that only the best illustrators can achieve. I feel the same way about many of the other illustrators I have worked with in my shop, like the fantasy work of Virgil Finlay and Frank R Paul, Peter Driben's work for Wink and Titter, Paul Rader's outrageous sexploitation work for Midwood and Beacon in the 50s and 60s.

What you do goes so far beyond the typical scan, clean-up, cut and paste that you see with products that have used Bolles imagery or the works of other illustrators.   Could you take us through your process?
The original Film Fun magazine covers were printed on an offset press using halftone dots, a set of four color screens that create the appearance of continuous tone. When you scan the old covers in order to reprint them, you generate moiree patterns, pixelated or off-register colors that leak through the subsequent printing. I decided to work with the existing photos of the original Bolles artwork. Basically, it's the difference between working with the first and second generation reproduction of the original art. Since my experiments with enlarging a scanned Film Fun logo to the size I wanted often resulted in tattered curves and jangly lines, I imported a scan of the logo into an illustration program and outlined the letters using vector paths, which scale and reproduce with razor sharp crispness. The Film Fun covers were blessedly straightforward due to the white background and minimalist type treatment (thanks, Enoch!). I did this process on several of Drieben's Wink and Whisper covers, essentially recreating the entire cover from scratch. The famous Whisper keyhole cover of Nov. 1949 was a total rebuild, recreating the keyhole and banner logo, and typesetting the copy anew with the original fonts. The result, printed on archival photo paper and an Espon piezo printer using 9 archival inks, is an incredibly crisp, faithful reproduction quite possibly more brilliant than any of the original issues.

Thanks for this tour of your work, Dan. 

And for those of you who are interested in seeing more, here's the link to Dan's Etsy site.  Check it out!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

International Polar Bear Day--Grrrr!

She's having fun but that poor bear is miserable. Clearly he's been ridden around the track one lap to many.  All he's thinking about is throwing those reigns off and taking a nap on an ice shelf as far from her as he can get.  But I bet he'd have something else in mind if he if he knew the fate of his cousin, featured on a Film Fun cover a few years later. Looking at these together I wonder if they are the same pair, which makes the first cover even sadder. 

But you may think that's the wrong perspective.  Who could ever resist serving
a Bolles girl, whether as a ride or a rug! 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

Bolles did just a couple Valentine themed covers and this one from 1926 was his first. It's also a bit of an oddball because her head to body ratio presaged what I call his lollypop period.  Contrast her with another 1926 cover where Enoch reverted to a more normally proportioned figure.  There would be other occasional lollipop girls popping up now and then but from 1930-31 the majority of his covers featured petite girls with large heads, a combination that has always struck me as unnervingly pubescent. Perhaps however, Bolles was simply taking a crack at his own version of the John Held Jr. girl.  Either way, the experiment ended in 1932 when a very differently
proportioned Bolles girl took the stage.    
Go figure.


Friday, February 7, 2014

Doubling up: Wear Red & Wave to your Neighbor Days

Bolles once wrote: "printers love any color, as long as it's red,"  and it's a perspective he took to heart.  Red is a cardinal theme on his covers. Not only was the Bolles girl's wardrobe flush with scarlet, but more often than not she sported red locks.

So I had a problem...that being which single issue to pluck from a field of hundreds blooming red from rose to poppy.  It wasn't long before I was getting a bit flush from sampling all that burgundy, claret and rosé.  

But I kept coming back to one particular image and I think out of all this cover from 1935 burns brightest. Enoch probably had to empty a couple tubes of Cadmium red on the canvas (though the color looks a bit more like Naphthol) to finish the dress but the expense was well worth it. Any Hollywood starlet would be thrilled to wear it on the red carpet. 

But look closer, there more going on here.  Notice all those strong diagonals moving through the composition in both directions.  The contrast provided by the piano adds a lot. The little bits Enoch lets peek through from behind the girl reinforce the outline and punch up the depth, projecting the girl toward us. Smart move by the art editor to stick with red for the logo. 

And of course you can't have a Bolles girl without those hand flourishes.  Maybe she's about to add some left hand rhythm but I prefer to think she's beckoning an admirer. After all it's also wave to your neighbor day. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Take a Friendly Swipe

I generally take a dim view of artists' attempts at swiping Bolles, as Enoch himself did.  His grandson told me how he'd rail against other artists he felt were swiping his stuff.  Even the editors of Film Fun noticed and in the mid-30s initiated a lawsuit against the magazine, Movie Humor, in large part no doubt because of George Quintana's line by line ripoffs of Bolles' covers (and if you are wondering why I refer to him as Quintana and not Quantance, the author Dian Hanson will be coming out with her take on the debate later this year in her new pinup book). Although the suit against Movie Humor was denied, the presiding judge granted a temporary injunction because of the "confusingly similar cover format." 

I take exception, however, to the lively interpretation of a classic 1937 Bolles cover you see here. I first came across it in an article in the New York Times article on a company that reproduces old menus for a line of products and of course I had to investigate further (as if there was a choice).  The image was the cover to the Latin Quarter restaurant and was appeared around 1950, though it seems for more contemporary to me. Although the artist, Vanni Cola (I've had no luck tracking down any info on her/him) accurately followed the composition, the simplified color scheme and strong use of red works really well. I also like the bulls-eye, which was a visual trope Bolles used many times. And the way the typeface (hand drawn?) is worked into the image aces it. 

So I contacted the friendly folds at Cool Culinaria and we had a lively discussion on the intersection of our mutual interests that led to a blog post about it on their site.

Finally, the klutzy pinup theme of this cover--while pretty much the rule for the likes of Elvgren and others--is relatively rare for Bolles. Limiting my search to Film Fun, I found no examples at all until 1932 and only five total out of over 200 covers. Curious two of the first three covers by substitute artists for the magazine used klutzy themes.