Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Time and Again

It's a fact of life that illustrators busy with looming deadlines sometimes resort to "borrowing" from the work of their peers, be it general inspiration, a certain detail, a pose or the whole piece.  Bolles himself was routinely swiped by other artists of his time and still is today, but I have yet to find a solid example where he swiped from another artist.  Granted, he often worked from photos and in some cases changed nary a thing, but he must have had some personal code about lifting ideas from artists, or at least other artists. 
Take a closer look above at this original from 1925--the only surviving painting I'm aware of among the 23 covers he completed for Judge magazine--and you immediately notice that time-telling detail.  And then we fast forward to 1937 and we see another Bolles girl checking if she's late for an appointment.  Bolles would revisit a number of themes  throughout his career. There was a time when I pondered just how he could possibly keep track of it all, considering he painted at least 663 magazine covers (and counting). He certainly could have benefitted from some system to keep from overgrazing the same territory, if nothing else.  But it doesn't appear he kept a ledger of his work and he certainly didn't keep many of his paintings around in his studio, although these two are still around.  My own theory is that it was all in his head. Bolles had an amazing memory, which included a rather freakish ability to recall (or perhaps calculate) the last time a date and day coincided in the calendar (and if you're curious, the last time December 3 fell on a Tuesday was just last year, but prior to that you'd have to go back to 2002).
But I digress. The fun thing about these examples is that you get to see Bolles' reinterpreting an idea in the context of the era and through his evolving style.  And if you want a closer look the Judge painting is going up for sale this weekend at Freeman's auction house.  And with that I'll bid her adieu.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Nancy Caroll, born 11/19/1903 by Bolles

Proudly on display we have one of the very few portrait covers done by Bolles, completed in 1931.  The signature is much larger than any done for Film Fun but the art director (or type setter) apparently felt no compunction about laying a line of type right over it, and indignity Enoch suffered several times during his career. 

If you've seen examples of the so-called 'specially posed' Film Fun covers Bolles completed for Film Fun in the late 20's, you might not think he could do a decent likeness (the cover of Lupe Velez was the glaring exception in this series, and you can read more about that cover here), but he nails this one.  I only wish there were more, and my guess is they took Enoch a lot longer, and so he focused on his pinup covers.  Speaking of pinup, stay tuned because I'll be soon be posting an interview with Dian Hanson, author of the amazing, The Art of Pinup. She's devoted an entire chapter to Bolles. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014

Seeing Double

From time to time I post examples of art done in the manner of our man Bolles.  In some cases they are clearly homages while others fall under the category of swipes. And unfortunately many amount to no more than line-for-line copies. Here we see a really nice poster inspired by a 1933 Film Fun cover. Curiously the girl in the poster is making the sort of complex hand poses that we associate with Bolles, whereas his cover girl's doing a simple high-five.
Below we see a charming example of one of Bolles' animal as transportation series, in this case a ray done up with some art deco detailing. By comparison, poor Bebe is riding if not abusing, what appears to be a ghastly mashup of a catfish and umbrella.  It's only too easy to imagine the ghastly bleat the poor beast is emitting.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

July 25: Lumberjack Day!

What a great cover from 1928, which if my records are correct was reprinted again in 1929. She's loaded with charm and what a festive ensemble Bolles has outfitted her in. And that axe may be small but it is all business. Take a look at that curve on the handle!  She may not have used that axe to hew her chair, but it could still do some serious damage in the right hands.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

July 14: Shark Awareness Day

Our man Bolles has never failed to provide art for even the most obscure of public service announcements.  In this 1929 cover, we see a lovely bathing beauty staying cool, despite Mr. Mako's menacing maw. It's a far cry from John Singleton Copley's archetypal shark attack painting where the bather fares far less well (according to the story he survived but lost a leg).  Bolles was well versed in historical art and I wonder if he may have been having a little fun at the Copley's expense. It wouldn't be the first time he alluded to a classic painting in his work.  A decade later he revisits the theme with another utterly fearless girl hanging ten on Jaws inflatable cousin.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A Study in Red

What a treat!  This is the original painting to the July 1940 cover of Film Fun and it was only recently that I learned she was still around. Bolles may well have painted her in Greystone Hospital, where he sometimes enlisted nurses to serve as models. It not only is a fantastically preserved example of his late work but an unusual one on several accounts.  The night scene is unique among all Film Fun covers and there are many details evident, including the stars, that were lost in the magazine printing.  Bolles said an engraver once strongly encouraged him about using the color red and this advice was taken further here than just about any other cover Bolles did, and to good effect too. He had some great swim suit designs in his 1940s covers but this suit tops them all.  How about that red vest-cummerbund detail.  And take a gander at those Victory curls!  His treatment of hair could be rather loose at times but there is an amazing, almost mathematical precision to her hairdo. Finally, if you just can't resist that smile, she could be yours. The original painting is up for sale at Grapefruit Moon Gallery.  She'll be making an appearance at the Windy City Pulp and Paper Con this week (Mala Mastroberte, the Bolles girl in the flesh will be there too). Is your piggy bank big enough?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Nothing Like a Dame Day: April 17

A day made for a Bolles girl, but which one?  That's a question I spent far more time pondering than I care to admit. There were only several dozen or so contenders to choose from, but I'm happy with our Harlow inspired winner.  Who would you have chosen?

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