Sunday, September 16, 2007


I was fortunate to have studied closely with Murray Tinkelman throughout my entire graduate residency at Syracuse University and I owe him a lifetime of gratitude. Mr. Tinkelman has a great student illustration exercise that he has given out for years (normally to undergrads) but challenge me with equally. It teaches students how to paint and compose like the great illustrators. It goes something like this...

1) Pick four consecutive decades.
2) Pick four well known historical figures from the same profession or area of study
but each must be a representative from their respective consecutive decade.
3) Pick four successful illustrators - one from each of those same consecutive decades.
4) The Assignment: illustrate a portrait of those well-known people from the same profession but in the style of an illustrator from their respective decade.

4-Consecutive Decades, 4-Famous Persons, 4-Famous Illustrators (styles), 1-illustration student assignment.

This was a real learning experience and a fun exercise. It not only teaches the student (through their own research and investigation) about the evolution of style and vision of varying artists over consecutive decades but also about the finer points of medium handling that students may not have explored on their own. Imitation can be the biggest and most humbling form of flattery.

For myself I picked American poets of the 20's, 30's, 40's and 50's.

THE 20's: W.C.Wiliams illustrated by J.C.Leyendecker

William Carlos Williams was a famous American poet who came out of the twenties and was a huge influence on my favorite poets of the forties and fifties. One of my absolute all-time favorite illustrators was Joseph Christian Leyendecker. A god! His craftsmanship and graphic nature was untouched and long before it's time. A true legend and picture maker. He did it with style and class and was very successful in his own time, but most notably in the twenties for his Arrow Collar shirt adds.

THE 30's: e.e. Cummings illustrated by John LaGatta

e.e. Cummings was a revolutionary poet who changed the poetic playing field entirely. His structure and word play across the page were radical, penetrating and challenging, a true original. An illustrators work that I had not even discovered until doing this assignment was John LaGatta. Only now years later do I find myself going back to his work over and over studying his drawings and use of pastels. His imagery was sultry and fashionable for women of his day. He was once awarded the title of "Best Womens Be-Hind" painter in the business. In my book he is the Degas of the illustration world. He too was prolific, successful and respected in his own time.

THE 40's: Theodore Roethke illustrated by Al Parker

Theodore Roethke was not known to me before this assignment so it was a learning experience to research his work. He grew up around a greenhouse as a child and used a lot of natural imagery and rhythm in his work. He experienced several family deaths as a child that would shape his psyche and writing style. He was most notable for his work in the forties. He would influence a great many writers like Kurt Vonnegut and his book Slaughterhouse Five. Another big influence in the forties illustration world was Al Parker. One of the fathers of American Illustration and graphic design in general. With a style that would change over the years from decade to decade, Parker always found a way to ride the edge. A true innovator with many talents.

THE 50's: Allen Ginsberg illustrated by Austin Brigggs

Perhaps my favorite poets of all time were the Beat poets of the fifties. Both on the east-coast and west-coast alike, this group of young men and women were really coming into their own as writers, artists and visionaries. Perhaps their spiritual guru and leader was the young poet Allen Ginsberg, most recognized for his ground breaking poem Howl that was read at the famous reading held by Kenneth Rexroth, October 7, 1955 at the Six Gallery in San Francisco. Austin Briggs is another legend and innovator of his time who would see tremendous success in this same period. A master draftsman and painter from the comics to the pulps to the covers of magazines and advertising campaigns Austin Briggs was a giant. It was hard to narrow down a specific look of his many talents that would summarize his efforts, specifically in the fifties. Quite literally he could do it all!

For more Information on:

J.C. Leyendecker click -> HERE
John LaGatta click -> HERE
Al Parker click -> HERE
Austin Briggs click -> HERE

All Imagery: ©Copyright Trey Gallaher
Work of those artists as labeled here by their appropriate names are protected by the parties that represent the estates and ownership of those artist's work.