Showing posts from December, 2005


Robert Heindel died this year. He was only 67 years old, with many great years of painting still ahead of him, but he had been ill and surely knew the end was near. I was fortunate to talk with him a few months before he passed away, and hear his conclusions about illustration as he approached the end of his career.

Heindel was born in Akron Ohio and, with no art training except a correspondence class, worked his way up from tire advertisements in Ohio to car illustrations in Detroit to magazine illustrations in New York, where he became close friends with Bernie Fuchs and Mark English. From there, he single handedly carved out his own specialized niche painting beautiful images of dancers. He made an excellent living selling prints and originals of his paintings in galleries around the world and over the internet. This career path was a remarkable accomplishment. Heindel knew what he wanted to do and invented a career to permit him to do it. His example should be an inspiration to oth…


Leslie Darrell Ragan (1897-1972) painted heavy industrial equipment the way it might exist on Mt. Olympus. He enshrouded trucks and locomotives with swirling steam and glowing celestial clouds. He painted machinery and buildings at heroic angles and imbued them with an almost divine aura. Speeding trains became works of art under Ragan's inspired vision.

The following close-up from an original painting by Ragan demonstrates how he injected the full color spectrum into clouds that most other artists might simply depict as white with blue or gray shading.

Ragan was born in the small town of Woodbine Iowa where there was not much for a young boy to look at except sky and clouds. He went to the Cumming School of Art in Des Moines and then to the Art Institute in Chicago. After serving in the military, he became a successful illustrator in California. His strong style soon became unmistakeable. Clients were eager to see their mundane equipment or buildings transformed by Ragan's lumi…


Medieval artists painted illuminated manuscripts by crushing precious stones such as lapis lazuli or malachite into their pigments and working with gold leaf. The result was radiant little miniature paintings, unsurpassed for color and intensity. In the 20th century, an illustrator named Arthur Szyk (1894-1951)carried on the tradition, creating lovely miniature paintings with exquisite skill.

Szyk painted on a tiny scale, with the precision of a watchmaker. For example, the original of the following portrait of Simon Bolivar is a mere 4.25" x 5.75":

Szyk was born in Poland and gained early fame as an illustrator. He mostly painted scenes from history and from the Bible. A gentle, diminutive, bookish man, he moved to America shortly before the outbreak of World War II. However, his 70 year old was mother was hauled away by the Nazis and murdered in a concentration camp. Szyk turned all of his talents to fighting fascism with his art. He created biting caricatures and political …


The best war illustrator you've never heard of is Ivor Hele (1912-1993) who depicted searing images of combat and military life in World War II and the Korean War.

As an official war artist for the Australian government, Hele spent a year at the frontlines in the North African campaign from 1941-42.

Hele then traveled to the South Pacific island of New Guinea where he drew and painted the fierce combat between the Australians and the Japanese in dark and difficult jungle terrain.

He returned to Australia physically and emotionally exhausted and began a prolific period in his career. After a year, he returned to New Guineau where he worked in the trenches with the troops until he was injured. Hele lay unconscious for two days. He was transported to a hospital in Australia where, after a long convalesence, he resumed working. At the height of the Korean War, Hele spent five months in the mud and the cold of Korea, brilliantly recording the struggles of the Australian soldiers in their …