Illustration Art Gallery

The very best from the wide, sometimes overlooked, world of illustration art, including original artwork for book illustrations and covers, comic books and comic strips, graphic novels, magazines, film animation cels, newspaper strips, poster art, album covers, plus superb fine art reproductions and high quality art prints.

Our gallery brings together artists from all over the world and from many backgrounds, including fantasy, horror, romance, science fiction, education, sport, history, nature, technology, humour, glamour, architecture, film & tv, whimsy, even political satire and caricature.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

James Bama

James Bama is an American artist whose work encompasses two major strands: his Western paintings and what can be described - but not dismissively - as pulp art. To the collector, his name is inextricably linked with the adventures of Doc Savage and the paperback covers he illustrated during his time as a commercial artist. He then turned to fine art, which proved even more rewarding commercially and raised his status to Artist and earned him comparisons with Norman Rockwell and N. C. Wyeth.

If one theme can be seen through Bama's work it might be described as "one man (or woman) in the wilderness", as his covers often featured isolated single figures, some alone against expansive backgrounds; it is a style that can be seen in such diverse Bama illustrations as Freedom Road by Howard Fast and Groupie by Johnny Byrne & Jenny Fabian (both Bantam) and Dell's edition of Desmond Morris's The Naked Ape. It is also a theme that has extended into his fine art work where Bama, using photographs of real mountain men and Native Americans as reference, often isolates the figures to create portraits where wheathered facial features, clothing and body language tell a story. In other paintings, landscapes and animals add location to Bama's evocation of the rugged modern day prairie men.

James E. Bama was born in Manhattan on 28 April 1926, the second son of Benjamin Bama, a Russian-born apron salesman, and his wife Selma, also the daughter of Russian immigrants. Raised in New York City, Bama was inspired to draw by the adventure strips of the time, most notably Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon, Burne Hogarth's Tarzan and Frank Miller's Barney Baxter. His father died of a stroke when Bama was 13, and his mother suffered a debilitating stroke the following year; Bama had to cook and clean and began earning money, making his first $50 sale, a drawing of Yankee Stadium, to The Sporting News at the age of 15.

He graduated from the High School of Music and Art and enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps' Eastern Flying Training Command unit in 1944, where he worked as a mechanic and physical training instructor, as well as painting murals. On his discharge, he used the GI Bill to enrol at the Art Students League, where he was learned drawing and anatomy under Frank J. Reilly.

After freelancing briefly - his first sales including Western paperback covers A Bullet for Billy the Kid by Nelson C. Nye (Avon, 1950) and Dead Sure by Stewart Sterling (Dell, 1950) - he began working for one of New York's leading illustration firms, Charles E. Cooper Studios, in 1951. for the next fifteen years, he produced commercial artwork for a range of clients, including the Baseball Hall of Fame, the New York Giants and the U.S. Air Force.

However, it is for his paperback covers that he became known, especially the 62 covers he painted for Bantam Books' reprints of Doc Savage pulp magazine stories. Clark Savage Jr had been the star of 181 full-length adventures in the pages of Doc Savage Magazine (1933-49), 159 of them written by prolific pulpster Lester Dent. The heroic adventurer and scientist had been trained to almost superhuman physical and mental ability and faced a range of supernatural and superscientific foes. Bama was introduced to the saga when Bantam Books began reprinting the series in 1964 with The Man Of Bronze, Doc's debut adventure.

Bama gave Doc a buzz cut, replacing the kiss-curl of his pulp days, and beefed him up, using Steve Holland, a muscular fashion model who had starred in the Flash Gordon TV series in 1954-55, as the basis for his vision of Doc Savage. The books sold incredibly well and all 182 stories were reprinted between 1964 and 1990.

Although much of his early work was Western covers for the likes of Louis L'Amour and Zane Grey, Bama quickly expanded his cover art repertoire to include everything from contemporary novels, thrillers, romances and non-fiction. A small sampling of his work would include A Rage at Sea by Frederick Lorenz (Lion, 1957), Requiem for a Gun by Burt & Budd Arthur (Avon, 1963), The Pillars of Midnight by Elleston Trevor (Ballantine, 1963), President's Agent by Joseph Hilton (Lancer, 1963), Colette Cheri (Berkley, 1966) and covers depicting James Bond and the characters from Star Trek.

As well as Doc Savage, Bama painted many other covers for Bantam, including King Kong by Delos W. Lovelace (1965) and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1967). Bama had an affinity for classic horror characters, having been a childhood horror movie fan; in the early 1960s, beginning with Frankenstein, he produced vivid box artwork for a series of model kits based on Universal's movie monsters; Dracula, Wolf Man, The Mummy and others followed as well as Aurora's Monster Hot Rods and Monster Customizing Kits.

Bama then changed tack after first visiting Wyoming in 1966; he and his wife, Lynn, a photographer whom he met in 1963, moved permanently to Cody, Wyoming, in 1968. During this period he transited from illustration to making more personal works, often inspired by his new surroundings. Much of his work was of contemporary Western and Native American subjects; wildlife and mountain men feature against stunning Wyoming backdrops.

Bama is inspired by real inhabitants of the state, visiting reservations and meeting trappers and cowboys; his prices rapidly escalated and, within three years, he was making far more than he had as an illustrator.He also sought inspiration in travel, to China, Mexico, Tibet and Turkey.

Bama was the recipient of the Spectrum Grand Master Award in 1998 and was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in June 2000. His work is to be found in the collections of Clint Eastwood, Nicholas Cage and Malcolm Forbes as well as numerous galleries.

Bama, who has lived in Wapati, Wyoming, since 1971, remains a keen on physical training, regularly doing heavy exercise even in his eighties. He is a keen reader and movie viewer.

The Western Art of James Bama, with an introduction by Ian Ballantine (Scribner, 1975; enlarged, Bantam, 1980)
James Bama: A Wyoming Realist by Warren Adelson (Coe Kerr Gallery, 1985)
The Art of James Bama by Elmer Kelton (Greenwich Workshop, 1993)
James Bama: American Realist, edited by Brian M. Kane, with an introduction by Harlan Ellison  (Flesk Publications, 2006)
James Bama Sketchboo: A Seventy-Year Journey, Travelling from the Far East to the Wild West , edited by John Fleskes (Flesk Publications, 2010)

Original prints by James Bama can be found for sale at the Illustration Art Gallery.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Giorgio De Gaspari

For such an incredibly talented artist, almost nothing exists on the internet about Italian painter Giorgio De Gaspari. Although his merits have been praised on blogs - Bear Alley and Cloud 109, for instance - hard facts about the artist are almost impossible to come by. This has been noted even by Italian bloggers, one of whom described De Gaspari earlier this year as "a figure about whom many anecdotes have been told for decades but who is, incredibly, almost entirely absent from the internet."

De Gaspari was born on 30 January 1927, possibly in Varese - or the province of Varese - north of Milan in north-western Italy, not far from the Swiss border. He began his career under the auspices of comic strip artist and illustrator Walter Molino who, in the 1940s, was a leading contributor to Grand Hotel, to which paper De Gaspari also contributed; another strip  ('Uragano, il re della prateria' [Hurricane, the King of the Prairie]) appeared in Success Collection published by CEA in 1946-47. De Gaspari also worked for Il Giornalino di Carroccio and illustrated 'il Giustiziere scarlatto' for Albi Mignon.

In May 1947 his first illustrations appeared in La Domenica del Corriere, a Sunday paper which he was to continue contributing to until February 1970, producing over 1,000 illustrations. De Gaspari's paintings were of high quality and innovative in their use of original material, tools and techniques. He would use any sort of paper, create collages and cut and scratch the images. This experimentation with his artwork did occasionally cause him to fall foul of his editors. In one instance, on a Kit Carson cover painting for Cowboy Picture Library, he used real sand glued onto the page; although it made for a superb, textured image, it all had to be scraped off and a new sandy background painted in by an in-house 'bodger' rather than run the risk of damaging the machinery that turned the artwork into four-colour separations.

De Gaspari was a busy chidlren's book illustrator in Italy for publishers Valladri, Agostoni, Lucchi and Fabbri as well as contributing illustrations to Arianna. Amongst the many titles he illustrated in the 1940s and 1950s were editions of Pinocchio, Don Quixote, The Three Musketeers, Moby Dick, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and various fairy tale books.

De Gaspari's first cover in the UK appeared on the Sexton Blake Library in February 1958, gracing Peter Saxon's 'The Sea Tigers'; his second (and last) cover showed his talent for variety, illustrating 'Collapse of Stout Party' by Jack Trevor Story.

De Gaspari thereafter turned his talents to provinding covers for Fleetway's many pocket libraries, including Cowboy Picture Library (30 covers, 1958-60), Thriller Picture Library (39 covers, 1958-60) and Super Detective Library (4 covers, 1960). 

However, it was with his work for War Picture Library that he is mainly known in the UK. Beginning with the very first issue in September 1958, De Gaspari produced 32 of the first 48 covers (1958-60); his painting began to appear less frequently after that but were still appearing regularly until 1961, during which period (1960-61) he also contributed 12 covers to Air Ace Picture Library and the debut number of Battle Picture Library (1961). A brief resurgence in 1966 marked the end of De Gaspari's original appearances in the UK, although his work continued to appear, albeit infrequently, on book covers and in Reader's Digest Condensed Books.

Examples of De Gaspari's artwork can be found for sale at the Illustration Art Gallery.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Leslie Bowyer

Leslie Bowyer was an occasional contributor to Eagle, illustrating a short story in 1951 and a feature on the Queen's post-Coronation tour of 1954.

He also produced advertising designs and watercolours and contributed to Children's Own Wonder Book (1947).

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

George Bowe

George Bowe is a bit of a mystery. His career began at least as early as 1948 when he illustrated two books by Enid Blyton and continued until at least 1974 when he drew 'At the End of the Rainbow' in Bonnie.In between he contributed illustrations to Boy's Own Paper, Pony Club Annual, Robin Annual, Girl Annual and Swift Annual in the 1950s and 1960s.

For an artist with a career spanning at least 26 years, it is surprising that nothing else is known.

George Bowe artwork for sale at The Illustration Art Gallery.

Let's Have a Story by Enid Blyton. London, H. A. & W. Pitkin, 1948.
We Want a Story by Enid Blyton. London, H. A. & W. Pitkin, 1948.
The Bard's Cloak by Percy G. Griggs. London, H. A. & W. Pitkin, 1950.
Tiger Hawk by George E. Rochester. London, H. A. & W. Pitkin, 1956.
Ten-Week Stables by Sylvia Scott White. London, Lutterworth Press, 1960.