Sunday 21 May 2017

CENTENARY ARTICLE: Part One: 1920s - 1950s by David Jackson

FRANK BELLAMY - design and technique
Part One: 1920s-1950s

By David Jackson

[Part One] [Part Two] [Part Three] [Part Four] [Part Five]

Imagine some counter-factual alternative reality in which Frank Bellamy had not been born a hundred years ago... Not only would nobody have ever drawn the way he did, no one would have ever known it was even possible to draw like that.

It became his self-appointed self-taught task to find out what the Frank Bellamy 'look' looked like. Which was fortunate for us all because he was the only one capable of doing so...

In the BBC Edition programme 30th November 1973, presenter Barry Askew asked Frank:
BA: "What kind of comics did you grow up on, as a boy?"
FB: "Well the first was Chips, or Rainbow and then gradually getting some of the supplements from the United States, which contained Tarzan and that type of thing. The American comic as you saw in the film, was non-existent in this country. The comics were for little types, eight year olds, five and six year olds."
BA: "Things like Beano and Dandy? I read that one."
FB: "Yes. I'm afraid they didn't affect me at all, I didn't used to read those sort of things."

The Rainbow from a month before Bellamy's birth
14 April 1917 No.166 (Courtesy of Alan Notton's ComicsUK site)
See a larger version of the one 2 weeks later on Lew Stringer's site

Illustrated Chips from when Bellamy was almost 5 years old

No doubt his very first attempts at mark-making with a pencil registered a special place in his heart and mind and those schoolboy artistic efforts would have been interesting to see.

In the early development of a young artist's life it is not at the time possible to know the right course to take, in terms of subject matter or technique, let alone the right contacts to make which will, by absolute chance, be the ones which lead to success.
Frank's early years in illustration and advertising included various try-outs of materials, techniques and subject-matter.
Some of the early 'false starts', which would not lead towards the work for which he would become famous, were portfolio sample pieces to take around the publishers and commercial art studios.

They demonstrated a specialist ability to precisely render hard-edged subjects such as mechanical objects, graphics and lettering, requiring not only an exact sense of design but also a degree of unwavering pen control which is beyond many.

1935, circa. 'South for Sunshine - 'SOUTHERN RAILWAY' poster for an RAAS competition, original artwork in poster paint on hardboard, signed FRANK A. BELLAMY , and with Kettering home address on the reverse (42'' x 27'') as a competition entry, it is believed that this design was not used by the SR. It recently went for an auction hammer price of £200. 

"South for Sunshine" Southern railway poster

Were it not signed, as a whole the work isn't easily identifiable in either materials or technique as the artist's, but all that being said, the confident certainty of the lettering and design graphics is exactly in line with so many other early FB pieces. His hard-edge graphics technique development was ahead of the early figure-work elements until they caught up.

Olivia de Havilland at the El Mirador, Palm Springs

Also, interestingly, if possibly coincidentally, an early photo-shoot print of Olivia de Havilland, was found by chance on the web. The 'SOUTHERN RAILWAY' is not a direct 'copy' of this as such but FB could well have had opportunity to have seen the photograph before producing this early poster. A certain coincidence would be, decades later, FB drawing Olivia de Havilland for Radio Times.

Radio Times 29 May 1971 - 4 June1971, p.12

Olivia de Havilland in The Adventures of Robin Hood  (1938)

It would very much fit with the description in Fantasy Advertiser Vol.3 No.50 of producing cinema front-of-house graphics for Blamire's, his local studio in Kettering. This was a job he'd been peremptorily turned down for until the manager, who also ran an evening art class, saw him drawing and then offered him the job!

FB: "So I started the next day, sweeping up and making tea. I thought I could draw but found I couldn't, seeing all the studio artists work. I spent six years working there - from 16 until I was 22 and called up for the army. During the latter part of my stay at this studio we did an enormous amount of work for local cinemas - point-of-sale advertising poster, coming-next-week lettering with bags of punch and a bit of illustration. Then I used to produce two display boards for the Regal cinema. One display was 17ft long, 6ft high and 5ft deep. I had to paint the background, the figures, the action of whatever the film was about, and so on, on Essex board which was cut out so you had standing cut-out figures of things like Angels with Dirty Faces starring James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart, and films of that time."
1930s Regal Cinema, Kettering

FA: "I should imagine your experience in making movie billboards stood you in good stead for the 'splash' frames in your 'Churchill' strip."

FB: "Yes. I did my own display lettering. I like to do my own lettering wherever possible."

The Wizard 18 July 1925
Artist unknown - but lots of thrilling adventures for an 8 year old!

A subsequent family story was that one day FB had gone back to Blamire's, unexpectedly, having forgotten something or some such, only to find his boss was copying his work...

FA: "What did you enjoy reading as a boy?"
FB: "My reading material had been Wizard, Rover and the pulps. In fact, after being turned down for that first job I went straight across the road to Woolworths and bought a western pulp. All the pulps I read had to be either western or G-Men. So, with that sort of diet, I suppose I was never cut-out to draw girlish sort of strips."
[If we assume Bellamy is right about when he bought a western pulp (and he would have been 16) it might be a UK reprint of an American pulp such as All-Star Western and Frontier Magazine. Well, I had to illustrate it! ~Norman]

All Star Western and Frontier magazine April 1933
Artist Unknown
Scan from the excellent Phil Stephenson-Payne's site

Frank Bellamy was very much finding his way in his early days in terms of technique, subject, materials and everything, some of which, while not finding a usual place as part of 'the day job', would be used for one-offs, character studies, drawing from life and the like.

FB: "But I always have enjoyed drawing - pure and simple drawing, whatever the medium. I don't mind if it's pastels, pencil or ink. It doesn't matter to me as long as it's actually drawing."

Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph,
Wednesday Feb 15 1939, p4
by Frank Bellamy -See article here

1939. The 'ARP Report' by Lance-Corporal Bellamy published in the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph 15 February consisted of some extremely basic scribbled doodles (instructive for the less-than-no-effort-whatsoever put into them..!) illuminating an allegedly 'factual' printed text 'Report' worthy of 'Dad's Army'..!

"Last Train"? by Frank Bellamy

1946. An early pastel depicts a soldier waiting in a railway station. Unpublished as far as is known. It might have been called "Last Train" which appears in the Kettering & District Art Society Exhibition Catalogue of 25 May -15 June 1946.
1946. Pencil sketches of his son David as a baby, 21 February.

David Bellamy as a baby (dated 21 February 1946)
 1946-1949. FB's black and white possibly brush-line drawing ink technique used in sporting cartoons for Northampton Evening Telegraph's Football Telegraph (aka 'The Pink Un') of the humorous variety in a style used by 'political' newspaper cartoonists of that era - signed FRANK A. BELLAMY.

Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph (Sat 10 April 1948) in Football Telegraph)
"Smacked in the eye by poppies & posh on Monday, Wisbech & brush fought a duel today" [cropped image]

Frank's son David has said that FB used to bring home little 'How-To-Draw' books.
A potential candidate for such a little book (7"x4½") possibly read by FB, based solely on my own reading of it, (with no actual confirmation whatsoever that Frank himself ever in fact set eyes on it), is:  
Teach Yourself to Draw 1942

Teach Yourself to Draw by Ronald Smith, English Universities Press Ltd was first published in 1942 (republished in 1954). [The publishers of Teach Yourself Books also include 'Perspective' and 'Commercial Art' in the series].

The following quotes certain pages (page numbers given) which I could imagine FB possibly noting with interest:

  • p24. "You should also begin collecting together, quite soon, any other natural or fashioned objects, which, because of their form or texture interest you - shells, fir cones - bones, jars, even stones of unusual shape [...] You will see that I have made no mention here of flat "copies" [...] It is essential to see for oneself at first hand; and in future You should draw from real solid things, and these alone".
Bellamy uses props - see also Alan Davis' site

  • p71. Dot stipple tones [possibly by use of a special purpose manufactured raised surface board - made for printing such tones] with an effect similar to that which FB created by hand.
  • p82. "Only draw and keep on drawing"[Also FB's own advice in a letter to another fan... And Frank's own experience];
  • p128. "the most significant and useful folds should be selected for inclusion in your drawing, and the rest ignored". [See Alan Davis' excellent feature on photo references Bellamy used where Davis shows photos in the artwork for Sunday Times - and Nancy bellamy with here back to the artists]
[For more on this Sunday Times article see the full article - Norman]

  • p129. ['dot stipple' effect used for a head.]
  • p130. "You might, indeed, be wise to concentrate for a time on self portraiture - drawing yourself in a mirror. [...] ...Rembrandt...dressing up and disguising himself for the purpose".

FA: "Do you find that you start living the part? When the character snarls, as you draw it, you snarl too?"

FB: "Oh, yes. In fact, some artists keep mirrors at hand and when they want to convey an expression of mood, they put on the expression, look in the mirror and copy their own face."

FA: "Which explains why so many artists often draw themselves into their work."

FB: "That's right. It's not intentional. They just draw the expression on their own face."

  • p140. "Drawing from memory. [...] You must understand the function of anything you draw. If any of its parts are movable you should see how they move and to what purpose. You must be able to make a drawing that looks as though it will work. [...] your drawing should be so self-explanatory that a craftsman might, with no other guide, construct the object represented."

This brings to mind, an FB apology to Dez for drawing a cowboy's belt buckle - on a birthday card - that Frank had, too late, realised 'wouldn't function' [Read more here - Norman]

  • p146. "The most useful photographs are those you take yourself." [Again take a look at Alan Davis' feature]

FB: "And you can only go so far with memory drawing. After that limit, you are just causing yourself a lot of hard work that's absolutely unnecessary."

  • p147. "I advised you, at the end of Chapter 1, not to use flat copies. This chapter [use of a reference file] may seem to contradict that, so it must be emphasised that references are not to be copied, or even, necessarily, adapted, but used rather as a source of information and as a stimulus to memory."

In other words, 'informational' reference would be the specific details of the appearance of some object, which it is necessary to depict accurately, but from another, or in fact any other, angle or viewpoint. As distinct from 'compositional' reference which is directly copied from source into a picture.

References which are recognisably copied freehand, traced, or even adapted, are the 'route one' short-cut in terms of time-saving methods of supplementing whatever natural ability and learning an artist may have. However, there are as many pitfalls of the 'little knowledge can be a dangerous thing' variety; hence the cautions issued about such.

  • p169. " a pen and ink drawing light and shade are built up with black lines dots. ticks and scribbles [...] Use of as smooth and white and hard a drawing surface as possible also makes for definition and contrast [...] Altering a drawing by sticking paper patches over mistakes is another dangerous habit..." [The solution to which being CS10 line board].

  • p174. "An illustration is a picture having a bearing upon the text of a book, but it must also be - and this is really more important - a pattern which decorates the page and harmonises with adjacent type. Too great a sense of depth and solidity in an illustration may well destroy rather than decorate the surface of a page. It is better to produce something which is frankly flat and decorative; a pattern of shapes..".

1948-1953. FB describes in Fantasy Advertiser his visit to the capital and interest in seeing a full-blown A1 studio, Norfolk Studios, St Brides Lane, London, resulting in being offered a job and relocating.

FA: "So you came down to London with all these big ideas about Fleet Street art studios. Did they come up to your expectations?"

FB: "Oh, yes. But they went beyond that. They frightened me to death, really. But I'm sure I learned more in six months in a London studio working with specialists than I could have in six years in an art school. I'm convinced of it."

FA: "Do you think your work might have suffered if you'd had any art training?"
FB: "Yes. I think it could have done. I'd have had a lot of my own style and technique taught out of me. I feel the training I gave myself was more use than an academic teaching, that gives you bits of everything - irrespective of what your own specialty may be."
Then he was contacted by International Artists a leading art agency and agreed to being represented for freelance work.

Things were starting to look a lot more interesting... But not just yet..!



All quotations above (except where indicated) are from the most exhaustive Bellamy interview in Fantasy Advertiser Vol.3 No.50 in which Dez Skinn and Dave Gibbons asked the questions

Frank Bellamy's Centenary


Frank Bellamy (21 May 1917- 5 July 1976)
100 years ago today on Monday 21 May 1917, one of Britain's legendary comic artists and illustrators was born.

Frank Alfred Bellamy came into the world at a very hazardous time. Woodrow Wilson and David Lloyd George were respectively, U.S. President and the UK Prime Minister. The King of the United Kingdom was George V (who two months after Bellamy was born changed the German sounding family name from House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the House of Windsor). The United States had severed relations with Germany three months earlier and joined the war on April 6 1917 with conscription starting a few days before Bellamy was born.  The First World War was in its third year with unprecedented casualties in Europe. Two months before Bellamy was born Tsar Nicholas II was overthrown when the Russian Revolution ended the Russian Empire.

The (Manchester) Guardian of the day was eight pages of solid text, editorial and text adverts. "The remains of the shells spent on Vimy Ridge" being the only photograph which appears on page 4 with three drawn adverts. The photo puzzled me as it appears to be Canadian but research on this battle told me that the main combatants were Canadians.

The Observer, for the day before (20 May 1917) is completely the opposite with a bright front page of adverts

The Times too shows a few more illustrated adverts but is also fairly solid text - especially on its front page.

The most interesting though are the Daily Mirror and the Daily Express of the 21 May.

Daily Mirror 21 May 1917
The cover tells about the fact the British and allies were not being starved of bread as a result of increased U-Boat activity; General John J. Pershing takes command of the American Expeditionary Forces; a young girl looks at medals awarded to her dead brothers; three men who moved from Privates at the start of the war to higher ranks (including Lieutenant Palmer V.C.)  and Queen Mary visited the North and receives a bouquet from a munitions factory worker.

Daily Express 21 May 1917

The Daily Express majors on "Another line hacked out of the Hindenburg Line" and tells of how the munition workers have called off their strike.

Frank Bellamy's The Story of World War 1

Mike Butterworth (10 January 1924 – 4 October 1986) and Frank Bellamy's series from Look and Learn (#437 - 462,  30 May 1970 - 21 November 1970) was called "The Story of World War 1" in which text wrapped around illustrations by Bellamy. It must have been interesting for Bellamy to do this for the younger man. He must have taken quite an interest in the years around his birthday (53 years later)

In 2009 (was it that long ago?) Geoff West and Steve Holland worked to create a reprint and asked me to write an introduction, which I did. On the day we all stood around lots of boxes containing the reprint I felt so proud! We were there to inscribe our names into the hardback copies. As it's Bellamy's centenary the story can now be told that if you open your copies now and read the limited edition number, you are looking at my wife's fair handwriting! I was nervous enough and had to sign my name and as she'd taken the journey with me to Book Palace's Crystal Palace HQ, I thought they'd look better if she did them. I've always been quite good at delegation!

To tie in with the birth of Bellamy and all the reminiscences of World War One at the moment, I thought it worth highlighting this fantastic book once again by pressing my wife to help me video a brief overview of the book - and yes, those are her hands! She's flicking through the book and skipping sections - after all we had better not show you it all! You need to buy copies!

The Limited hardback edition is now only £25 in Geoff's sale but if you don't have Robin Hood, King Arthur or this book, you could go for all three for only £39. The Story of World War 1 is the paperback version. The complete book sale is here

I started this blog ten years ago today! I launched the Checklist website 10 years ago!

I thought, as many bloggers do, I'd take a look at the statistics on the blog.

307 articles published since 21 May 2007
207,002 pages views since day 1
Top 5 Articles:
3324 pageviews Frank Bellamy and King Kong
1782 pageviews Fans of Frank: Will Brooks and Frank Bellamy
1775 pageviews Frank Bellamy - first past the post!
1419 pageviews Frank Bellamy appeared in Lion
1271 pageviews Frank Bellamy and Doctor Janet Brown
If you can explain why King Kong to me I'd be grateful as I own a copy of the 19 magazine it appears in, which could be worth liquidating for cash to add to my retirement fund!!!
The Top 5 countries that visit:
United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, France. I wonder about one of them!
29% of users use Chrome
24% IE
23% Firefox
18% Safari
1% Opera
and others
56% of users use Windows
19% use Macs
Top 5 Keywords used to get to the blog are:

  1. king kong
  2. frank bellamy
  3. king kong and woman
  4. frank bellamy garth
  5. heros the spartan
So remember to be careful what you tell your search engine people! You're revealing more than you think!

The graph below shows a big spike which I suspect is our friend Will Brooks' article
Blog pageviews from 2007-2017
and lastly, I'm grateful to everyone that links to my blog from theirs and these include in the top 5: and .com! Blogger's way are mysterious - but thanks Steve!
but there are others - thanks Kid!


I'll be doing further special centenary articles (what? you hadn't noticed the others?) over the next few months in this centenary year starting with David Jackson's offering about how Bellamy worked. Watch for that later today!

I also have some new Bellamy works to show you and this year seems the appropriate time to reveal things I've held onto until now!

And lastly I am re-vamping the Checklist website - yes, I wonder how I have the time!


Wednesday 10 May 2017

Original Art: Heros the Spartan at Heritage

Eagle 29 June 1963: Heros the Spartan by
Tom Tully (author) and Frank Bellamy

Heritage have another Heros the Spartan spread from Ethan Roberts Estate to offer! This is taken from the second Heros story called "The Eagle of the Fifth" and is the 17th episode. I'd love to know how Ethan obtained these pieces.

Here's Heritage's description:
Frank Bellamy Eagle Magazine V14#26 "Heros the Spartan" Two-Page Spread Original Art (Longacre Press, 1963). The local tribes have it in for Heros in "Heros the Spartan: Episode 17 Second Series". Frank Bellamy's clean lines and wonderful warm colors make this double-page spread a joy to behold! Hopefully Heros will be-holding on to that rope till sunrise. Crafted in ink and watercolor over graphite on a single sheet of illustration board with an image area of 25" x 15.5". Signed by Bellamy in the bottom left panel. The board is slightly toned, with corner wear and production tape in the margins. The image area is in Excellent condition. From the Ethan Roberts Estate Collection.
Photographed from the BookPalace's excellent hardback
Bear in mind my photo is of a scan/photo from a comic - admittedly tidied up by Peter Richardson but I think you can still see that the blues in the original are not as vibrant as they would have been in 1963! nevertheless a great piece of dramatic art! If this has whetted your appetite for more run, don't walk to Geoff West and friend's site


WHAT?  Heros the Spartan, in Eagle 29 June 1963 Vol 14:26
WHERE?: Heritage Sunday Internet Comics Auction #121720
LOT NO: 12022
ENDING PRICE: $3170.00 = £2346.10
No of bidders: 7
END DATE: 14 May 2017