Showing posts with label Sunday Times. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sunday Times. Show all posts

Tuesday 6 November 2018

ORIGINAL ART: Sunday Times: Inside Racing

Original artwork for "Inside Racing"
published in Sunday Times Colour Magazine 25 April 1971

I found out about this auction too late to highlight it here for people to visit, but thought it worth adding here so you can see some lovely artwork

Previously I highlighted the article as it appeared in the Sunday Times Colour Magazine together with Tim Barnes' copies of the draft work "Devious ways to win" - the original unpublished title.

Roseberys auction house is based in London SE27 and they described the work as:
Lot 268 of 495:Frank A Bellamy, FSIA SGA FRSA, British 1917-1976- Racing strip for the Sunday Times Magazine; ink and watercolour on CS 10 line board, 46.3x70.5cm, (unframed) (ARR)

They had an estimate of £60-100 + fees (30% inc VAT) so I'd guess they were pleasantly suprised that it reached £880 which I'd say was a great bargain for such a unique piece.

WHERE?: Roseberys
LOT #: 268
END DATE: 3 November 2018

Monday 4 September 2017

CENTENARY ARTICLE: Part Four: 1960s - 1970s by David Jackson

FRANK BELLAMY - design and technique
Part Four: 1960s-1970s 

By David Jackson
[Part One] [Part Two] [Part Three] [Part Four] [Part Five]

Fraser of Africa by Frank Bellamy

Through creativity and incremental improvement, over time, Frank Bellamy had originated his unique and distinctive style, from originally when he started out not having it, or knowing what it would be - the 'Frank Bellamy look' not yet then existing - to his work eventually being entirely unmistakable. As the Northampton Chronicle and Echo article "The many faces of Frank" (Thursday 23 September 2004) says: "More than any other British artist he brought a new sense of excitement to the adventure strips of the 1950s and '60s."
Eagle Vol.11 No.32, 6th August introduced the character of 'Martin Fraser' - Fraser of Africa - in the first installment of a trilogy: "Lost Safari" "The Ivory Poachers" and "The Slavers".

After drawing weekly comics pages from 1953 to 1960, culminating in several series for Eagle in full colour, Fraser of Africa represents the full expression of Frank Bellamy at the peak of his powers, free of the developmental compromises he had necessarily negotiated up to this point.

This progress would be one of consolidation and application from then on.
Original art from Eagle Vol: 12:25 24 June 1961
Every mark is exact, controlled, descriptive, explanatory and representational, there to be 'read' and convey solidity, actuality and meaning which informs and repays the attention given to it. Details are not sketchy, generalised or approximate as either pen or brush marks, nor indeterminate, let alone meaningless, tonal areas, but as careful delineation of pattern and light and shade as such detail would be if it had been photographed. In addition to which, there are drawings which are magically better than if they had been photographs - the Fraser second episode giraffes are an example (see below).

Eagle 13 August 1960 Vol.11:33 p12

FA: "You then moved on to Fraser of Africa. Had this strip been your idea, you being such a lover of Africa?"
FB: "No, I'm afraid it wasn't. The usual thing happened. Someone up at Eagle told me of the idea of an African setting for a new strip and asked if I'd like to draw it."
FB: "As well as the artwork, they offered me the script-writing job, but Clifford Makins, then assistant editor, told me it could well prove too much, to draw and write the set."
The scriptwriting was assigned to George Beardmore. "The Ivory Poachers" sequel to "Lost Safari" takes up the trilogy, concluding with "The Slavers", exactly where the first story left off and the hitherto sparing application of full colour is developed further.

FB: "With Fraser, the Eagle people were trying to do something not only entertaining, but also slightly educational - with all the wild animal life and true location. Not like in some strips, in South Africa one minute and suddenly in North Africa the next. I kept it in East Africa, with the local tribes and animals of that region."
FA: "It was on this strip that you took a gamble with sepia predominating the set, most installments being mainly shades of yellow and brown..".
FB: "That's right. As I've said, I have this thing about colour. And there was a chance to try a new approach. I thought it would be an ideal strip for a monochromatic look, particularly a sepia look, being in sun-drenched, tawny Africa. But apparently, when the printers heard, they went mad - saying they could never print it. But I was sure it would print. So, I did a series of colour experiments, using the colours I wanted and gave it to them at Bemrose to put under the camera. The results were positive."
FA: "Bemrose was the engraver..." - [The Eagle's long-term printers in Liverpool ~Norman]
FB: "Yes. So the same day I handed in a report to Marcus Morris, showing the results of my experiments, and he gave me the go-ahead. The Fraser page was reproduced as a full colour page, but, hopefully, it gave the effect of a sepia page. As the set developed, I put in the occasional full colour frame, purely for impact amongst all the sepia frames."
FB: "Fraser is an example of my feeling that there is always room for development in a strip or paper. I like to think that Fraser added a bit more variety to EAGLE."
FA: "It's more than just a matter of drawing what is required, then..."
FB: "Yes. I've never classed it as an extension of a hobby. It's not an easy life; it's a very lonely one. But I prefer to be a loner in my work. That's why I didn't like the Dan Dare set-up."
FA: "Looking at you, I see you bear a resemblance to Fraser of Africa. Is this a coincidence, or anything to do, perhaps, with your frustrated boyhood dreams of being a big game hunter?"
'[Uproar of laughter]'
FB: "Yes. Probably that's about the nearest I'll ever get to it. Actually, you can sometimes see in an artist's work little bits of his drawings that are offshoots of the artist himself. I've always been a keen fan of the 'spaghetti westerns', and I like to think that, with Fraser we were able to get a near-western look in parts."
Does this look like the gentleman below?

Is Frank Bellamy Martin Fraser?

Wide World Vol. 128 (Jan 1962) pp. 2-3
"The toughest prey" written by Douglas Lockwood
FA: "Looking back over your EAGLE work, it seems you started experimenting with a few new techniques while drawing the Churchill strip. Such as the large black and white frames in the middle of a colour page."
FB: "That's part of my thing with colour. I never like to use colour just for the sake of it. As with films, I always think the best are those produced when the director is conscious of the colour, and there's a lack of the super, high-quality Technicolor world. As an example, there's an excellent film called "The Culpepper Cattle Company" [1972]. "Every frame there is like looking through an album of Matthew Brady photographs. They filmed it using colour as it really is. A subdued look, with filthy browns and a suede look about everything."

[This is a hard film to find. Apparently it's on Netflix but hasn't been seen on UK terrestrial TV for at least a decade. I remember it as The Parallax Review says: "The Culpepper Cattle Company is a cinematic curiosity that I’m not sure has occurred before or since: a coming-of-age revisionist western. It seems like an odd combination of genres, but it’s not so surprising, especially considering the time of its making [1972]" ~Norman]

Another cinematic inspiration for the visual appearance of Martin Fraser himself is a very 'Fraser-styled' Frank Sinatra in the movie Never So Few.
As chance would have it, when The Good, the Bad and the Ugly had just been released and its theme was being constantly played on the radio, not only had I not seen the film, I had never seen Fraser of Africa in EAGLE. But what I had come across in the art college library was the Society of Industrial Artists and Designers' Designers in Britain No.6 with a small b/w reproduction of the second Fraser page (posted here last year) and back then I indelibly associated the theme music of that film with this Fraser of Africa image.

David Bellamy, in Timeview, says his father found that playing tapes of film theme music conducive to a dramatic mood.

FA: "If you could draw anything at all, be it an existing strip, a film adaptation or whatever - what would you like to have a go at?"
FB: "I'd love to draw the "Dollars" films in strip form. Not just because they were big successes, but because I love 'Spaghetti Westerns'."
 Frank recognised in these movies a 'comics look' in angles and lighting. Hence the - presumably uncommissioned and unpublished - out of his own interest, 'Dollars-style' full colour original double-page spread "Hombre" and the stylistically and thematically similar three-page b/w "Swade" which was published in Alley Sloper.

Unpublished "Hombre" strip as seen in photograph of Bellamy in his studio

FA: "Do you do any work for yourself - portraits, landscapes, sculptures..?"
FB: "Very little. I used to do quite a bit of artwork to submit to the Society of Graphic Artists, of which I am now a member. But over the last few years I've been doing less and less. Mostly the subjects have been figure work in pastels or drawings, not paintings. I've never done any oil paintings."
FA: "As well as being a member of the Society of Graphic Artists, I believe you are also a fellow of the Society of Industrial Artists. Could you tell us how you achieved that?"
FB: "Well, I sent them lots of samples of my artwork, hoping to be accepted as a member by the Society of Industrial Artists & Design council, and then, quite a few weeks later, I got two letters from them. When I opened the first one, I was very surprised and pleased to find they had accepted my work as being of a high enough standard for me to be accepted as a member. But when I opened the second one, I couldn't believe it, they'd also elected me to immediately become a Fellow of the Society.
FA: "(Editor's Note): Only Frank Bellamy and one other artist have ever been elected for immediate fellowship."

"King Solomon's Mines" art by Frank Bellamy

1962 Following the conclusion of the 'Fraser of Africa' series, FB completed three double-page original centrespreads for an adaptation of 'King Solomon's Mines' but, for whatever reason these remained unpublished. Some have speculated that the similarity of location and themes may have been an editorial consideration. At any event, the next published series also had the similarity of being full colour double-page centrespreads.

The first episode of Montgomery of Alamein written by
Clifford Makins Eagle Vol. 13:10 (10 March 1962)
Montgomery of Alamein.
This second living person picture-strip biography appeared in Eagle from Vol.13 No.10 to No.26, as a full colour double-page spread, with an additional frame occasionally on the front page. In design terms, graphic symbolism features strongly from the first episode and the closing panel comprises of the illustrated frame-word "WAR" (see above). These graphics continue to feature throughout the series and reappear in later work for Radio Times.
FA: "Occasionally, while drawing 'Churchill', you used symbolism instead of realism in your storytelling. Such as the swastika grabbing at Sicily, rather than showing a troop invasion...
FB: "I've always liked using the graphic approach instead of the ordinary comic strip way. Almost a sort of pictorial journalism. My work for the Sunday Times Magazine in particular was pictorial journalism. I used this graphic technique for the juvenile market - though many of Eagle's readers were adults - because I've never believed in drawing down to the reader. If I was drawing for a seven year old, I'd still be as conscious of what I was doing as if it was a cover for the Radio Times."
Frames in Vol.13 No.13 further develop the aerial perspective effect (black inking of foreground forms only) which first appeared in "The Happy Warrior".

Eagle 31 March 1962 Vol.13:13 pp8-9

Eagle 30 June 1962 Vol.13:26 pp.10-11
 In Edition, Barry Askew says:

BA: "With something again for the EAGLE, like Montgomery of Alamein, there's an interesting example there of the way that you use frames and shapes in different ways."
FB: "Well, there again is breaking up this 'square frame, one on top of another' and to bring out important frames. The one in the centre there was just to give a monochrome look to associate with the monochrome films of the second world war."
 The same frame also discussed in the Look East programme:
FB: "For instance, there's a job over there, for the old EAGLE, I was rather pleased with the presentation, the whole thing, it went through the editors, all the process engravers, all these various people, seeing this particular work; no-one noticed, other than the readers, when it happened, you'll notice, there's a German infantryman there, firing his rifle, there's a flash from the muzzle, but I'm afraid the bolt is up in the air instead of down. All the readers write in: 'Spot that deliberate little mistake!' - which wasn't so deliberate, it was an absolute mistake on my part. It's bound to happen every now and again."
The signed central frame in Vol.13 No.19 is singled out for special mention in the above TV interview.

Eagle 12 May 1962 Vol.13:19 pp.10-11
 I'd speculate that the reason such a 'deliberate mistake' would come about would be due to the black ink line drawing being done at an earlier time from the addition of colour washes (therefore not a continuous train of thought) with the resulting incongruity consequently not noticed.
Such an incongruous impossibility could actually occur in a photograph if entirely coincidentally a flare of light in optical close proximity to a gun barrel made it appear to fire.
It is potentially misleading information like this which is an inherent risk in a reliance on second-hand 'found' reference.

Eagle 22 September 1962 Vol.13:38
(Thanks to David Roach for scans of original art)

Only the Brave.
Vol.13 No.33 - No.38. Single page b/w half-tone wash picture strip, with an extra colour frame on the covers of 33 and 34. Documentary style dramatic reconstructions of real-life events resulting in awards of the George Medal: saving a trapped pilot; fighting-off armed bank-robbers; a lion attack; a runaway ANTAR tank-transporter; PC foils gunsmith robbery; PC who clung on to a recklessly driven car.

The reprint volumes still available from the Book Palace

Heros the Spartan.
Close on the sandaled heels of the big box-office Spartacus in the cinemas, 'Heros' stepped onto the cinemascopic full colour centrespread of Eagle.
FA: "In October, 1962, you started on what must be your best remembered and most acclaimed strip, the two-page colour centrespread for EAGLE...Heros the Spartan."
FB: "The EAGLE people phoned to offer me the set, telling me that Heros would be about the swashbuckling adventures of someone who would be a cross between a Roman warrior and an ancient Greek soldier . I had the first script, by Tom Tully, a few days later."
FA: "Could you tell us more about how you started on a Heros instalment, right from receiving the script?"
FB: "My usual method would be that I'd read the script through, imagining the words in pictures and noting down 'L', 'M' and 'S' - large, medium and small - by the writer's frame descriptions. That is, as I've said, I would ignore the writer's remarks about close-ups and long shots. Then I can see which are the important frames and which are the fill-ins. There would always be one very large frame that would sum up the whole spread, so I'd put a large cross by that one. Then I'd work out a thumbnail layout. Generally, I'd set it out in banks of three or four frames across. From there it would soon build up around the one or two main frames. Then I'd go straight on to the board, never making roughs."
FA: "One thing I've wondered about, looking at your Heros spreads. When you were composing them, did you ever find the big event of the instalment would fall in an awkward part of the composition - at the bottom corner, or edge, instead of fairly central?"
FB: "That could happen. Sometimes I could juggle with the frames a bit, but I was always aware of the composition. I always want the frame at the top left to be compensated by the frame at the bottom right, to balance the whole spread. But that took an awful lot of working out."
FA: "When you'd worked out the frame layout for a Heros spread, would you ink in your frame borders on the drawing board and then fill them in?"
FB: "Oh, no. I'd never draw the borders first. I'd probably draw them halfway through the job. You see, sometimes I find a frame can be more effective without a border, vignette shape, and that doesn't happen when you're doing things in pencil."
FB: "One other thing is that when you're actually putting it down on board, a complication comes in - where to put the speech balloons. This is top priority. So, when I've established the rough shape that I want, in the context of the composition of the whole spread, I might discover that the balloons might take up an enormous amount of space. And this would alter the whole composition. So the balloons are the first things which have to be pencilled in with any degree of certainty."
FA: "How many hours of the week, on average, do you think it took to draw a spread?"
FB: "It would easily take me a five day week. Sometimes six or seven days. Being fantasy, I didn't have to do all the research I'd needed for sets like "Churchill", but some frames took much longer to draw than others. One extreme example of this was a week when I had a big frame which covered almost the entire spread, surrounded by smaller frames - that particular page was on display, by the way, at the American Academy of Comic Book Arts."

This particular Heros (Vol.14 No.14; 6 April 1963) exhibited in the 1970s at the American Academy of Comic Book Arts helped win FB the AACBA 'Best Foreign Artist' (as seen from America).
EAGLE editor, Bob (L R T) Bartholomew, wrote to FB, 6th March 1963: "I have just seen your last Heros and felt I had to write to say the battle scene was the finest thing I have ever seen in juvenile publications." and Bellamy himself said "I must admit, I thoroughly enjoyed drawing Heros, and if I got the chance, I'd drop everything and start drawing Heros tomorrow." 

Eagle 6 April 1963 Vol.14:14

A technology development of particular interest to the illustrator was featured in Eagle Vol.15 No.14 (4th April 1964) - the back page is a full page cutaway of the Polaroid Land camera, which FB will have seen no doubt, even if he did not know of Polaroid before.

Following a b/w drawing illustrating a WWII text story in Boys' World (Vol.No.9, 23 March 1963), FB took over a science-fiction strip series (previously drawn by Frank Langford under the pseudonym "C F Eidlestein")."Brett Million - The Ghost World"  began 7th December 1963 in full colour on the back page of Vol.1 No.46, and ran until 25th April 1964, Vol.2 No.17, in Boys' World published by Odhams Press. The publication had undergone a change from a magazine look format to a decidedly more 'Eagle-looking' comic. As science fiction, stylistically, it seems like a way-station between Dan Dare and a job application for TV21.

Boy's World 11 January 1964
[Brett Million and ] The Ghost World
TV21's Alan Fennell had phoned, resulting in a guided tour of the Slough production studios for Frank and Nancy Bellamy with Gerry Anderson himself - as Nancy retold to Jon Johnson in a series for Eagle Times in the mid 1990s (part 15).

Dennis Hooper, art editor of TV21 says (in Strips '78 booklet): "Heros must rate highly ... but this strip ignored two of Frank's greatest gifts. His conception of geometric form and his vision of the future."
FA: "Heros was the last strip you drew for EAGLE before moving over to Century 21 publications, wasn't it?"
FB: "Yes. Alan Fennell, the writer of the TV Stingray, Thunderbirds and so on, was the first editor of TV21. He approached me saying he was wanting to start a comic of the same quality as EAGLE, but with the Century 21 look about it, more s-f orientated."
FA: "Did you find it a problem strip - having to draw puppets in an action-packed set?"
FB: "Yes, it was a problem. Everybody had seen them on the television, and so they would think of the characters as 18" high puppets, which they were. So I had to decide whether to make them look like the puppets they were, or the people they were supposed to be. I went for forgetting they were puppets, other than simplifying the heads, which had to be recognisable from the established versions on the television."

From a later TV21, July 29 2067 #132 - original art

Thunderbirds began in TV21 spectacularly as a full colour double-page centrespread with a third page in b/w monochrome wash half-tone featuring inspired and innovative technical design invention on a weekly basis.

FA: "When you were drawing Thunderbirds, it started out as a colour centrespread, but soon changed to two separate colour pages, but still in the centre of the comic. Do you have any idea why?"
FB: "Yes. The reason they split the spread with a gutter was purely that they could sell two separate pages to the continental market, for reprinting, better than an awkwardly-shaped centrespread."
The odds and scraps salvaged from Frank's studio (see Alan Davis' website) included some 'work-in-progress' photos, one of which being of the submarine rescue from Thunderbirds in TV21 # 241, second page. The photo isn't of sufficiently high-definition to appreciate the art for its own sake but is informative in terms of the order in which the sequence of frames was completed. Which is to say, not in any order which might have been guessed at or expected. The idea that an entire page or spread would have been drawn in pencil, then inked - first linework, then areas of black ink filled in - is confounded here, with completed frames and a partly inked frame and faintly pencilled frames, effectively not drawn at all, all on the same page at the same moment in time. The technique of ruling thick borders around certain frames was not done with any special ruling pen just outlined with 'Gillotts 1950' nibs (or by masking with Sellotape cut with a razor blade) and then filled-in.

Mechanical design innovations not only involved puzzling out the narrative and visual elements into a coherent whole, but also the technical aspects of the various craft which were a feature of the series. These could be existing vehicles from the show or 'one-off use' inventions required to look convincingly functional in order to fulfil a particular role.

FB's own interests were 'historical' over 'futuristic' (despite being able to depict it so convincingly).

He could draw the inside of a top secret space-station like it would be - totally convincing - but, according to his son David, Frank wasn't a mechanically-minded person in terms of being able, for instance, to fix his car..!

FB had sometimes bought construction kits to see how they worked (rather than complete making the model).

Derek Meddings, special effects director and conceptual artist and designer of the Thunderbirds craft, etc says in S.I.G. No.11, 1984: "Thunderbird 2 ... I think that's my favourite, I think it's every artist's favourite, like Frank Bellamy. It was his favourite, he used to draw that thing and he'd really make it look great."

In tandem with Thunderbirds, Frank Bellamy also produced a selection of TV21 front covers of the Captain Scarlet strip and also a colour half page depiction of an astronaut in an advert for Letraset.

Advert that appeared in many comics during late 1969
Once, somehow or other - who knows how - Frank got time off..! Finding himself, at last, on the continent of Africa with his Leica camera he photographed his desert-booted foot on African soil.
FA: "I noticed that for a few weeks another artist was drawing some of the frames in THUNDERBIRDS...
FB: "Ah, that was for me to get a holiday. This is the type of job that doesn't give you much time for holidays."
FA: "In fact you have to do twice your normal output one week to have a holiday the next."
FB: "Precisely. At one time, I worked for five years without a holiday."
FA: "Do you try to work a normal seven or eight hour day, starting at nine and finishing at five?"
FB: "No. I have great discipline about the production of my work but I don't start at a given time and I never hear a whistle blow at five and drop the pen. I've never damaged a nib on that account. I work anytime."
FA: "Is there any particular time of day that you prefer to work?"
FB: "No, not really."
Despite which, in his commentary for Timeview, David Bellamy says that frequently working late meant getting up late in the morning and leaving the evening as his favourite time for working, when, as David once said, the phone didn't ring.
FA: "For the John Steed / Diana Rigg Avengers TV series, I believe you did some artwork for one episode..?"
FB: "Yes, it was at the time when I was working for TV21. The episode was called The Winged Avenger and was one of those bolt-out-of-the-blue jobs. I went to see the ITV people and they explained that the story was about a strip cartoonist, and they asked me to do the artwork for it. I also designed the costume for the Winged Avenger and the artist's studio."
FB: "...But I thoroughly enjoyed my part in it all. One difficult job I set myself was because I suggested they used the technique of holding on close to one of my drawings of the Winged Avenger and then dissolve into live action with the cartoonist in costume. But it was a terrible job to do, because they had to shoot the live action first and then I'd to draw exactly what was happening."
David Bellamy mentioned he possessed thirty Polaroids of the Winged Avenger artwork, in a conversation and he believed only one illustration subsequently remained as original artwork, as at the time, he owned it. (see below) [See all the art used in that episode here ~Norman]

Elma Peem = "Emma Peel". This does not appear in the final cut of
The Avengers episode "The Winged Avenger"

FA: "You also did some work for the Daily Mirror, before you started Garth, I believe?"
FB: Yes. The first job I did for them was a centrespread at the time of, and about, the first moon landing."
The salvaged studio photos of a model lunar lander [see Alan Davis' site], in themselves, have none of the dynamic and nuanced special qualities of the finished drawings, and, whatever visual references of NASA astronauts were provided for this task, again by some inspired means FB brilliantly envisioned and realized what was not there in the reference pictures, and rendered the spacesuits in action on the moon infinitely better than they ever actually looked in real life!

Daily Mirror 11 July 1969 pp14-15
When Anglia TV's Chris Young interviewed him, Frank said:
FB: "This one is pre-the first moon landing. I must tell you it's the first strip I've ever done minus balloons. It would have been lovely to say 'We made it' but it is the first time drawing a strip minus balloons, and in this case for real, because after drawing for years science fiction, seemed funny to draw it actually happening."
CY: "But that was done before the moon landing?"
FB: "Before the actual moon landing."
CY: "And were you fairly accurate?"
FB: "All the way through, I understand."
CY: "It all came true...ha ha!"
Daily Mirror 11 July 1969 p13
His Apollo 11 moon landing work for the Daily Mirror had, uniquely, no stars in it whatsoever - though drawn before it was established by the actual landing that no stars could be seen from the daylight surface of the moon - I can recall the media prior-speculation as to whether or not stars would in fact be seen - despite the 'ink black' daylight sky there.

Frank would create really black areas of black in all his original art even it meant going over it half a dozen times.

Included among the pieces of studio scraps rescued by Alan Davis was a first attempt version of the lunar lander, abandoned midway, for some reason and left incomplete despite all the work that had already been put into it. As visualized by FB, the blast-off of the LM Ascent Stage, the scene is remarkably prescient as to what it turned out to be in reality when the return launch of a later mission was filmed by the automated camera left on the lunar rover.
FA: "I remember you also did a political cartoon for the Mirror...
FB: "That's right, with a long crocodile. I also did one which they rejected, as being too cutting. It's St George and the Dragon, with George McGovern and Richard Nixon. They accepted a re-drawn version of that one."
Daily Mirror 3 July 1972 - Nixon and McGovern
In the late 60s and early 70s, Frank Bellamy began to be commissioned for what at the time might have seemed improbable prospects for comicbook style illustration. It would seem though, that some commissioning editors and art directors had strong memories of being, only a decade or so earlier, comics readers and were still Bellamy fans!

Northampton Chronicle & Echo later quoted Nancy Bellamy: "Frank had so much natural talent and he was a complete perfectionist," she said. "I'm glad so many people still seem interested in his work after all these years – he deserved it."

Frank said in his interview with Look East:

FB: "From the children's comics... into pictorial journalism for The Sunday Times... I mean, I get a telephone call, asking me to draw a cover and three pages in The Sunday Times colour magazine - strip cartoon format..! So I immediately pick myself up, brush myself down... and get on with it. But that approach, and the actual hardware of the job itself is exactly the same as years ago when I was drawing for EAGLE. From The Sunday Times into the Radio Times - "Doctor Who", there's an example, exactly the same, the comic strip format, showing "Doctor Who" for the cover of Radio Times - ten or fifteen years ago, it'd been unheard of."
Sunday Times Magazine 5 October 1969
Artist posed by David Bellamy
 The Sunday Times Magazine commissioned a series of comic strip art pictorial journalism features: A young artist "Weary Pilgrimage of Fred Blenkinsop" (5 Oct 69); Playwright's progress (16 Nov 69); Last of the Great Inventions (23 Aug 70; Call the heart squad (13 Sep 70); Jam Today - Supertrafficman! picture strip (11 Oct 1970); A Discreditable Exercise about credit checking (6 Dec 70); Inside Racing (25 Apr 71).

FA: "For those who haven't seen any of your Sunday Times work, could you give a run-down on the type of subjects covered?"
FB: "Well, some were about things like the problems of putting on a play at the Royal Court Theatre, heart attacks, the struggling artist, the traffic problem at Charing Cross Road and Centrepoint and so on."

The Sunday Times Magazine front cover posed by Frank's son David as an aspiring artist sitting with his portfolio on a train with a pop art montage above. He also posed talking to Frank and with Nancy in the interior panels.

Some of the reference shots used for some Sunday Times pieces, salvaged by Alan Davis and now on his website, cast light upon the process of creating this artwork.

It is interesting the extent to which this finished art only superficially derives from the source references.

Another piece of artwork rescued from Frank's studio is the part-completed first attempt at the inside horse racing spread, originally titled "Devious Ways to Win". For whatever reason, the published version is entirely unlike the abandoned piece - even the frames illustrating the tactics are completely dissimilar to the original version of same frame. Surprisingly the effort invested by FB in originally creating the frames, including those brought almost to completion, was not saved and recycled (it might be expected that an artist would trace-off such an image and re-use the work). Even a frame which is most closely similar to the previous version is not exactly the same. Rather, they have been, apparently effortlessly or as easily, totally re-imagined and redrawn!

NEXT: The 1970s!

Monday 21 November 2016

Fine Art vs COMIC ART

GUEST POST from my good friend David Jackson

"Tiger face" by Frank Bellamy

A previous post, "Frank Bellamy at Kettering Exhibition ended", includes a photograph of a word-balloon wall plaque inscribed 'Fine Art vs COMIC Art' and Norman's comment: "I enjoyed seeing the placement of oil paintings from the Alfred East collection alongside some comic covers, raising the perennial question of what is 'fine art'."

'Fine Art vs Comic Art'.  Result: it's a draw..!

Comics might have had the last laugh, in some cases all the way to the bank, or to a respectable art gallery, which can hold an exhibition of comics art without it being thought funny. But, within living memory, looking back over the not that distant past a very different picture emerges. At one time, Roy Lichtenstein notwithstanding [See David Barsalou's excellent site - Norman], it would be the exception for an art critic to express any appreciation for comics or illustration. It wasn't until I became aware of comics fandom that I even knew I wasn't in a minority of one.

Home Notes (27th July 1951)
"Impatient heart" by Judith Blaney - illustrated by FB

An arts programme piqued my interest a few years ago when commercial art of all types, even the printed versions, was finally, officially, brought in from the cold, as it were, and taken note of as a substantial sub-category of Art: 'Ephemera' - work which by definition is produced with no intention of being kept for posterity. Ephemera would also include highly regarded works from another age such as the Japanese woodblock prints of Hokusai and other masters which were originally sold as transient decorative pieces subject to fashion.

The Society of Strip Illustration was founded with the improvement of the standing of the profession as one of its objectives.The SSI Newsletter of May 1985 includes a quote sent in by me of Milton Schulman, then drama critic of The Standard, in conversation on Radio 4's 'Stop the Week':

"You've got an elitist approach to the art form.  You are basically saying there are certain things like the printed page which give people a more emotional and cultural thrill and impact than other things.  You start off with books and go to poetry, then you go to painting, then you go to opera and to ballet - descending, I'm saying - theatre ... telly ... comic strips". 

Just so we know where we stand...

Neal Adams himself has related how, when he was trying to break into the business, the comic book company men tried to 'save' him by not giving him a job - they wanted him not to waste his talent and to go into something more respectable..!

A young Barry Smith in turn found himself on the receiving end of unappreciative art advice - which he related in an interview but quoted here from memory - a life drawing class tutor noticed that Smith had added a helmet and spear, or suchlike, from his own imagination, and declared that it wasn't drawing, 'it's make-believe!'

Frank Bellamy's figure studies drawn from life models naturally seem, by definition, to belong in the category of fine art.
"Life Study" by Frank Bellamy

The 'set-up' scene, from imagination, reference or arranged props and models, particularly for decorative purposes, however, seems to be made into a contentious issue by not being a record of real life experience as it occurs, viewed directly and rendered on the spot.

In marked contrast, the depiction of imagined scenes never detracted from art establishment approval of favoured historical works of fine art.  There is a similar contradiction in the fine art establishment criticism which makes itself evident in dismissing the work of artists which is viewed as populist. David Shepherd, whose 'Wise Old Elephant' was an unexpected best-selling print on sale in Boots the Chemist, has had to contend with this. Jack Vettriano likewise and more so.  He was even criticised for the fact that his figures for 'The Singing Butler' were derived from the 'Illustrator's Figure Reference Manual'.  A volume also on other bookshelves (mine included) all this entire time without it ever occurring to anyone else to paint 'The Singing Butler' from it - had not Vettriano done so. Critics seem to have taken issue with his stylistic associations with early 20th century film noir posters and pulp covers.  Criticism seems to be that Vettriano's art 'is not contemporary art'.  How could it not be 'contemporary'?  He is painting it now!

Frank Bellamy would no doubt have seen the wry irony of Vettriano's great success and fortune, given Frank's stated lack of sympathy for this type of subject.

Fantasy Advertiser Vol.3 No.50 says:

FB:  I had a commission to do two love story illustrations for Home Notes, a women's magazine.  [...]  I was never cut out to do love strips for the IPC girls' paper.  I'd have a go, but I prefer something with a bit of meat and guts."

In Speakeasy #100 Nancy Bellamy said the same:

"When he first decided to go freelance after we moved down to London in 1949, or even before, he used to draw for Home Notes, and he hated those sort of girlie illustrations, static things which he hated drawing.  It wasn't his cup of tea at all, but he did them for the money.  He wanted to draw something with a bit of guts to it."

Frank Bellamy expressed a personal appreciation for the illustrator Norman Rockwell, and it is easy to see why. In contrast to the left-handed compliment by some fine art aficionado in response to viewing a Rockwell enthusiast's collection: "He sure is a hard worker."

FB collector Bob Monkhouse once gave a talk to a comic convention (engagingly as his real self rather than in his self-acknowledged 'TV persona') and described the reception of comic art by the UK general public as "Pearls before swine!"

This was the era in which Frank Bellamy worked.

But it was changing, even then, and Frank himself was at the forefront in changing it.

Sunday Times Magazine 5 October 1969
Artist posed by David Bellamy

To quote Frank Bellamy in Fantasy Advertiser (FA)   [compiled in this post from various sections of the interview]:

FB: This kind of work has been under-rated for many years.  Throwaway artwork to be looked at and immediately discarded.  This is a viewpoint I strongly disagree with.

FB:  I've always had a great regard for professionalism.  One of the best things that was ever said to me was when I was called a "professional's professional".  And this just underlines what I mean.  I'm a great believer in doing a professional job.

FA:  Surely, people are beginning to see that comic strips can do more than amuse, as can be seen from any of your strips in the Sunday Times Magazine...

FB:  Well, there were no adverse reactions to them ... no-one was turning round and saying, "Good God, what's this...comics strips in the Sunday Times Magazine?"

FB:  I've always liked using the the graphic approach instead of the ordinary comic strip way.  Almost a sort of pictorial journalism.  My work for the Sunday Times Magazine in particular was pictorial journalism.  I used this graphic technique for the juvenile market - though many of Eagle's readers were adults - because I've never believed in drawing down to the reader.  If I was drawing for a seven year old, I'd still be as conscious of what I was doing as if it was a cover for the Radio Times.
Radio Times 29 May 1971

In his BBC 'Edition' interview 30th November 1973 FB says:

"I wanted to bring out the page as a complete page, a spread as a complete spread, to make it a unit in its own right."

A discrete coherent original work of art.

The comic art form has always had more serious appreciation in France where it is acknowledged as "the ninth art". The graphic novel format in Japan found a wide general readership.

The experience of Frank's contemporary, Don Lawrence, contrasted working relatively unappreciated for comparatively unrewarding one-off final payments in this country, as compared with the creative rights, collected volumes of his work, an appreciative audience abroad, and the 2003 award of the Netherlands Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau.

Possibly the indifference experienced here in Britain was related to the focus on primarily literary English, as opposed to the visual arts heritage; Shakespeare particularly.  Which is a bit of an oddity in itself, given that comic art - the graphic novel - is more of a 'theatrical play' on a page than a novel in type, as such, is.

'But is it art?'

"What is 'fine art'?" was the question, and it has a straightforward answer, which is: "'art for art's sake' rather than for commercial or functional use".  Self-expression.

Which would exclude Michelangelo to name but one.  The Sistine Chapel ceiling can be categorised as commercial illustration, albeit on a grand scale.  As someone once observed, the old masters and their vast commercially orientated studios would have all laughed themselves sick at the very idea of 'art for art's sake'.  As someone else [that's 10cc David - Norman] has put it: "Art for art's sake, money for God's sake."

It's arguable that it isn't a question of what art 'is'.

It's more a question of: 'do I want to look at it?'

The issue of what actually 'is' art was once illustrated by the following comparison.  A pile of bricks in a gallery is art and a pile of bricks in the gutter is just a pile of bricks but a Rembrandt which is lying in the gutter is still a work of art.

Oddly enough, and it is odd, the art world, claims its raison d'etre is being able to 'see past' the pile of bricks - or found objects, abstract colour, dribbles of paint, or whatever (or the material of which any work might be composed) - to perceive the genius of and in art itself.

And yet...

The fine art world for so long remained essentially unable to see past the fact of an original piece of comic art being commercially produced for a mass market juvenile readership.

It is a question of being able to see something which, literally uniquely, only one individual, was not only capable of producing, but it is something which we might have assumed to be beyond anything which any human being was capable of producing.

If the development over time of the unique Frank Bellamy 'look' came as a revelation to his fans it can only be imagined how much more so it came to Frank Bellamy.  His self-appointed task and motivation might well be imagined as answering the question: 'just how good can this be?'

It is self-expression at the service of professional purposes.

In the postscript to 'One Hundred Views of Mount Fuji', Hokusai writes:

"From the age of six, I had a passion for copying the form of things and since the age of fifty I have published many drawings, yet of all I drew by my seventieth year there is nothing worth taking in to account. At seventy-three years I partly understood the structure of animals, birds, insects and fishes, and the life of grasses and plants. And so, at eighty-six I shall progress further; at ninety I shall even further penetrate their secret meaning, and by one hundred I shall perhaps truly have reached the level of the marvellous and divine. When I am one hundred and ten, each dot, each line will possess a life of its own."  - "Gakyō Rōjin Manji" (The Old Man Mad About Art).

To borrow another unrelated quote from the web:

"There are two kinds of geniuses: the ‘ordinary’ and the ‘magicians’. An ordinary genius is a fellow whom you and I would be just as good as, if we were only many times better. There is no mystery as to how his mind works. Once we understand what they’ve done, we feel certain that we, too, could have done it.  It is different with the magicians..."

The 1989 Speakeasy #104 Frank Humphris interview by Alan Woolcombe asked what he thought of the other Eagle artists' work, and he said of Frank Bellamy:

"His draughtsmanship was absolutely fantastic, far beyond the usual standard for cartoons and comics - in fact the word comic doesn't really apply."  

Eagle 13 Aug 1960 Vol.11:33 p.12

The above "Fraser of Africa" strip was reproduced in black & white in the Society of Industrial Artists and Designers Designers in Britain No.6. Many thanks David for such a much better expressed article than I could have done!  David suggested some illustrations to accompany the article. I've added one or two he may not have seen before as a thank you and also I thought I'd add to the debate by showing you the following.

Tim Barnes sent me this a long time ago. Now why is this fine art and the following an illustration to a story?

"A question of honour" by Henry Casson
from Boy'sWorld Annual 1965 pp116-117

Tuesday 28 July 2015

Frank Bellamy, Frank Norman and Insideout

In two previous posts we looked at some of Frank Bellamy's Sunday Times Colour Magazine work on horse racing and the nuclear bomb. Today I want to look at the issue dated 16th November 1969. The title of the double page spread is "Playwright's Progress" by Frank Norman. The contents page titles it "Playwright's Progress: three frustrating years in the life of a play and the man trying to get it produced". Bellamy referred to it as his "Royal Court" piece in the Dez Skinn/ Dave Gibbon interview.

The issue's cover features Carol Lynley, actress, posing for the feature "Playground of the stars: Malibu Beach", the colour magazine using its colour features well!

Cover showing Carol Lynley
We want to concentrate on Frank Norman's article which begins with the two page spread by Frank Bellamy. I thought the contracts must have been photographed and inserted into blank spaces left by the artist, but the original art - I've seen a scan of it - has all the letters and contracts on it! This piece features portraits of various theatre creative people such as Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Peter Hall, Lindsay Anderson, William Gaskill, John Boulton and Joan Littlewood. Can you spot any others such as the woman with Anderson or Tynan's dinner guests? And are we supposed to see Anderson directing Norman to "build up the part of the assistant governor"? This is odd as Ken Campbell directed the play and portraits of him online don't match in my opinion and it looks more like Anderson (whose credits do not include Insideout) but who was at the Royal Court at that time.

Sunday Times 16 November 1969 pp54-55
John Frank Norman - to give him his full name - had a biography on the now expired website The Goldonian which included his Dr. Barnardo's record, which I have edited down here:

JOHN FRANK NORMAN. (Illegitimate) Admitted 24.3.I937.
BORN: 9.6.I930 at I55 Whiteladies Road, Bristol.
BAPTIZED: C.of E. No particulars. Mother C.of E.
LAST SIX MONTHS ADDRESS: c/o Mrs A. Prittlewell, Southend-on-Sea.
LAST SCHOOL ATTENDED: Barnes Private School, Church Road, Barnes.


When our officer called, the conditions in applicants home were not at all good, and it was reported that John should not be allowed to remain there a day longer than necessary. John is a weak-looking child, and mentally backward, but he has never had a chance, being pushed about from pillar to post. At school he was said to be quite docile and friendly. The putative father should be persuaded to contribute regularly towards John's maintenance.

Sunday Times 16 November 1969 p.54
The biography on the defunct site has been adapted in the Wikipedia page. In 1957 aged 27 Frank Norman had started writing what was to become one of his best known books Bang to Rights. Within a year of his release from prison (the topic of his autobiographical work), he was published in Encounter magazine  - a 10,000 word extract from his prison memoir. Championed at first by the editor of the magazine Stephen Spender, and subsequently by Raymond Chandler who wrote the foreword to Bang to Rights, The book took two years to write and be published. Frank Norman is perhaps more famous for his work with Lionel Bart creating the musical "Fings Ain't wot they used t'be". Peter Roberts, writing about the musical for "Plays and Players" magazine (March 1960) states:

There is no glossary of terms used by Mr. Norman's low-life characters, which I would have thought indispensable to all except those who have either recently returned from one of Her Majesty's prisons or who have just read an account of the life lead therein in one of Mr. Norman's two books advertised in the same programme

Insideout which is the play written about in this Sunday Times article, is a prison play about Tommie White on his first term in prison and how prison does little to change his ways when he is later released. Norman felt strongly about the topic of prison, writing a letter to the Times about overcrowding (Frank Norman. "Overcrowded Prisons." Times [London, England] 9 Dec. 1969). On Saturday 20 December 1969 the last advert appears stating the play, Insideout directed by Ken Campbell is running for its last week.

Sunday Times 16 November 1969 p.54 - Contract

Sunday Times 16 November 1969 p.55
The original Sloane Square playhouse the "Royal Court Theatre" stood on the opposite side of the square to the current one. The original was flattened in a road widening scheme. The new theatre staged ten of George Bernard Shaw's plays between 1904 and 1907 and became a cinema in 1932 and remained derelict after the bombings of the Second World War until 1952. Under the artistic director George Devine, the company produced controversial new plays from John Osborne ("Look back in anger" is behind Bill Gaskill in Bellamy's illustration on page 55!), and Arnold Wesker.

Sunday Times 16 November 1969 p.55 - Peter Hall rejection letter
Frank Norman states at the end of his piece, "Insideout opens on November 26 and runs for four weeks" and as an interesting addition, Bellamy was obviously not shown the poster that would be used as he invents his own form of lettering as the poster in the last panel. If you want to read the complete text of the play, it apparently appears in full in "Plays and Players" magazine February 1970. I wonder if Bellamy got to see the play? He was paid £175 for his work so could easily afford a ticket! And I also wonder whether anyone sued - although I did search I couldn't find any evidence!

Friday 8 March 2013

Frank Bellamy tribute art in comics

Not wishing to turn this blog into an advert for Richard Farrell (who does Andersonic) but he inspired me to dig out some pictures from my collection to see what his article on Bellamy was about. I warned you all to buy it when his new fanzine came out, but it's obviously a collector's item due to #1 and #2 being sold out already!. It's called  Plaything of Sutekh and had an article called "Frank's Who: Bellamy's influence on the art of the Doctor" by Richard Farrell (Issue #1 April 2012, pp 24-27)

Issue 1 Art by Richard Farrell

Richard's idea is that he has seen Bellamy's influence in several places and being the detective I am, (well, librarian actually!) I decided to hunt them down- quite easy when Richard gives the references!

"If you're a real geek you'll notice that [Bellamy's] drawing of Pletrac for 'Carnival of Monsters' is based on a rehearsal shot of Peter Halliday in his braces"

Radio Times 3 Feb1973 - 9 Feb1973, p.13
I'm not enough of a geek/detective to ask how he knows that! His references to Gerry Haylock are interesting and I can access the art so here you go...

Countdown #5
Farrell sees Bellamy's art from his Sunday Times piece "Last great invention" (see my blog entry on this) particularly the last panel second from the bottom row

Here's the Bellamy to compare:

Yes, I agree, with the orange colour it's obviously a 'tribute'. Richard also mentions the launching of the Polaris missiles in Countdown issue# 52

Countdown #51
and again the Bellamy:

I can see the inspiration too. It's a shame Gerry's artwork hasn't been collected or at least a website created dedicated to his work. Anyone up for the challenge? His work appears in Hulton Press' Eagle, Girl, Look and Learn, World of Wonder and Schoolgirls Picture Library amongst many others.

Richard then goes on to mention Brian Lewis and his Thunderbird strip in TV Century 21 Thunderbirds Extra (1966).

TV21 #52

TV21 #55

TV21 #53
TV Century 21 Thunderbirds Extra (1966) Page 6

TV Century 21 Thunderbirds Extra (1966) Page7
I had never noticed this before and as Steve Holland recently said to me regarding this 're-use' or tribute to another's artwork, if you're asked for an item, you'd immediately look at what had been done and use that. In this case I think Lewis would have easy access to Bellamy's accurate drawings and use them instead of photos or models etc.

I have posted a few similar comparisons on my Frank Bellamy FaceBook page. I use this infrequently to put smaller stories, thoughts, links, but many thanks to Richard for writing an article that inspired me to do a longer piece - oh! and he mentions several other inspired artists such as Chris Achilleos. Hope you enjoy the art of these brilliant UK artists! Any other examples gratefully received. Email me: