Throughout last season and this season there are framed Morton Salt ads in most everyones offices. In the last episode an ad is shown in Peggy’s office that is illustrated by Charley Harper (I’ve been waiting to see it for nearly a year!).
Harper was an illustrator for Procter & Gamble, Ivory, Morton Salt and Ford Times magazine. You can see his lush commercial work here. In the sixties he moved to drawing minimalist nature scenes and created a style that is defined the Modernist Mid Century: sleek lines, loud colors, and the fewest amount of visual elements. He called the style ‘minimal realism’.
When asked to describe his unique visual style, Charley responded:
“When I look at a wildlife or nature subject, I don’t see the feathers in the wings, I just count the wings. I see exciting shapes, color combinations, patterns, textures, fascinating behavior and endless possibilities for making interesting pictures. I regard the picture as an ecosystem in which all the elements are interrelated, interdependent, perfectly balanced, without trimming or unutilized parts; and herein lies the lure of painting; in a world of chaos, the picture is one small rectangle in which the artist can create an ordered universe.”
• footnote - by Jim Hughes
September 7, 2009
”How much do you need — to live?,” Chuck asked.
So I said, “Well, at least ninety dollars a week (Which was ridiculous. It was just a figure that jumped into my head, it was way too low).”
Chuck said, “All right, I’ll put you on a ninety dollar a week ‘draw’.”
A ‘draw’ was a payment against income I was supposed to generate for the studio. Except I didn’t generate any income! So I’m going deeper and deeper in the hole. And Chuck never, ever said, “Where’s the money… when are you gonna pay me” … nothing like that. At all. There’s gotta be a heaven for Chuck.”
Murray Tinkleman, illustrator, on Chuck Cooper, “The Boss” of Cooper studios.
Sal lamented that over the past 10 years he watched his career get washed away.
“Every one wants photography.”
He was right, of course, by the mid sixties advertisers used photography rather than illustrations. But before that abrupt shift in the consumer landscape there was a company called Cooper Studios who revolutionized old illustration concepts through the use of perspective, dimensions, and color in their drawings.
Here is a fascinating interview with illustrator Murray Tinkleman. Murray worked in the Cooper studio bullpen in the late 50’s. He talks about what it was like to work at a cutting edge ad agency for $90 bucks a week with a pregnant wife at home.