Vebell was interested in art from a very early age and he attended the Harrison Art School at the age of 14 where he excelled at life drawings. When he graduated from high school, Vebell won three art scholarships and he attended all three schools -- moving from each throughout the day. He launched his professional illustration career in a busy Chicago agency and then enlisted in World War II. It was not long after this that he was recruited to create images for the Stars and Stripes, a military publication that had also featured Norman Rockwell's drawings during World War I. In 1945, he participated in the Nuremberg War Crimes Trial as a courtroom artists, capturing the likenesses of Goering, Hess, Speer, and Ribbentrop (now in the collections of the Museum of the Holocaust in Washington, D.C.). He created paintings and drawings for mass circulation magazines like Readers Digest, Time, Sports Illustrated, and Sports Afield (Norman Rockwell Museum 2010).
Vebell has noted that working on the Stars and Stripes changed his life because of the fact he was able to document different cultures. Through his travels, he learned to speak French, Italian, and Arabic. He stayed in Europe until 1947. Everyone else was leaving, but Vebell wanted to stay (Westport News 2010).
Vebell managed to stay busy illustrating throughout the years. One of his most popular illustrations was for the Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Series. The covers of these have attained a sort of cult status among collectors from around the world. While Vebell has created for literally hundreds of different publications, he was transformed through his experience as a war artist (Westport News 2010).
The Secret of Phantom Lake. Ed Vebell. 1984.
1960 -- 1970's Art
Mort Kunstler (1931 - )
Kunstler is widely regarded as the leading history painter today. His works show a heightened reality that brings fidelity to his subjects and conveys the rich narrative of American history (Perrell 2006). Kunstler grew up during the Depression and World War II, a time when people had to remain positive no matter what. Kunstler was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1931, during this era where becoming an artist was not considered a very attract prospect (2006). However, Kunstler was considered a child prodigy and his parents could not help but see his talent. At the early age of two-and-a-half years, his father, an amateur artist himself, encouraged his son by setting up still lifes for him at home (2006). His mother enrolled him in Saturday classes at the Brooklyn Museum. Kunstler studied at Brooklyn College, then UCLA (on a basketball scholarship, and then at Pratt Institute where he got he first commission -- illustrating a book on football (2006).
In the early 1950s, Kunstler became an apprentice at an illustration studio; he did all sorts of menial tasks there, however, he was able to learn the ropes and he worked on his art at night, building up a pretty strong portfolio for his future. Kunstler sold many works during the next five years and worked as an illustrator for books covers and for magazines (Perrell 2006).
During the early 1960s, the field of illustration was changing significantly because photography was taking over drawn and painted images (Perrell 2006). However, Kunstler was still able to find work as an illustrator and, specifically, he forged a relationship with National Geographic, collaborating with experts who would guide him by giving him "the historic facts and visual samples needed to build an accurate image" (2006). By the time 1970 arrived, Kunstler was doing covers for Newsweek and other publications. However, most of his work came from advertising. "He became one of the star artists in what would be regarded as the 'golden age of movie poster'" (2006). Kunstler's greatest status came from his paintings of the Civil War.
"Candlelight and Roses." Mort Kunstler. 1998.
"General John Buford." Mort Kunstler. 1992.
1970 -- 1980's Art
Wilson McLean (1937 - )
McLean, born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1937, and raised in a working class neighborhood in London, arrived in New York City in 1966. He was already 28-years-old and was married with two children. His goal was to create illustrations for the many American magazines that he admired in England. This was almost a perfect time for McLean to arrive, as illustration was still in wide use and commercial images had a real social impact (Arisman 2010). There were an abundance of art directors at magazines who were looking for talented and skilled painters and draftsmen.
His drawing talent was apparent from a very young age. He didn't draw from life, but rather, he spent his time copying illustrated black and white drawings of cowboys and fighter pilots from the Boys Own Adventure annuals as well as from other illustrated books (Arisman 2010). He would draw the images over and over again. He was offered a scholarship at the age of 15 to attend a professional art school. However, after his father was seriously injured in a car crash, McLean was forced to drop out of school, as his father was not able to hold a fulltime job. His headmaster begged him to stay, but McLean knew the reality of the financial situation at home, and so he left school so that he could get a job and help the family. He began work in a factory, but kept drawing on the weekends (2010).
McLean had to do mandatory military service when he turned 18 and he was sent to Yemen. He was there for two years, drawing the entire time to keep sane -- not for pleasure (Arisman 2010). When he returned home, he went back to work as a messenger but started art classes at Chelsea St. Martins and the Central Art School. These were not illustration classes, but rather life drawings and paintings. His first job was with Woman's Own and he would go on to do several jobs for the magazine. A year after returning home from Yemen, McLean was making a living as a freelance artist (2010).
In New York, McLean's work took a rather surreal turn. He started creating illustrations with more ambiguity and less realism. His illustrations told two stories, one on top of the other. "The first story will feature an image or scene or heightened reality, while the second story, which lies beneath, is more vague, more mysterious" (Arisman 2010).
"Broadway Musicals: Oklahoma!" Wilson McLean. 1993.
"Double Date." Wilson McLean. 1972.
1980 -- 1990's Art
Francis Livingston ( )
Livingston was born in Cortez, Colorado and has studied at the Rocky Mountain School of Art in Denver as well as the Academy of Art in San Francisco (where he would later teach) (Peterson 2010). His works are mainly in a monochromatic style, yet because of his admiration for the California and French impressionists as well as the influence of the Bay Area Figurative Movement (which included Thiebaud and Diebenkorn), he started experiments with more color. Livingston has become known for painting places that do no exist anymore or places that have "lost their luster" (2010). He is known for a bold, impressionistic style that gives an abstract feel to realism.
Livingston's initial ambition was guided by comic books. The comic book was the dominant popular art for two generations of American boys and Livingston had the dream of creating for comic books. While taking classes in pursuit of this dream, Livingston was told that he would not be a good comic book artist because he had trouble with the sequential aspect of drawing for comics -- that is, he had a hard time accurately reproducing the characters and scenery from one frame to another (Peterson 2010). It would be these comments from an art teacher that would turn Livingston on a course of fine art illustration and painting.
"Boardwalk Melody." Francis Livingston.
"Tribeca." Francis Livingston.
1990 -- 2000 Art
Joe Ciardiello (1953 - )
Ciardiello was born on Staten Island, New York in 1953 and attended the High School of Art and Design, and Parsons School of Design where he received his BFA. His illustrations have been used for advertising American Express and he his illustrations have been published in the Atlantic Monthly, the New York Times, the New Yorker, New York Magazine, Playboy, Sports Illustrated, and Rolling Stone. His portraits of authors regularly appear in the New York Times book review section (Ciardiello 2010).
"Joyce Carol Oats." Joe Ciardiello.
Arisman, Marshall. "Wilson McLean: 2010 Hall of Fame Inductee." Society of Illustrators. Accessed on November 17, 2010: