When Advertising Involved Talent

This illustration is done entirely by hand. It’s by the legendary commercial artists Fitz and Van in 1968.

1968 Pontiac Prestige by Fitz and Van: kerbsideclassic.com
1968 Pontiac Prestige by Fitz and Van: kerbsideclassic.com


As far as I can guess the picture was constructed as follows: a stripey wash of pale was applied to a dark sheet of Canson paper. One way to do this is to grind up a pastel stick, mix it with talc and dab it with a cotton wool tuft soaked in lighter fuel. You then wipe it quickly across the page. Then the background figures were added. Some masking and airbrush work was done for the main areas of colour. The details may have been applied with pencil or using acrylic paint and brushes.

Meanwhile, the car was laid out on another sheet. The lighter areas were masked off and sprayed (the light blue). I don’t know how the interior was done: perhaps black Magic Marker. The chrome featured a lot of fiddly micro-spraying (I think) and is simply exquisitely handled. Notice the highlights down the body side as well, picking out the flaring around the wheel arches.

When the car and background were ready the car was cut out and laid over the background.

Quite simply this is remarkable work, incredibly evocative then and now.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

7 thoughts on “When Advertising Involved Talent”

  1. I always regret not having the patience (or maybe it was confidence) as a student to refine both my airbrushing work and, even more, Magic Marker illustration. The very best Magic Marker work seems even more skillful than this since, although it lacks that ultimate refinement, it is done with such relatively crude tools.

    1. What Richard hasn’t mentioned here is that the ad copy was often as well crafted and toiled over as the painstakingly created imagery. The copywriters were generally ‘resting’ novelists trying to make a living while working on their unwieldy manuscript in their spare time – if they had any. And drinking heavily – of course. All writers are borderline alcoholics. Apparently.

      There’s a nice piece about this era of car advertising on Auto Universum – you can read it here; https://autouniversum.wordpress.com/2014/07/27/jet-smooth-jet-age-advertising-from-motown-mad-man-jim-bernardin/

  2. Eóin,

    Thank you for the link. I did a piece on Fitz and Van a few years back:

    https://autouniversum.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/master-purveyors-of-jet-age-glamour-art-fitzpatrick-and-van-kaufman/

    Art Fitzpatrick rendered the cars, working from photographs he took, and Van Kaufman created the backgrounds working from photos the two of them captured on trips to fine watering holes around the globe. All expenses paid of course. I have two pieces of their artwork hanging near my desk.

    1. Is it evident from the images you have how they layered the work? I have only seen images in coffee table books and on the internet. Thanks for the detail about Fitz taking his own photos. I assumed for simplicity he had access to whatever photography GM had in their files but, of course, he would want a specific angle for perspective reasons along with picking the details to focus on. There are some quite talented illustrators who do photorealistic images of 60s cars yet they almost seem inhumanly precise and eventually “brittle”. Photoshop can do amazing things in the hands of a good artist but it always lacks the quality of a good analogue image. It has something to do with the flatness of the various layers.

  3. It is impossible to tell. Art scanned the original artwork years ago and digitally outputs it onto rag-board on a to-order basis. So what I have is really a digital copy of the real thing. As I remember from what he told me, the original art they created was around 24 x 32 cm, about the size of a large-format magazine. I had mine made only about 18 x 20 cm. One of my prints is square and the other portrait format, so I ordered them in sizes that resulted in equal image area as they are hung next to one another. The format of the original images varied as some would be used for advertising and others for sales brochures.

    Except for one instance, they also had complete freedom to depict the subject car in whatever colour they wanted; as long it was chosen from the palette that was actually available.

  4. What strikes me is just how experimental advertising was at the time. On his personal blog (http://oldchevyads.blogspot.co.uk/), Jim Bernardin makes the point that GM’s print advertising spend was so deep and wide, it necessitated the creation of a huge amount of material. Once the wider campaign was established, some “out there” ideas could be ran purely as esoteric image builders. This one I found particularly interesting: http://oldchevyads.blogspot.co.uk/2009_10_01_archive.html

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