Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Ron Lesser in Illustration #62

The new issue of Illustration magazine features the art of veteran illustrator Ron Lesser.

Ron Lesser cover for Curtains for a Lover, gouache
(I'm not sure why the colors are so different.)
Lesser, who is still active as an illustrator, started doing book covers in the late 1950s. He has done it all, from movie posters to advertising art to gallery work, but he's probably best known for painting sexy crime paperback covers.

Many of his early covers were painted in gouache. He says: "I was using water-based paint—casein white for body and then designers colors [gouache], which have more covering ability than watercolors, but less than casein."

Lesser used photographic reference from professional models in New York City. The models charged around $150 per hour in the 1970s, and all the costs—professional photographer, model, and print costs—were covered by the publisher.

The second article in the current Illustration magazine chronicles the art that was created for World War I, from recruitment posters to battlefield sketches by artist-reporters.


Joel Fletcher said...

I was not aware of Ron Lesser by name, but have certainly seen his artwork, which is great. I particularly like his 60's paperback work, which is in a style I have a fondness for because I grew up during that period. What is particularly interesting is how his commercial work follows the prevailing styles of the times. Indeed, his changing career path seems to be very much like his fellow contemporary illustrators. After so many decades in the business, you can clearly see the style trends that the illustrators were doing, which kind of mirror each other. Looking at his website, it is good to see that he has created a number of personal works which are not affected by prevailing market forces.

Pierre Fontaine said...

Regarding the first image, do you think that the color shift when printed was anticipated? In other words, do you think Lesser painted these specific flesh tones knowing that they would become warmer in the printing process? I know that matte painters needed to be aware how their paintings would appear when filmed, taking into account how the film stock affected the colors. As a result, grey and purples would photograph as greens and reds etc. Just curious if artists had worked out a system of tonalities, knowing how'd they reproduce on certain cover stock.

Jim Douglas said...

Jim, how large would you guess the original painting for the Curtains cover is?

James Gurney said...

Jim, I don't know for sure, but a similar 1960s painting (in oil) on auction at Heritage is 18 x 24. I would guess the gouache is a bit smaller.
Here's the Heritage link: