Thursday, February 17, 2011

Art Gallery: Rio Kid Western





Deka Black said...

I like the cover at the bottom of the post. The old-fashioned trick of show the hat to deceive the bad guys. When it's well done is pure magic.

Ron Scheer said...

I enjoy these old covers. If you study them for a while, you see all manner of details, like the fact that his neckerchief is always billowing off to the left. I have wondered how often illustrators worked from live models or photos when they did these.

Tom Roberts said...

Given the sheer volume of Western covers that George Rozen did, who painted each of these Rio Kid examples, it is really amazing that he could continue to come up with diverse and interesting compositions.

Rozen submitted four to six pencil roughs done on tracing paper to the art director at Standard Publications at one time. The art director would go through and pick out several of the images okaying them with sometimes minor alterations (such as "make horse smaller"). In the margin the art director would also designated "March cover," "September cover," etc. Then Rozen would go back to the studio and start work. Dozens of these pencil roughs survive and are held in private collections.

On some of the roughs Rozen would pencil in a magazine logo designating to what magazine the scene was directed, such as Masked Rider, while others were left blank at the top and the art director would again in the margin determine as to where the cover would be used. The Masked Rider and Rio Kid covers, given the characters recognizable garb were the most specific in the roughs I have viewed, while the covers for Range Rider, West, and Popular Western were more generic.

The cover scenes for Masked Rider, Range Rider and Rio Kid did not reflect the actual lead story/novel in the issue. They were apparently scenes each created by Rozen, or perhaps worked into forthcoming manuscripts to use said image on a future issue of magazine.

Last minute addition to Ron's question:

By the late '30s and early '40s most artists were working from photos. Models rarely posed live for extended periods any more. You could call them in and take photos for a dozen compositions in an hour as opposed to them sitting in one pose for an hour. It was cost effective to take photos. Rozen used the same model(s) over and over, including his niece and nephew too.

Walter Baumhofer is the only pulp artist I know of that worked from a live model, and that was early in his career. Later he worked from photos too.

Some artists, such as Rudy Belarski, had a photo service take his reference photos using professional models.

Others pulp artists, like Tom Lovell, R.G. Harris, Richard Lyon and Graves Gladney took their own photos and often used each other or mutual acquaintances as models for their cover work. (Their wives, and the wife of artist John Falter, were usually recruited to pose for the imperiled women on the Western covers.) These four, who shared studio space (Gladney was actually in a building a few doors down the street) did used some professional models, but only for the main characters. (Steve Pender comes to mind who posed for Doc Savage, Pete Rice and the Circle J Boys for R.G. Harris. Pender became a model, but at first was just a well-fit guy they met at the gym who seemed suited to the type needed).

On many covers you can find the artists themselves portraying the thugs or villains disguised under moustaches and various hats. Off the top of my head I recall R.G. Harris discussing using himself prominently as the bald villain on the cover of his first Pete Rice assignment for November 1935.

I knew and corresponded with Tom Lovell, R.G. Harris and Richard Lyon and this is what my information is drawn from.

Tom Roberts
Black Dog Books

Evan Lewis said...

Wow. Thanks for the article, Tom!

Ron Scheer said...

Read every word, Tom. Thanks!