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Sunday, August 19, 2012

“Bruce Minney: The Man Who Painted Everything” — Part 3 (guest post by author Tom Ziegler)


Editor’s Note: This is the third and final installment in a series of special guest posts by Tom Ziegler, author of the fascinating, lushly-illustrated new book BRUCE MINNEY: THE MAN WHO PAINTED EVERYTHING.

Here’s a link to the first post, and here’s a link to the second, in case you missed them.

“Bruce Minney: The Man Who Painted Everything”— Part 3, by author Tom Ziegler

When Bruce was doing illustrations for men’s adventure magazines, he didn’t think that they would be his legacy. 

He always wanted to be a fine artist. The illustrations were a job that paid the bills.

Doing the interviews for the book was unsettling for Bruce.

He had put this period of his life into a box that hadn't been opened for a long time.  He has mixed feelings about the illustrations.

He is quite proud of a few of them. Others he would rather forget. 

He says he was never embarrassed doing men’s adventure magazines, but that he never really felt proud of it either.

Seeing some of his work 50 years later has changed his perceptions. It is evident that he is proud of his technical skills and the imagination needed to produce these illustrations.

He should be proud. The technical skill and creativity that went into these works is mind boggling.

When you realize that he was given a one-paragraph summary of a story, had to come up with a concept, sketch it, shoot the models, and then paint the work in a week and a half, you cannot help but appreciate his talent.

Bruce admired his fellow artists, particularly Mort Kunstler, of whom he was also a bit jealous. His competitive nature comes out when he talks about Kunstler. He felt that he was as good as Kunstler, but lacked Mort’s confidence.

He has fond memories of Norm Eastman, Bob Schulz, John Duillo, Charles Copeland, and Rudy Nappi.

He knew many of his contemporaries by reputation only having met them by chance in Eddie Balcourt’s office or the waiting room of Magazine Management or Emtee, two of the major publishers of men’s adventure magazines. 

They were kindred spirits, but they were also the competition. Men’s adventure magazine illustrators didn’t sit around at the Algonquin Hotel drinking and sharing stories.

They were working long hours in their studios creating works of art that are finally being recognized.

Here’s how Bruce described the way a typical job worked:

       “I would get a call that they had a job for me. I would go into the city to meet with the art director.  He would give me a one-paragraph synopsis of the story. I would then go home and do three pencil sketches.  I always did three sketches. I never had a problem coming up with ideas for sketches. I read the paragraph describing the job and I could picture it in my head.

       That’s what being an illustrator is all about. I had enough confidence in my abilities not to worry about coming up with ideas. I knew I could get it done. I was never terrified by white space. Deadlines didn’t affect me that much. If you were scared, you didn’t stand a chance.  My biggest problem was finding good scrap [i.e., reference photos from magazines or other sources]. For some things, you needed a model to draw from, you couldn’t just make it up. I had tons of file folders with scrap. They were all indexed and organized. Every time I read a magazine, I would tear out pictures for my scrap file.

       The sketches usually took a day or two. I would then go back to the city and show the sketches to the art director. He would approve one. In the beginning I used a professional photographer to shoot the pictures of the models.

       It was expensive. When things got tight, I had my wife use our Polaroid camera and I would model. Eventually, artist Rudy Nappi taught me how to shoot and develop pictures and I did my own. [See Part 1 of the MensPulpMags.com interview with Bruce for more about that story.]

       The whole process took about a week and a half. When I first started, I took the photos and manually blew them up on the drawing board. Later, after we moved to a bigger house, I got a Bausch & Lomb projector that would allow me to project the photos onto the board with the size I needed. The projector was invaluable and allowed me to work a lot faster.

       I never had an art director reject my sketches. They always picked one. After I had the illustration laid out, I filled in the colors with watercolors. Then I added more detail with acrylics. Finally, I finished them in oils. This allowed me to build up and balance the colors.

       Even if you weren’t happy with a piece, I learned early on that you never apologized for the work. Artists have a tendency to apologize because the work is never perfect. You see something that isn’t right and you want to apologize, but you can’t. You have to hold your tongue. If you made excuses, you didn’t last very long. You couldn’t say, ‘if I just had another day I could have tightened it up.’ Art directors didn’t want to hear that. They paid you for a job. If they didn’t like it, they wouldn’t use you again. I had a few of those with the paperbacks. With the magazines, I guess they liked what I did since they kept me employed for over 20 years.”

Acknowledgments...

Many people helped with the book BRUCE MINNEY: THE MAN WHO PAINTED EVERYTHING.

First and foremost, I want to thank Bruce for dredging up memories of a long forgotten past. He was a trooper. Next, I want to thank my wife, Carole, for introducing me to her family and for all her support over the years. She was also a great editor. Thanks, too, to my brother-in-law Craig for his contributions, insights and modeling skills.

Thank you Mark Simonson, Proprietor of Mark’s Very Large National Lampoon Site for identifying the mystery interior Bruce did for National Lampoon. Thank you, TJ Duke, for tracking down interiors in the late 60s.

Finally, thank you, Bob Deis, creator of the MensPulpMags.com blog, for doing the interview with Bruce that inspired me to go further and write this book and for providing scans.

And last, but not least, a big thank you to Rich Oberg, whose collection of men’s adventure art and magazines helped us identify more of Bruce’s works then I ever thought possible. His enthusiasm for the genre is unmatched.

Editors Note: You’re very welcome, Tom. Thank YOU for creating such a terrific book about one of the best of the many great artists who worked for men’s adventure magazines and for sharing your guest posts with my readers.

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Comments? Corrections? Post them on the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group.

More recommendations for fans of men’s pulp mags and vintage illustration art...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

“Bruce Minney: The Man Who Painted Everything” — Part 2 (guest post by author Tom Ziegler)


Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of special guest posts by Tom Ziegler, author of BRUCE MINNEY: THE MAN WHO PAINTED EVERYTHING — a great new book about one of the top artists who worked for men’s adventure magazines in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

I bought both the the ebook version (which looks great on my iPad) and the large format paperback version (which I can confirm is nicely printed and worth the higher price if you prefer print books).

In his first guest post here, Tom wrote about the genesis of his book and about how Bruce decided to move to New York City in 1955 to take a shot at becoming a professional artist.

This second post picks up after Bruce arrived in New York. Most major publishers of men’s adventure magazines, like Magazine Management, had their editorial offices there, and they gave Bruce his first steady work as an illustration artist.

His association with the genre became a long-lasting one. From the mid-1950s to the mid-1970s, Bruce painted hundreds of cover paintings and interior illustrations for men’s pulp mags. More than 300 of them are featured in Tom Ziegler’s book, along with commentaries by Bruce.

It’s an awesome addition to the still relatively short list of books about men’s adventure magazines and the artists who worked for them. I give it my highest recommendation.

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“Bruce Minney: The Man Who Painted Everything”— Part 2, by author Tom Ziegler

My father-in-law Bruce Minney really did paint just about everything you can paint.

He spent 20 years working as an illustrator for men's adventure magazines, painting beautiful women, gorillas, lions, tigers, bears, elephants, alligators, headhunters, Nazis, airplanes, aircraft carriers, tanks, guns, and lots of explosions.

He worked another 20 years painting covers for all kinds of paperbacks including western, historical romance, action, military, biography, and Gothic horror.

He also did storyboards for advertising agencies.

For a few years, he made award winning pottery and most recently, he is making mobiles, collages and paintings based on the collages.

Bruce never made it to the level of Picasso or Jackson Pollock, but he was able to support a wife and two children doing art.

Once his career started, he never had, as he put it, “a real job.”

Bruce told me:

       “You’re stupid when you’re young…Neither Doris or I had jobs lined up. We took our savings and a dream. We got to New York and stayed in a rooming house for week and then Doris found a place in Queens. Doris believed in me. What’s the opposite of pessimism - that’s what we were. We just believed that everything would work out. It was almost religious. She got a job with Doyle, Dane, Bernbach, who were just starting out in advertising. She was executive secretary to the media director.”

Bruce started making the rounds with his samples. First, he visited the top tier magazines like SATURDAY EVENING POST and MCCALL’S. No luck. Then he began calling on the second tier magazines like ARGOSY and TRUE. No luck. Bruce continued to show his samples. Finally, he got some men’s adventure assignments, though initially he was turned down.

       “Doris was responsible for getting me into Magazine Management. We had a list of magazines to talk to and one day on her lunch hour she took my stuff up to BLUEBOOK magazine and told the art director that I couldn’t get any work. He said ‘have you heard of Ed Balcourt, the artists’ rep?’ She got Eddie’s phone number and I went to see him.”

It was through Balcourt that Bruce really began his career as a professional illustrator.

Balcourt also repped for many other artists who did illustration work for men’s adventure magazines during part of their careers, including Tom Ryan, Robert Schulz, John Leone, Norm Eastman, John Duillo, Basil Gogos, Charles Copeland, Rudy Nappi and Robert Maguire, among others.

Bruce describes the first paying job he ever did:

       “It was a two-page spread of a hunter sitting on the back of a dead elephant and smoking a cigarette. I used Eddie Balcourt as the model for the hunter, because I’d just arrived in New York and didn’t know any models yet or any photographers. Eddie took me to see the fashion photographer, Robert Scott, to do the photos. Robert Scott and I shot Eddie Balcourt sitting on a chair, which was supposed to be an elephant. That was my first job. It was a black-and-white two page spread for SPORT LIFE magazine. They must have liked it, because they gave me other work.”

Art directors would call Eddie, who would pick up the job. Eddie would call Bruce and Bruce would go into the city to pick it up. When he was done, Bruce would deliver the finished illustration to Eddie. Bruce rarely talked to the art directors. For this, Eddie took 15%.

After about a year, Balcourt started getting calls from art directors telling him they had a job for Bruce Minney. They also started calling Bruce directly if there were changes.

At first, Bruce worked almost entirely for Magazine Management, publisher of many of the top men’s adventure magazines, such as ACTION FOR MEN, COMPLETE MAN, FOR MEN ONLY, MALE, MAN’S WORLD, MEN, MEN IN ACTION, STAG and TRUE ACTION.

Eventually, Balcourt also got Bruce connected with Reese and Emtee, two related companies that published many classic men’s pulp magazines, including MAN’S BOOK, MAN’S EPIC, MAN’S STORY, MEN TODAY, NEW MAN, REAL COMBAT and WORLD OF MEN. Bruce told me:

       “Eddie would pick it up and I did all the work. When I was done, I gave him the final illustration to deliver. His office was on 45th street near the High School For the Performing Arts. This went on for about 4 or 5 years. He got me started and I was grateful for that, but eventually, my career stalled. I said, ‘you’re not getting me any new jobs.’ He had no answer. When I told him I was leaving, he took it OK. Everyone else was doing the same thing. At that point in my career, I was confident I could make it on my own.”

In the meantime, Bruce and his family moved to the suburbs in Sparta, NJ, where he lived until 1981. When the men’s adventure magazines declined in the 70s, Bruce started doing paperbacks. In the late 70s, publishing companies started using more photography instead of illustrations. In 1981, with promises of movie work, Bruce moved back to California. The movie work never materialized and he continued to do paperbacks. In 1983, his wife, Doris, died and the 55-year old Bruce took a marker illustration class at UCLA so he could get work in advertising. Bruce said:

       “I started doing storyboards, plus painting paperback covers. Storyboard work was brutal. You’d go in one day and you’d have to have six illustrations the next morning. I did storyboards for a few years. I did some for advertising agencies, for ads for companies like McDonald’s and Chrysler. I also did storyboards for NBC. I never worked at their studios. I always freelanced. I never had a real job.”

Eventually, the brutal pace of advertising work convinced Bruce that it was time for a change. He had always been interested in sculpture, but he knew he couldn’t make a living at it. He took some pottery classes mainly to have access to a kiln and started to develop a style. He soon became quite proficient and decided that if he was going to make a living selling pottery, he needed to be in a state that had lots of arts and craft shows. In 1989, he packed everything into a U-Haul and drove to Florida, where he still lives. He made award winning pottery for almost 20 years and retired in 2009.

Coming up in Tom’s third guest post: more excerpts from his book.

In the meantime, you can read more about Bruce Minney in the 3-part interview he did for MensPulpMags.com last year.

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Comments? Corrections? Post them on the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group.

More book recommendations for fans of vintage pulp art...

Sunday, August 5, 2012

“Bruce Minney: The Man Who Painted Everything” — guest post by Tom Ziegler (Part 1)


Editor’s Note: Tom Ziegler, son-in-law of the great illustration artist Bruce Minney, has just released a new full-color book titled BRUCE MINNEY: THE MAN WHO PAINTED EVERYTHING. (Available in both Kindle and traditional print format.)

If you are a fan of Bruce’s work or of men’s adventure magazines in general, this book is an absolute must-have.

Bruce Minney is one of the top illustration artists who worked for the post-WWI men's pulp adventure magazines published in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

Tom Ziegler's book is a visual feast, full of hundreds of Minney covers and interior illustrations from the best of the men’s pulp mags. It also includes photos of original Minney paintings that now reside in the Rich Oberg Collection, plus previously unpublished photos of Bruce and the models he used.

But it’s more than “just” an awesome collection of images.

The text provides fascinating details about how Bruce approached different illustration assignments, about men's adventure magazines and about other top illustration artists who worked for them. It’s an amazing treasure trove of illustration art history and trivia.

This post is the first of three guest posts by Tom Ziegler about his new book and Bruce.

They provide a small inkling of what you’ll find inside BRUCE MINNEY: THE MAN WHO PAINTED EVERYTHING — a truly terrific book that I give my highest recommendation.

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“Bruce Minney: The Man Who Painted Everything” — guest post by Tom Ziegler (Part 1)

I first met Bruce Minney in 1969. His daughter, Carole, and I attended Juniata College in Pennsylvania and we met the second week of our freshmen year. She took me home to meet the family that October.

I remember Bruce had a little carved statue of a hand with the middle finger extended in his studio. He was not like most of the parents I met in the late 60s. Carole and I were married in 1973.

In 2011, on a lark, Carole googled “Bruce Minney” just to see what was out there about him. There were over 4,000 results. Intrigued, she started to click through.

She found a few auction results of sales of his work and a brief bio. She also found The Men’s Adventure Magazines Blog. I started reading the blog from beginning to end. It was fascinating reading.

In one post, there was a discussion about whether Bruce painted the cover for the June 1971 issue of MAN’S STORY. I showed it to Bruce and he remembered painting it.

I emailed the blog’s editor, Bob Deis, and told him that Bruce was still alive and painting and that the piece in question was his.

Within hours, Bob replied to my email and asked if Bruce would agree to be interviewed over the phone about his career and work. Bruce agreed.

The interview was a great success. [Here’s a link to it, in case you missed it.] 

It also was our introduction to collector extraordinaire, Rich Oberg, and the book about his collection, MEN’S ADVENTURE MAGAZINES, by Max Allan Collins, George Hagenauer and Steven Heller.

I emailed Bob and Rich telling them which illustrations in the books were Bruce’s. Soon, we were emailing each other with questions and comments. Bruce identified more of his work. The enthusiasm was contagious.

And then it dawned on me: Bruce painted hundreds of men’s adventure magazine illustrations and no one knew who he was.

According to Rich: “Bruce was a relatively unknown men's adventure interior artist. After the blog interview, we’ve come to realize that he was one of the top five most prolific cover/interior artists out there.”

That’s when I decided to write a book about the men’s adventure illustration mystery man. But where to start? First, I wrote a Wikipedia article about Bruce. It got his name out there.

Then the research began. Trying to identify Bruce’s work 40 years after the fact was a challenge. The originals were long gone. 

We started with a few folders of illustrations that Bruce had torn out of the magazines when he was picking up or dropping off a job. 

We also had photographs of four originals that were sold at auction in 2005.

Covers were easier to identify because they had dates and titles. For the interiors, all we had were pages torn from unknown magazines. Sometimes there were article titles. Sometimes not.

Without the internet, we would have been unable to identify as much as we did. We looked on eBay and did a lot of googling.

We started out with a folder of about 75 interiors and have now identified over 500 original interior illustrations. Thanks to collector, Rich Oberg, we didn’t have to spend a fortune on old magazines that originally sold for 35 cents and now sell on eBay for $20 or more.

Editor’s Note: Below are a few men’s pulp mag issues with Bruce Minney cover paintings that you’d be lucky to find on eBay for only $20 if they’re in good condition. I’ve paid a lot more than that for some in my collection…

Bruce’s early years…

Bruce Minney was born in Oakland California October 2, 1928, the son of Amy and Howard Minney. Howard survived the depression delivering the San Francisco Chronicle from his 1925 Model T.

While in high school, Bruce assisted his father with the paper route and saved his money so he could attend college.

After graduating from high school in 1946, Bruce applied to the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, which later became the California College of the Arts.

For four years, Bruce spent the morning drawing and the afternoon painting preparing for a career in art.

Recently married to his high school sweetheart, Doris Schulz, and with a child on the way, Bruce made a choice that shaped his future. In his senior year, he took a class in advertising art.

Bruce told me:

“The professor said only 1/10 of 1 percent of you will have a career in fine art. Here I was going to school for four years thinking I could make it in fine art. It was impossible unless you go commercial. That’s the only way you can make money. I took an illustration course at night to learn the trade.”

In 1951, Bruce's daughter, Carole, was born. To support his young family, Bruce got a job with United Airlines as a baggage handler. He was one of those guys you see on the runway with the orange batons directing traffic.

At night, he worked on samples for his portfolio. He had hopes of becoming an illustrator for a top notch magazine.

After an unsuccessful trip to New York looking for illustration work, Bruce quit the airline and got a job as a fireman in Orinda.

The great thing about being a fireman was that you worked two 24-hour days and than had two days off.

This schedule allowed Bruce to spend more time on his samples and come up with a plan.

His plan was soon clear. He decided to move with his young family to New York, which at the time was the center for commercial art.

Coming up in Part 2: Bruce breaks in to the New York illustration market…

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Comments? Corrections? Post them on the Men’s Adventure Magazines Facebook Group.

More book recommendations for fans of men’s adventure magazines...