Looking at Illustration: Arthur Getz

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I’ve been looking through the illustrations of Arthur Getz, one of my favorite New Yorker cover artists. Getz painted 213 covers for the iconic magazine between 1938 and 1988. In addition to illustration work, he painted cityscapes and landscapes – ‘fine art’ sold through galleries – although he sometimes signed them with his middle name, Kimmig, because at the time a fine artist was not supposed to cross the line into commercial art.

A particular favorite of mine is his cover from 1957:

Art by Arthur Getz. Prints available through https://condenaststore.com/art/arthur+getz

The moment it captures is utterly American, isn’t it? To the left, the bustling, spangly city with silhouetted crowds in frenetic motion, and in the foreground the relaxed parking attendant, contentedly oblivious to the high life a few blocks behind.

The skill and techniques of this artist make the painting especially appealing to me. The blazing city lights in the distance are warm, but it’s cold moonlight fluorescing down on the garage attendant – that’s the opposite of what you’re taught in painting class! Warm colors are supposed to come forward and cools recede – but Mr. Getz makes this inversion work beautifully. The covers of the magazine our fellow’s reading are slightly brightened with the reflected light bouncing off the pavement – reflected light is a detail that a  master’s eye notes, and novices often overlook. The splashes of neon red far off in the city are balanced by that rusty red wall to our protagonist’s left; there’s even the faintest red haze in the air above the cars in the garage, a delicate touch to offset all that chill October air.

And our attendant’s pose, balancing on the chair – another master stroke.  Let me explain: when you draw a standing figure and you want it to look steady, not tipping over, you draw it so the supersternal notch – that’s the central notch between your left & right collarbone – is directly over the inner ankle of the leg bearing the weight of the body – this makes the figure looks solid.  Well, Mr. Getz has this gent perfectly balanced: if you imagine where his supersternal notch is, and draw a line straight down, it’s directly over the spot where the chair leg bearing the man’s weight touches the pavement. This acrobatic bystander is not going to tip over!

The contrasts in tone all around our nonchalant hero seal the deal for me. After your eyes take in the whole scene, where does your attention go? To the crisp lightning-white page edges of that magazine and that tiny cusp of face and finger illuminated by the October moon. That’s intentional – they are painted with a razor edge and surrounded by blacks and neutral grays to draw your gaze like a pinpoint. The same goes for the swatch of city on the left, the contrast is so high between the yellows and blacks that you can’t not look at them – but even though those marks are skillful, they are vague, to give an impression of buildings and lights. The painting strokes in and around our parked friend’s figure, instead, are descriptive, deliberate and masterful.

There’s sometimes a bit of friction between illustrators and fine artists, over whether illustrations deserve the same esteem that framed paintings are given.  If you ask me, this Garage Nocturne by Arthur Getz could hang in a museum next to Hopper’s Nighthawks any day.

My Cartoon Published

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UPDATE: My cartoons for the New Yorker can be seen here: https://condenaststore.com/art/pat+achilles

I am thrilled to announce that a cartoon I drew and submitted to the prestigious New Yorker magazine back in March has been published in this week’s issue, October 1, 2018.

https://www.newyorker.com/cartoon/a21844

“Sir, we’re getting ready to land–I’m going to need you to slide that under your seat.”

I started reading and chuckling at New Yorker cartoons in high school when my dad introduced its unparalleled humor to me. He and I shared many hours discussing our favorite gags and cartoonists, and, while Dad did land a great cartoon one time in The Saturday Evening Post, he never made it into Eustace Tilley’s grand library. He hoped someday I would. Dad passed away 8 years ago but I have the uncanny feeling he’s been pulling some strings.

My Fox & Cello Notecards now on Etsy

I’ve added a few cheery notecards to Etsy, some with fun little hand-illustrated critters that you won’t find anywhere but in my Etsy store.

The first is a fox playing a cello, which is part of a series of music-themed illustrations I’ve drawn. Surprisingly, I got an order for these cards all the way from France a while back, from a woman whose daughter loves foxes, and plays the cello. A rare occurrence of me hitting the bullseye! If you’d like some to send or give to a musical friend, they are 8 cards and 8 envelopes in a box, and the ordering info is here.

For my second one below I watercolored a happy little hamster to celebrate the USA, for a notecard to use for thank yous, congratulations or any other noteworthy American occasion. The inside of the card is blank and my original artwork is in full color. This pack of 8 cards and envelopes has cardstock that is made from partially recycled paper and the cards are printed in the USA. Ordering info is here.

I had a request for the third one, it uses a New-Yorker-style cartoon i drew a while back, as a business referral thank you note. The outside shows 3 energetic businesswomen cheering “2! 4! 6! 8!” and on the inside a brief messages reads: “Referrals I appreciate!” with space below for a personal note.Ordering info is here.

I plan to put up a few more notecards soon – thanks for checking them out!

Artistacon Interview: I’ll talk about my art live Thursday morning

The fellows who run the terrific illustration conference Artistacon, Chris Kotsakis and Shaun Stipick, are creating a video archive of illustrator interviews to continue their mission of inspiring and mentoring illustrative art. These video interviews are tied to their ArtistaList project, an helpful online directory of working illustrators. They have asked me to participate and so I’m very happy to announce that the three of us will do a Facebook live stream about my artwork tomorrow, Thursday May 28 starting at 10 a.m.; and another live interview following just after that one, at around 10:45 a.m. on Twitch. I hope you’ll join us! And as soon as it’s ready I’ll post a link to the recorded interview. Here’s the info:

Download My Free Coloring Sheet

A young girl goes on a fantasy adventure under the sea – what will she find? You can download this sheet I drew for FREE, print it out on your printer and color it in. Click the ‘Download’ button below the image.

I’d love to see snapshots of your finished art – you can email them to me at achillesportfolio@gmail.com. Can you make up a story to go with your artwork?

Illustrating the Maasai

Almost ten years ago I illustrated the African folktale The Lion, the Ostrich and the Squirrel for the Maasai Cultural Exchange Project. I learned much about the work of MCEP in doing this book, an organization that helps to build wells in Kenya and pay for education of women and children. I helped frame the actual story, which involves all animal characters, by suggesting we start the story by showing a common Maasai family tradition: the grandmother gathering the grandchildren under an acacia tree to tell stories. A friend of mine asked me to make this cover illustration into a notecard for her. I’ve just added it to my Etsy line of illustrated cards, and it can be seen and ordered here.

This is pack of 8 notecards (blank inside) and 8 ivory envelopes. Printed on the back of the notecard is a description of the scene: “The artwork shows the Rift Valley of Kenya, a region of many Maasai villages. A grandmother making bead jewelry while seated on a cowhide tells her grandchildren a folk tale in the shade of an acacia tree. An enkaji – a home made of mud and sticks – is behind them. A father and son herd goats in the background, and behind them is a fence of acacia branches, which encircles the villages to keep wild animals from entering.” When I drew the illustrations for this book I had the kind cooperation of several Maasai visitors who explained specific cultural details in the drawing, so the scene is authentic.

The 8 cards (same illustration on each) in this pack are 5 1/2″ wide by 4 1/4″ high, which is a typical ‘invitation’ size notecard, taking regular first class postage. The cardstock is made from partially recycled paper and the cards are printed in the USA.

If you would like a notecard of this sort customized by me to include your personal message or a custom-drawn illustration, please contact me through my Contact page to discuss your ideas and my illustration fees.

I am happy to say that The Lion, the Ostrich and the Squirrel is in schools and libraries in Maasailand, and is especially useful because the story is written in both English and Swahili. The book is available for purchase, with proceeds going to MCEP, here.

A Building that No Longer Exists

The Doylestown Historical Society helps to preserve many aspects of my hometown’s past, with speakers, tours and printed publications, and a very important part of that mission involves researching the historically significant buildings in this town and nearby communities. I was recently asked to develop a sketch of a building in the borough, which is no longer standing today – a shoemaker’s shop and home.

Adam Dick and his wife, originally from Germany, had six children born in Doylestown and by 1870 they were living in the borough, in a building whose left half housed their boot and shoe shop. Old maps show the house on the corner of E. State and Pine Street with a one story front porch on the shoe shop side. By 1891 the two-story wood frame house now had a one story back porch with a tin roof. The Historical Society’s researcher is Kurt Spence, who has restored many historic homes, and he sent me part of an old lithograph of the town with this tiny representation of the house from the rear –


I started with a rough sketch of the basic shape of the house, with questions for Kurt.

Happily Kurt has the building experience that I lack, and so with his corrections I replaced the front porch gable with a shed roof, and added a roof gable to the house side of the building, for the second sketch. But I still had some questions.

Finally with some finished suggestions from Kurt I was able to render the version below. It’s unfortunate that the present site is now a parking lot, but we can at least imagine a fairly close version of what our borough boot and shoe shop may have looked like in the late 19th century.

In Other News

In cleaning out our basement I found this relic of my girlhood, my Barbie carrying case from the late 1960s/early 70s. Note the hot pink babydoll smock dress with pneumatic sleeves (which you’d think might get in the way when you were mixing up your glass of Tang). I would regularly tote this case – full of all the related tiny clothes, hangers, purses, shoes and hats – from my front step, across one neighbor’s lawn (no kids there) to the next house over, where two of my good Friends-in-Barbiehood lived.

Inside the case I found a slightly damaged but largely intact World of Barbie book of fashions. The drawings are so fun and colorful, I can’t help but think that this helped spark my interest in illustration. Shall we step back in time and see the groovy fashions? Here’s the fab cover:

Here’s the first page of fashion plates you could totally dote upon:

^^^ The only outfit I had on this page was the blue knit-set ‘Togetherness,’ an appropriately 1960s-branded title. It was pretty difficult to pull those tightly knitted stockings onto Barbie’s rubberized legs, and it was like a Chinese finger trap getting them off. I so wanted Extravaganza and Jump Into Lace – sheer lace sheaths were a big thing, my 10-year-old self not thinking about how itchy the reality would be.

Here’s the facing page, kind of a Hot Pink Heaven:

^^^ I think I may have owned the Snug Fuzz outfit, because i remember having the usual difficulty getting the sparkly silver tights over Barbie’s lower limbs. They were not in any way smooth fabric, very gritty in fact, a finger snagging nightmare. I thought the donut-neck wedding gown was rather off-brand for Barbie.

And then we are on to this swingin’ lineup:

^^^ Like a Lime-Green Cowboy! I bet it was hard to actually keep that cowboy hat on her head, – this was the 60s after all and head gear was fast on its way out. I wore a hat at Easter when I was young, but hats as accessories lost big ground during these decades. I wonder why did so many of these drawings depict her with basically gray or ash-color hair? Was that a thing?

I’ll be posting more fab pages from this booklet soon.