pin-up art

Flea market pin-ups

Yesterday we hit the Hollis Flea Market and I discovered these two beautiful ladies… One by Vargas and one by Alex Raymond.

Vargas calendar page and Alex Raymond pin-up

Vargas calendar page and Alex Raymond pin-up

I hadn’t heard of Alex Raymond before, but soon learned that he was well-known as a comic book artist; mainly for his work on Flash Gordon in the 1930s. The Vargas page has a bit of spotting on the paper and there’s a small hole in the Raymond piece, but they’ll still look lovely framed. I’m running out of room in my office!


Day 3 of my new adventure

I’m about to start my third day of working at home. So far, all the people I’ve encountered have been wonderful. Lots of Skype meetings!

While I still don’t have my desk, I’ve done some things to make the space feel more like me–and more like an office. (Butters has already attempted to eat the spider plant several times.)

A whiteboard/bulletin board makes the space feel like an office.

A whiteboard/bulletin board makes the area feel more like a work-space.

I also hung up my pin-up girls…over my monitor, so they don’t show up during video calls, but I can see them whenever I look up.

Petty girls and Vargas pin-up

Petty girls and Vargas pin-up

On my desk, I’ve got a cool Rosie the Riveter mouse pad, plenty of coffee, and of course, the ubiquitous picture of my grandmother and her 1940 Dodge.

Rosie the Riveter mouse pad & my favorite photo of my grandmother for motivation.

Rosie the Riveter mouse pad & my favorite photo of my grandmother for motivation.

I’ve promised myself that I will leave the house every day for at least my first three months of working at home in order to fight my natural inclination to avoid people and become a hermit. Monday I went to yoga, yesterday I tackled the grocery store, and tonight I plan to hit up a yoga class again. Friday I’ll have lunch with a friend. Thursday night, Tim Waltner will choose our adventure and I’ll go wherever he takes me.

When people learn that I work from home, they typically respond with a statement like, “Oh, that’s great – you can spend all day in your pajamas!” But I can’t. Really, Skype meetings aside, that’s just not who I am. Call it part of my vintage proclivities, but I can’t bring myself to work if I’m not dressed, with hair done and make-up in place. When I taught college classes, I refused to grade papers at home if I wasn’t dressed. Somehow it just felt unprofessional to me. I don’t care if other people choose to work in sweatpants–if that suits them, then I won’t judge.

Pretty confident that situation won’t change six months down the road, but stay tuned.

Pin-up artists: Harry Ekman

For Christmas, my mother-in-law got me a wonderful collection of pin-up prints. While some of them were familiar artists and images, others were new to me. Harry Ekman, for instance. While the two Ekman images in the collection seem familiar, I didn’t recognize the name. Fortunately, the prints each have a bit of biographical information about the artist on the back.

Born in Chicago in 1923, Ekman apprenticed under Gil Elvgren and Haddon Sundblom (the man who created the iconic Coca-Cola Santa Claus) at Brown and Bigelow. The company produced calendars, playing cards, matchbooks, and other specialty advertising materials which often featured pin-up girls. Eventually Sundblom formed a studio with Ekman, where Ekman created pin-ups for the Shaw-Barton calendar company. In the 1960s, he seems to have moved away from advertising and pin-up art to focus on portrait work. He died in 1999 in New Jersey.

circe 1956, oil on canvas. Copyright 2013 TASCHEN GmbH.

circa 1956, oil on canvas. Copyright 2013 TASCHEN GmbH.

I love this model’s outfit, her eyebrows, and the shadows Ekman uses.

1959, oil on canvas. Copyright 2013 TASHEN GmbH.

1959, oil on canvas. Copyright 2013 TASCHEN GmbH.

While the dog’s paws in this image seem off to me, the model’s body language is great. Don’t let the fact both of these images featured models with pursed lips fool you into thinking all Ekman’s work looked the same. He was capable of painting beautiful smiles and a gamut of other facial expressions. You can see more of his work here: Like Elvgren, his work seems to feature a blend of (mostly) wholesome girls next door in outdoor adventures (bike-riding, beach-going, dog-walking…) in contrast with alluring boudoir beauties in more flirtatious poses.

Unfortunately, there’s very little information about Ekman available either online or in the pin-up books in my collection. I’ve definitely become a fan, however, and plan to keep looking for more about him and his work.

Vargas calender page

A few weeks ago, my cousin Becky sent me this wonderful calendar page she found:

Varga calendar page

A page from a vintage calendar

It’s one of the illustrations Vargas created for Esquire, probably in 1945 or ’46. I love her hair and her tiki costume. I’m partial to redheads; Vargas frequently used a redheaded model named Jeanne Dean. I have a series of Petty calendar pages on display in my office; Vargas replaced Petty as the main artist for Esquire because publisher David Smart realized he could exploit Vargas for far less than he was paying Petty. I have no idea how the two artists felt about one another.

My three Petty girls - blonde, brunette, and redhead.

My three Petty girls – blonde, brunette, and redhead.

Wouldn’t my Vargas girl look nice with some friends? I certainly think so. Maybe I could even find another Vargas girl to make the display symmetrical. Any excuse to find more pin-ups!

Happy June!

I can’t believe it’s already June 1. This year has been flying by–work has been really busy lately, and I’ve started exercising in the mornings again recently, which cuts into my blogging time. I’m trying to find the right balance and set realistic expectations for myself.

When I realized that I hadn’t blogged in a while and was wondering what to post today, I remembered my 1949 Earl MacPherson sketchbook calendar. The cover has a tantalizing description of the booklet: “Glorifying the lithe and langorous lovelies who linger in the path of the sun, these choice treasures captured by MacPherson have been selected for your entertainment throughout 1949.”  And far beyond…hard to believe this flimsy paper calendar has survived more than 60 years. June’s image:

MacPherson pinup

June’s illustration.

While MacPherson isn’t my favorite pinup artist, I do enjoy the sketchbook – I like the intimacy of seeing work in progress. Frequently, I like the pencil sketches more than the finished drawings. While I think MacPherson’s depictions of breasts are entirely anti-gravity unrealistic, I LOVE the way he draws legs and hips. Rich, curvy, voluptuous hips and thighs that make me appreciate my own shape a little more.

I also love the main girl’s shoes and bikini bottom. I would wear either the shoes or the bathing suit in a second. What do you think?

Pin-up artists: Peter Driben

Black Dahlia’s post on Elvgren and his nautical pinups inspired me to write about my favorite pin-up artist, Peter Driben. Driben illustrated a number of pulp magazines from the ’30s to the ’50s, including Whisper, Wink, Beauty Parade, Pictorial Movie Fun,  and Titter. His work also appeared in advertising campaigns for Philco radios and movie promotional materials, most notably for The Maltese Falcon.

Wink cover

Wink cover.

The two things I love most about Driben: 1. his girls have CURVES. These dames have some big old hips, and that’s gorgeous. 2. His range. Blondes, brunettes, redheads, sultry, silly, serious, scared…all in his repertoire.

Peter Driben Eyeful cover

One of Driben’s covers for Eyeful.

I have a book called 1000 Pin-Up Girls,  published by Taschen, which features many of Driben’s magazine covers. (It’s also got great illustrations from Billy DeVorss and Earl Steffa Moran, not to mention wonderful photos).

Learn more and see more images at

Beauty Parade cover

A lovely blonde on the cover of Beauty Parade. One of my favorites, perhaps because of her half-done hair.

Beauty Parade brunette

Eyeful cover