“Mail me a postcard when you get there!” I remember saying that a few times. I remember hearing that even more times! Today, the postcard is a fading artifact of the past. You can still find them in souvenir stands, but like the buffalo that once roamed the plains, they are a dying breed. The better ones, the funnier ones were saved and cherished. Most of the time they were never mailed. They were bought, tossed in a suitcase, and brought home. A few of the cards you see here are from my family’s collection. My parents, grandparents… they saved these, as did many other people. Some of the most frequently-saved postcards came from one man – Bob Petley “The Cowboy Cartoonist,” “The King of Postcards,” the man who put the jackalope in your mailbox.
Bob Petey began his artistic career as a layout artist for the Arizona Republic and Gazette newspapers and worked for them for three years. There, he decided to advertise his own novelty cards, “Petley’s Laff-Line.” These ads eventually led to him becoming the king of tourist and novelty postcards. In 1943 he started Petley Studios, Inc. in Arazona, which by 1979 became the nation’s largest publisher and distributor of scenic color postcards selling over 40 million cards a year.
According to Petley, “I started with the cartoon because it was the simplest way to get into the business.” Of all his drawings, he claimed his favorite was “Howdy from the Middle of Nowhere,” depicting a thirsty donkey and a hungry vulture. Often this card, an ones like it, were custom printed with the names of local towns on the fronts or backs.
Along with a large line of cartoon postcards, Petley had an even larger line of photo postcards. He purchased a camera, traveled the highways in a station wagon and later a Lincoln Continental. These large cars allowed him to not only carry his photographic equipment, but to serve double duty as a traveling showroom. He removed the back seats and replaced them with racks of postcards, stopping along his way to sell his products to souvenir stands.
He began taking scenic photos, portraits of native Americans, and tourist attractions, then moved on to staged comic photos which were similar in humor to his cartoon cards. One example of these is of four burros with the printed caption – “Board of Directors.” It’s also interesting to note that Barry Goldwater, the former Arizona State Senator, taught him how to use his first camera. Goldwater was also the photographer for many of the Native American postcards published by Petley Studios.
Not all of Petley’s photo postcards are his. He purchased about 50% of the images from other photographers. If you see a roadrunner card, he didn’t take it! He said tourists liked to buy photos of sunsets and roadrunners. He said that men were most likely to buy his novelty cards and mostly women to buy his scenic cards. More often, tourists mailed the sunset cards to friends and family while they brought home the novelty cards, stashed them away in a drawer, and brought them out for the adults to enjoy on special occasions.
There is very little difference in the visuals and messages of these vintage postcards and the modern day social media memes. You can hold a postcard in your hand. You can treasure it for years as a family memento. But, I doubt the same will ever be said of a digital meme. But in either case, the humor is practically identical and people send them to each other expecting laughs. Big laughs!
Many of these illustrated novelty cards were considered tacky and intensionally so! Today they may be viewed as offensive or in bad taste. This is the risk that topical humor takes. These are not issues isolated to the past and over time, what was once acceptable humor may be considered insensitive, or at the least their meanings misinterpreted. I have seen my share of political and social change over the years. All one has to do is log onto social media to see that this type of humor has not gone away. It’s important to acknowledge the time and place in which something was created.
Petley’s most famous photo postcard featuring a jackalope was not his original creation. He had purchased a stuffed jackalope in a Phoenix novelty store and photographed it to appear as a giant among the Papago Buttes, thus creating one of the world’s most famous postcards.
The modern jackalope originated in Wyoming in the 1930s. The creation of Douglas Herrick and his brother, both hunters with taxidermy skills, popularized the American jackalope by grafting deer antlers onto jackrabbit carcasses. Animal hybrids are nothing new. The concept of horned rabbits has been around for centuries dating back to Medieval and Renaissance folklore. Sadly, some of these “legends” may have arisen from sightings of rabbits afflicted with the Shope papilloma virus, first described in 1933 by Dr. Richard E. Shope, M.D. He noted that some rabbits he was studying in Iowa and Kansas had...
Like many mythological creatures, origins are often based on reality and eventually through scientific study, “magical monsters” become explainable.
Bob Petley was born on November 11, 1912 in Akron, Ohio. He passed away on July 7th 2006. Marketing and sales seemed to be in his blood. Between 1937 and 1943, he sold candy for the Life Savers Company, sold shirts for Cluett-Peabody Co., and worked for Fisher Body Division, illustrating repair procedures for the B-29 Bomber.
In 1984, Petley sold his postcard business to Southwester, Inc., a seller of souvenirs. In the late 1990s, while taking photos of tourists in old Scottsdale, he lost his footing and fell backwards. The accident forced him into a nursing home where he lived out the remaining years of his life.
Albuquerque Journal; June 23, 1974
Arizona Daily Sun; December 9, 1979
Arizona Republic; April 22,1986
Arizona Republic; March 18, 2001
The Arizona Republic; July 11, 2006
Arizona Republic; July 17, 2006
The Greenville News; April 22, 2001
The New Mexican Sun; August 3, 1986
Valentine's Day is almost here!
Crayola Color-Your-Own Valentines
I'm often surprised with the Crayola products I find in the stores, especially licensed ones. Color-Your-Own Valentines was a 2009 Valentine's Day release, but I drew the very simplistic "kid-like" artwork for part of a Crayola licensing guide several years earlier. Companies create official guides that not only specify how the logos, the characters, and the company colors should be used, but often supply additional artwork and art direction to assist the vendor in creating licensed products consistent with official branding. These drawing were never specifically intended for Valentines, and can be found on a wide range of products, both seasonal and standard.
The product came with eighteen Valentine cards, eighteen heart-shaped lollipops that slipped into pre-cut holes on the cards, and a cello-pack of four Crayola crayons. It also came in a larger box version with twenty-six cards and lollipop, plus two bonus "Teacher Valentines" printed on the back of the box.
The crayon character (then known as Tip) was also illustrated by me. Prior to the more 3D rendered crayon characters, I designed and illustrated the second incarnation of Tip and his family of friends. I'll be posting my Tip style guide at a later date along with products he appeared on. It's a bigger project with lots to talk about and show, so give me time!
Crayola Mini Coloring Pages
I designed and illustrated the Crayola Mini Coloring Pages in 2014 for a 2015 Valentine's Day release date. I followed the new 3D crayon character style guide for the artwork. This was not a licensed product. It was created directly through Crayola. All the written expressions were supplied to me along with a general direction of how the characters should be posed. This was a pretty basic job, easy tight sketches and then vector line art completed in the computer. My favorites are "My Heart Melts for You!" and the Gump inspired "Love is a Box of Crayons." I was never able to find this box locally as it sold out very quickly, so if anyone has it, let me know. I'd like to add it to my collection.
I am proud to announce that my book The Musical Touch of Leonard Nimoy: His fascinating musical career and discography by Darlene Lacey and Joe Lacey has been nominated for the 2020 Association for Recorded Sound Collections Awards for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research. The book is available in print and e-book editions at Amazon.
The winners will be announced by September, and the awards will be presented during a banquet at ARSC’s annual conference in May 2021. Additional information about ARSC, the awards, and this year’s conference may be found at www.arsc-audio.org
ARSC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and study of sound recordings.
The Miller Lite Holiday Village is a large dimensional stand-up I painted as a point-of-purchase display for the Molson Coors Brewing Company. It was roughly four feet long and three feet tall with blinking LED lights. It stood on two large candy cane striped poles with cases of Miller Lite beer beneath it.
I landed the assignment through an ad I placed in an illustrators source guide. There's a long-standing conception that if you show an illustration of a cow, you will get a job illustrating cows but maybe not a horse. Show an illustration of Halloween and you will get jobs illustrating pumpkins, ghosts, and Frankenstein. The illustration I showed was a painting of a Halloween ghost I had done specifically for the ad. I figured I'd get jobs illustrating spooky monsters. The funny thing is, the ad agency and the client liked that I did holiday themed art, even though it wasn't Christmas. They also liked my painting style. So, I guess if you show holiday illustrations you'll get jobs illustrating holiday scenes. Any holiday scenes! Well, that's what happened me and I was surprised as anyone.
I painted the display in six sections using acrylic paint. If I were to do this today, I would probably paint it about half the size I did (shipping it off to the agency was quite a challenge.) It was the first time I had worked on such a large scale advertising assignment. It also led to me being interviewed and featured in the trade book Artist's & Graphic Designer's Market as the subject of their "Insider Report". I believe the display was successful as it was used for two consecutive years. I never saw it in a store, but I finally found one at a large beer distributor a year later and was able to buy one. Sadly, it was lost in one of my many moves. If anyone ever sees it, let me know. I keep looking online, but have yet to find it.
Here's a Halloween item to get you in the mood for ghosts, witches, and black cats.... the Haunted House Shaped Scrapbook and the Pumpkin Patch Shaped Scrapbook from Wilton Industries, makers of baking and specialty party products.
Each book came with 20 patterned pages for kids to use as a scrapbook base (candy corn shapes, bats, etc...) and were roughly 6" x 8", although, I did see some smaller versions as well. The books were bound with heavy metal posts that could be unscrewed for more pages to be added. Originally intended to have low-tech battery light-up LEDs, that feature was dropped, but the die cuts and window openings remained.
I designed four concepts — a black cat, a witch, a skeleton graveyard, and a haunted house. Of these, only the haunted house was chosen to go into production. I was then asked to redesign the skeleton graveyard into a pumpkin patch, which became the second book in the series. There were also two Christmas themed scrapbooks I designed. I'll post those later.
Trick or Treat 365 Coloring Book is on sale now for only $2.99
AVAILABLE AT: Crayola.com , Target, and select retail stores nationwide.
• 64 Silly-Spooky Coloring Pages
• Halloween Sticker Sheet
• Metallic Foil Enhanced Cover!
From the back of the book: Who says it has to be October 31st to enjoy the spooky fun of Halloween? Join the all-year celebration with a ghoulish cast of madcap monsters who just want their mummy. 64 pages. Ages 3+
The holidays are here and we're kicking them off with this really cool coloring book from Crayola! Trick or Treat 365 started off with a brainstorming session over the phone with the creative director at Crayola. "What would the Halloween monsters do when it's NOT Halloween? What if they lived next door to you and me?" These are monsters that have the same life experiences as you and I.
• The Wolfman has a bad hair day...
• When Frankenstein isn't mowing the lawn–he's taking selfies...
• The Mummy has laundry to iron...
• The Skeleton is pumping up at the gym so he can look buff...
• Drac is moonbathing at the beach!
Did I mention that the swamp monster has to take swimming lessons in the baby pool? Well, he does! And you're not the only one who finds this funny! Look for "the laughing ghost" who pops up throughout the book. He thinks all of this is a scream!
The book also has mazes, dot-to-dots, puzzles, and a full color sparkly effect sticker sheet. The pages are perforated for easy removal.
Time to step back in time...
I was playing Brain Salad Surgery by ELP the other day. I thought it would be fun to take a selfie with the cover over half my face. I posted it to social media and of course received many accolades, primarily in the form of "ELP ROCKS!". But, it was really a lot more to me than just a fun selfie.
The cover art* with its gatefold opening is very famous and I don't need to go into any great detail about the amazing artist H.R. Giger, best known for his concept designs for the original Alien movie, nor am I in anyway comparing myself to him. He was and always will be in a class all his own.
Four months before starting college as a freshman, I had undergone major facial reconstructive surgery. My jaw was broken, my chin pretty much removed and reshaped. To this day, I am quite conscious of this experience and have some regrets about it. It all came out well, but it was not without issues that persist to this day. I used to cover my face with my hand a lot when I was young. Here's a photo of me at my college drafting table. Ahh... the days of hand inking.
One of the first assignments for an Introductory Illustration class was to do a self portrait. It's a typical assignment, one I see a lot of. I think it may be a way for the teacher to get a fast glimpse into the mind of the student. I don't recall the exact details of the assignment, we may have had to incorporate some sort of personal element into the portrait. I went out and found an old lawn mower engine and lugged it back to my room. That's where most of the shapes in my self portrait came from. It's a small 8" x 10" acrylic painting. All monochrome. It was one of my first paintings and, despite its naïve approach, it has held up over time and I don't mind seeing it (unlike a lot of other earlier works of mine).
Throughout college I continued exploring mechanical and cubistic interpretations of faces and things for my fine art painting classes. Some of them quite large and typically of friends and other art students. Today, it's pretty obvious why I did this. But at the time I didn't really give it any more thought than "this would be an interesting thing to draw". I always thought I would continue this type of art, but the next thing you know, I'm illustrating for kids! That's another story.
Most of these paintings and drawings are gone now, a few sold, a couple commissioned, and most given away (if anyone reading this has one of my paintings, send me a photo, I'd love to see it! — and no, I don't want it back.), but most of them were destroyed. A couple that survived are more commercial illustrations — a pencil drawing of "Madona and Lizards" and "Good News" (an acrylic painting of George Harrison). I would have benefited from doing more research into mechanical parts, looking at Giger paintings, etc. — but, I tend to put my reference away and make things my own for good or for bad.
So, here they are. A few very old paintings from college days. I'm considering doing a new updated version of this self portrait. My painting has gotten a lot better since college. Maybe even the George Harrison painting? Quite a few of the ideas I had in college were good, I just had trouble pulling them off. I've always said and firmly believe that it's the idea that matters, not how slick something is rendered. Time to get painting. Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends!
* The ELP cover art by H.R. Giger was stolen at an exhibit in 2005 and is still missing.
New from Diner Mighty Graphics. Fun 6" x 9" sports-themed books for kids with colorful glossy covers!
Available now at Amazon.com
Bowling Scoring Made Fun!
Who's that cool dude on the lane?! Why, it's Alley Gator, and he loves to bowl! And he's here to teach you how to score! Have you sat at a bowling alley and watched the automatic scorer total up each game without fully understanding how or why these numbers popped up on the screen? Are you tired of asking someone else to keep score for you? Whether you're a kid or an adult - 9 or 99 years old, The Alley Gator Bowling Book is for you!
The "Cat's Meow" of Bowling Score Pads!
Who's that cool cat on the lane?! Why, it's Alley Cat! The Alley Cat Bowling Score Pad: With 100 Score Sheets is a fun and charming bowling score pad for kids and adults. The custom-designed score sheets are easy to read and keep score on for up to six players per game. The book also comes with 10 note pages to keep track of your bowling games, personal notes and memories!
Who’s the pup who never gives up?
It’s Slam Dunk Dog, basketball’s MVP — Most Valuable Pup! Slam Dunk Dog loves to chase down balls and hound other players with his moves above the rim. If you love basketball the way he does, you’ll love his notebook. This 100 page lined notebook has basketball terms and pictures from start to finish. Perfect for every basketball fan.
Who’s the All-Star that never bats a foul and is never called “chicken”?
It’s Home Run Rooster, and baseball is his game! If you love baseball the way he does, you’ll love his notebook. This 100 page lined notebook looks like a baseball and has baseball terms and pictures from start to finish. Perfect for every baseball fan who has America’s Pastime on the mind — even in the off-season!
I produce illustrations and creative idea solutions for toys, packaging, publishing and advertising. I'm also a writer and fine art painter.
• MFA, Syracuse University