San Francisco Society of Illustrators – – 1961 – 1986
(A 25-year review as written by James Sanford SFSI President in 1986.)
In 1961, thirteen San Francisco illustrators decided there was a need to form a local organization for the promotion of Illustration.
Due to the inherent limitations of a guild or union, it was decided that the organization should be a chartered society for illustrators. The San Francisco Society of Illustrators would encourage independence, fair practices and personal artistic excellence as its goals.
In addition to the promotion of illustration, we would provide guidance for members and other artists in business and ethics and contribute art to charitable causes. We decided on an annual exhibition, some traveling shows, and occasional painting and miniature auctions.
As the Society matured, the scope of membership broadened and in the 1970s it was decided to open the club more to the trends in graphics, design and painting. We developed price guidelines and a code of ethics patterned after the 4‑A Agency Guide.
In 1976 we produced our first Illustrators Index.
U.S. Air Force Documentary Art Program:
As early as 1961 we were invited to participate in the U.S. Air Force Documentary Art Program. In the past 25 years, San Francisco illustrators have contributed over 300 paintings to the Air Force, ranging in subject from tactical operations in Viet Nam to NATO Family Services in Europe, Asia, and Central America. These paintings are displayed in Air Force headquarters, and on tour worldwide. Our artists have also donated paintings to the U.S. Navy under similar auspices. In addition we participated in the National Parks Art Program from 1974 to 1979. This resulted in 50 paintings and 18 drawings now permanently on display at the Dept. of the Interior in Washington D.C. and at the Forest Service Design Center at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
National Parks Art Program:
We have also been involved with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration in documenting various NASA activities.
Today, many of our members are teaching in colleges and schools in the Bay Area.
We have a successful scholarship program, which is richly supported by our members through the contributions of art for fund raising auctions.
Members of SFSI who have taught at the Academy of Art College (Now the Academy of Art University) : Charles Pyle, Dick Cole, Tom Durfee. Ed Diffenderfer, John Lytle, Norm Nicholson, Chris Kenyon, Jim Sanford, John Rutherford and Dick Moore.
In 1976, the other SF school with a very large professional art program, was started by William Davis who brought more professionals to instruct at CCSF (City College of San Francisco):
Gerald Melcher, Stan Galli, Gus Colichidas, Stephen Hall, Howard Hamman, Alice Harth, Larry Green, Curtis Fields, Robin Prior, Jim Stockton, Craig Sharp, John Norall, Dora Williams, Fred Cole, Gig Gonella, Dick Ham, Lowell Herrero, Walter Landor, Don Short and Shirley Yee.]
In 25 years, our numbers have risen from the original 13 founders to over 120 members. We are anticipating another quarter century of continued success.
Since I couldn’t find a photo of Jim Sanford in 1968, I am including these two photos of him, at what must have been the 1970s’ SF Art Directors and Artists Club’s “LUV-IN” party.
The second photo shows Jim Sanford, John Larrecq, John Lichtenwalner, Stan Dann and (? unable to identify).
In early 2000 SFSI came to an end.
Marc Ericksen (SFSI President in the early ‘90s as well as the chairman for the Air Force Art Collection program) wrote:
Matt Holmes and I worked to try to keep the Air Force Art Program alive by inviting and combining with independent illustrators in locations like Portland and Seattle, creating the Northwest Air Force e Artists, which last only a short while, as the momentum for the program slowly lost steam.
My sense (…and please, anyone, correct me if I’m in error)…was that by the year 2000 SFSI had slowly eroded as digital applications came more to the forefront, and the nature of illustration was taken into younger hands.
I will always remember the warm welcome I received after I had graduated from Art Center in 1975,… an after a year in Chicago, when I relocated my family to the Bay Area, and was immediately adopted by Chuck Pyle and the members of the SFSI.
It was an amazing group of talented and fascinating brothers and sisters in art.”
On May 20, 2001 (40 years since the SFSI’s beginning) the SFSI Alumni gathered at the Presidio Officers Club for a dinner and celebration of their time and friendships in the
Info and photos collected by