Of the 102 members of the San Francisco Society of Illustrators, all were located in the San Francisco Bay Area — except, Will Nelson who was located in Boise. Idaho.
He had a professional background in advertising and editorial illustration for studios in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. This Photo of Will Nelson and the three examples of his work are from the SFSI Twenty Fifth Anniversary Index #6. The “Last of Their Kind” collector plates showing endangered animals are samples of his illustrations of wildlife.
Will Nelson’s representative in San Francisco was Ron Sweet, who suggested that FCB Healthcare contract with the artist in Idaho to do the finished art for their new ad campaign.
It was from this connection that I received an assignment to “sell” Will Nelson’s work to FCB Healthcare’s client: Syntex Labs for a series of medical journal ads.
Advertising — there is always a ”new direction”,
This time, for a campaign was for a product to relieve arthritic/rheumatic pain: Naprosyn.
The product manager and team gave me a subject that I had never before needed to explore, wild animals!
This was when I turned to books showing all kinds of wildlife.
It was the job of the copywriters in the agency to find a headline word and a sub-head line that would link a wild animal to the qualities that Naprosyn could offer.
First I did a little “warm-up”. My tools were Eagle Prismacolor pencils, smeared with Bestine thinner on layout paper. “Tolerant” was the first word to be illustrated.
As the format of the series of pages was established, the term for pain-relief: “Flexible” gave me a wide choice of wildlife to illustrate. I told the agency’s team that there were a lot of possibilities to choose from, they said to do them all and all would be considered.
For “Growing”, I first thought of a bear cub, and then a large bear — but finally found it best to show a young example with the adult of the species. For the word “Powerful” an elephant was an obvious choice. “ Leader”: a lion — “Convenient”: a camel — “Enduring”: a turtle —“Climbing”: rams.
This was in 1984 and as Will Nelson begun illustrating the pages for the publications. More subjects for layouts to be OK’d by Syntex — were requested directly from him.
These first three, “Family”, “Gentle” and “Kind” are his layouts. The last three are his published art.
Many of this series were published in the medical journals, I don’t have copies of them.
Each ad had the reverse of the page showing the brief summary of the full prescribing information.
When my layout assignments were over, I learned a new art lesson. I was able to see some of Will Nelson’s preliminary work. He had added paint to a sketch that had been xeroxed. I tried this method. The guidelines of my sketch were strong and Pelikan Opaque Watercolor paints worked well for my test.
In all of the years that I have worked as a free-lance commercial artist, this was the only time that I needed to study and illustrate wildlife.
Accepting assignments from a wide range of clients has opened my interest in subjects that I would never otherwise have studied. Some artists want to only paint their own choice of subjects, but I feel that I have learned a lot from taking directions.
As I was putting this together, I remembered being in the first grade in grammar school. Mrs. Holland gave each of us, a large piece of paper and asked the class to draw a pig. I drew a pig…from top to bottom and side to side of the paper. The drawings were collected and pinned up on a wall. There were giggles. Most of the student colored their pigs pink, with a round middle, a snout, pointed hoofs and a curly tail — but they also showed a pig-pen, a barn, people, trees, and mud. Mine just showed: PIG. BIG PIG! I was following directions. A pig was all that Mrs. Holland asked for.
Again, with the Will Nelson assignment, most of my layouts for Naprosyn did not include much scenery (only when multiple animals needed to be shown). I was not asked to show the locations.