Norman Nicholson, Illustrator

I had the good fortune to grow up in San Francisco, where in grade school as well as high school, I was constantly exposed to art. I was often taken on day trips to the De Young Museum, Legion of Honor, as well as galleries along Sutter Street and the Gallery at Gump’s at 250 Post Street. While I was in high school, the annual exhibit at the Art Directors Club on Clay Street was a major inspiration, as I could view wonderful illustrations by Stan Galli, Bruce Bomberger, Gordon Brusstar, Fred Ludekens, Maurice Logan and others.

Following high school, my enrollment at the Academy of Art was cut short by the Korean War. I enlisted in the Navy, serving until my discharge in 1954. Ever since high school my goal had been to embark on an illustration career. At the time, there seemed to be two avenues open: enter the profession as an apprentice learning from the well established illustrators in a studio, or, seek out a top art college. Fresh out of the Navy, I chose the first option. I was hired by Max Landphere at Landphere Associates. I was and still am grateful that Max saw some raw talent or possible potential in what ever I must have been showing at the time.

After two years at the studio, I chose to leave and enroll at Art Center College of Design Los Angeles, on the G.I. Bill, one of the best decisions I made at the time. Like after WW2, many students were ex Korean War G.I.s anxious to get on with their careers and life. It was a great time to be at Art Center, lots of talent and competition there. Mark English and Peggy Hopper and John Asaro were classmates.

After graduation I was hired as an illustrator at Kaiser Graphic Arts in Oakland. It was a short stay of eight months for me as I wanted to work in a more vibrant market in San Francisco. In the ‘60s, I was represented in Los Angeles by Joe Henninger’s studio, Stephens, Biondi, DeCicco---I often flew down on weekends to work there. Those were exciting years in San Francisco with all the creativity and inspiration that was out there.

My studio locations were mainly on Pacific Avenue and at Pier Five on the Embarcadero. I think the 525 Pacific group on Pacific Avenue, which I was part of, was the highlight of my career. About 12 very talented illustrators, graphic designers, and art directors---made up this congenial group. Jim Sanford, John Larrecq, Ray Ward, Francie Ward, Kasandra Weinerth, Tom Durfee, Dick Cole, Delores Campbell, John Pratt and myself. Apologizes to those I may have omitted.

Along with my illustration years, traveling and participating in the United States Air Force Art Program as well as the National Parks Art Program occupied my time.

I taught at The California College of Design, the Academy of Art and San Jose State University.


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1.   Design Office AD: Bruce Kortabien
2.   Ford Times Magazine / Ford Motor Co.
3.   Kaiser Aluminum Agency: Y&R AD: Don Sternloff and Alan Lefkort
4.   San Francisco Magazine
5.   Chevrolet Corp.
6.   Sangrolé Wine AD: Dan Bonfigli
7.   Goldberg Bowen AD: Don Helbig
8.   Motorland/AAA AD: Jack Herold
8.   Motorland/AAA AD: Jack Herold
9.   Princess Cruises AD: Jerry Huff
10.  Nut Tree (Art Collection ) “Yosemite” AD: Don Burell
11.  Arizona / Football Richard, Segal & McCoy
12.  Fireman’s Fund Insurance / Tennis International
13.  Royal Hawaiian Hotel AD: Scott McBride
14.  Design Office AD: Peter Martin
15.  Inglenook Wines AD: Max Landphere
16.  US National Park Service
17.  US National Park Service
18.  San Francisco Magazine
19.  Lietz Surveying Instruments and Equipment
20.  Popcorn Cart
21.  Airplane & Crew