San Francisco Society of Illustrators — 1961 – 1986

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.

James Sanford

Note 1:
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).

Note 2:
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.”
Marc Ericksen

Note 3:
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
Ann Thompson