7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #412: Featuring John Alcorn

h1 December 28th, 2014 by jules

John Alcorn, Christmas card, 1958


Before 2015 gets here, I want to take some time today to tell you all about a book I really enjoyed this year, John Alcorn: Evolution by Design, edited by Stephen Alcorn and Marta Sironi, and published in 2013 by Moleskine. (I believe it was published here in the U.S. this past summer.) And, fortunately, I’ve got some art from it to share here at 7-Imp.

This is a beautifully-designed (book-lovers, take note) and quite comprehensive tribute to artist, designer, and children’s book illustrator John Alcorn, who died in 1992. (Back in 2012, I featured a bit of his children’s book illustrations.) Sironi, a researcher at the Centro APICE at Milan University, writes the book’s foreword, and the book’s opening piece, “Reflections on the Life and Art of My Father John Alcorn (1935-1992)” is from his son, Stephen Alcorn, also an artist and children’s book illustrator (whom I interviewed here in early 2010). In this opening piece, Stephen writes in detail about his father’s career and, with great reverence and a personal touch (the book also includes family photos), lays out the evolution of his father’s work. “At the time of writing,” he notes, “nearly a quarter of a century has gone by since my father’s passing, yet despite the passage of time, his work remains as culturally relevant today as the day it was created.”

The book is divided into four sections — the early years (“The Rise of the Merry Craftsman”), including Alcorn’s studies of abstract expressionism and representational art at Cooper Union, to his experiences at Push Pin Studios, to his apprenticeship with Lou Dorfsman; the “Sixties Heyday,” his experimentation with a more psychedelic style and his graphic design and book jacket work, a time during which most of his work was commissioned (and this section includes a piece on his children’s book work); his time in Italy during the 1970s, which includes discussions of his political satire and work for Federico Fellini (Alcorn designed the opening titles for several of his films); and, finally, Alcorn’s return to the States after he “was beginning to feel as if he had exhausted the creative challenges and professional opportunities Italy had to offer.”

Editorial illustration, “Florida’s Gulf Coast”;
Redbook, January 1966


The book, so elegantly designed, reproduces in color around 500 of Alcorn’s graphic compositions and illustrations, including children’s book illustrations, book jackets and slipcase designs, logos, magazine covers and editorial illustrations, drawings, paintings (some previously unpublished and some printed alongside preparatory drawings), portraits, advertisements (including early newspaper advertisements), poster designs (including political posters from the ’70s), and even billboards — this from an artist who worked in many mediums and styles. It is a treasure trove of information for fans of his design, typography, and illustration work, as well as anyone interested in illustration and visual communication.

Book jacket for Sam Ross’ The Tight Corner, New York, Farrar Straus & Cudahy, 1956


It’s a fascinating and thorough look at an artist who has played an important role in graphic design and advertising both here in the United States and in Europe.

Below are some more images from the book. …

Book jackets from 1969-1971


Editorial illustration, Redbook, ink and dyes on paper, c. 1969


Packaging design, Love Cosmetics, agency;
Menley & James, art director; Murray Jacobs, 1969


Alcorn’s illustration for Alan Aldridge’s The Beatles Illustrated Lyrics, 1969.
This, Alcorn’s first interpretation of “Eight Days a Week,” was considered
“too licentious” and was rejected. To see the second image, the one the publishers included in the book, click this image to enlarge it.


Advertisement, Master Charge, c. 1970


Book jackets, 1973-1977
(Click second image to enlarge and see spread in its entirety)


Book jacket, Richard Adams, La collina dei conigli;
pen, sepia ink and watercolor on paper, 1975


Click to enlarge spread, which includes an unpublished book jacket


Preparatory drawing for a Chekhov book jacket, 1974
(Click to enlarge and see final book jacket)


Illustration for the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, watercolor on paper, 1986


Rizzoli advertisement, pen and Indian ink on paper, 1975


JOHN ALCORN: EVOLUTION BY DESIGN. © 2013 Moleskine SpA. © 2013 Stephen Alcorn. © 2013 Università degli Studi di Milano, Centro Apice. Images reproduced by permission of the publisher, Moleskine SpA.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) Two whole days with no work whatsoever! (The up side to freelance work you can do from home is your very flexible schedule, year-long; the down side is you don’t really get time off like other people during the holidays, but it’s hardly as if I’m complaining either, ’cause that year-long flexible schedule? I love it. A lot.)

2) Good novels.

3) Good novels that are good read-alouds.

4) Calendars. (Well, I can’t help it. Once a nerd, always a nerd.)

5) Toy purges with a nine- and ten-year old.

6) Ernest and Celestine!

7) That I have a family and a roof over our heads and food on our plates and warm blankets and good music to hear and good books to read and good art to see and warm cocoa. That about covers it. I’m grateful.

BONUS: My favorite gift? This album-sized limited edition print about one of my favorite songs ever:


What are YOUR kicks this week?

14 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #412: Featuring John Alcorn”

  1. Thank you Jules for sharing this interesting book. I was able to pinpoint the year of some of his art, the 1969 Love images.
    Your kick #7 about sums it up for me too. I am so thankful for everything because you just never know what will happen from day to day.

    My kicks:
    1. Unexpected text message on Christmas Day from a good friend
    2. Christmas movies
    3. Blue sky and sunshine this morning
    4. Fresh fruits and vegetables
    5. Hot tea with honey
    6. Friends who help me with new apps
    7. Walks every single day with my sweet Xena

    Happy New Year everyone!

  2. Wow, I just went through a time machine with Acorn’s art. I loved that joyful, psychedelic art of the 60’s simi liar to the work of Peter Maxx. It’s funny that the Beatles cover was too provocative for the time. Not sure it would be that today.
    Jules, calendars are the best. Hope you got some good ones. I like number 7.
    My kicks:
    1. A “Christmas Feast” as oldest grand girl called it with homemade pizza and spaghetti.
    2. Deciding the CYBILS Poetry shortlist.
    3. Time to read.
    4. Crochet time.
    5. Two poems in Carol Varsalona’s Finding Fall Gallery http://beyondliteracylink.blogspot.com
    6. Receiving New Year postcards from other haikuists.
    7. Family time.

  3. Margie, I agree tea with honey, real honey. What new apps are you using?

  4. Where to begin? You made my day, these make me happy, excited, laugh, awe, ooh, and whoa,
    jump started my motor to get off this computer and over to the dummy waiting for more (more, I say) on the drawing table, two feet away.
    But first to Pin.
    As always, hats off to you, Jules, for in my book, the top blog in town (along with Brain Pickings).

  5. Good morning, Imps!

    Very cool that Moleskine celebrated the artwork.

    Jules: Glad that you had two solid days off! I hope that the toys went to a good home, that there are great charities in your neck of the wood. 🙂

    Margie: Sounds like a full and lovely week.

    Jone: The question is, was the spaghetti ON the pizza, or separate?

    Kicks from the past week:
    1) Steady as can be
    2) Writing
    3) Visit
    4) Salads
    5) Bagels
    6) Walks
    7) Dedication

  6. LW, separate. Pizza was like the appetizer. I like number 7. And walks.

  7. What beautiful art! Thanks so much for sharing this today Jules.

    Jules – hooray for good novels and 2 days with no work! And amen to kick #7.

    Margie – those unexpected messages can be the best. Tea with honey, walks with Xena and Christmas movies all sound like a lovely week.

    Jone – the Christmas feast sounds great – homemade pizza=yummy! Time to read and family time is the best.

    LW – I like #1 this week. Plus salads, walks, and dedication.

    My kicks:
    1) Christmas with friends and their kids – totally laid back and fun.
    2) Setting up and running the champagne bar for Christmas day – mimosas, bellinis, and kir royales for all.
    3) Daisy met one of my very good friends and totally turned on the charm – she did all her cute puppy tricks for him. We have learned she loves everyone, but is partial to men.
    4) Another Daisy kick, but she now goes into her crate on her own when she knows I am getting ready to leave, and is just learning Target Training – picking it up so quickly – smart girl that she is.
    5) Seeing good friends in town for the holidays.
    6) Starting to clean house for the New Year.
    7) HBO running a marathon of The Wire, plus getting all caught up on The Mindy Project – nice study in contrasts.

    Wishing you all a happy new year!

  8. Jone: I have had Voxer on my tablet and phone for a little while but just started using it this weekend. I love it.
    Time to read is simply the best.
    Little Willow: I love salads; especially with more of the other stuff than lettuce. 🙂
    Rachel: So glad you are having fun with Daisy.

  9. I’ll be back tomorrow, everyone. Promise. Today got away from me. (Still essay-writing.) Thanks to all for stopping by, and more soon.

  10. All good things! Lovelovelove the toy purge/donation (did the same here — there wasn’t much, but I love getting rid of extraneous stuff). And tea with honey and writing and dedication and I’ve never set up a champagne bar, but it sounds like a fantastic idea!
    These are the first kicks that come to mind:
    1/ Taking a break to look at these wonderful images — it’s been too long!
    2/ Family.
    3/ Almond cakes.
    4/ That kids loved their musical instruments, books and art supplies and that we were able to get them for them.
    5/ Jules’ #7.
    6/ Playing guitar/mandolin/fiddle with my 11yo and my dad, who had a short-but-sweet visit.
    7/ Watching my 9yo draw with her new markers.

  11. Margie: Hugs to sweet Xena.

    Jone, good luck with the Cybils work!

    Hi Wendy!

    Little Willow: A good salad should always be appreciated.

    Rachel, you have the most interesting life. I wanna set up and run a champagne bar!

    Jessica; MANDOLIN! WOO HOO!

    Happy New Year, all!

  12. Jessica – almond cakes and family sound lovely together!

    Jules – what a delightful thing to say – I’m so flattered!

    Y’all, a champagne bar is easy – mine was a section of the kitchen bar counter – you set up some of your chilled champagne bottles, drink mixers, and fruit garnishes all within easy reach, and some champagne flutes or wine glasses or whathaveyou – champagne bar complete! I mainly ran around and kept refilling whoever looked in need of a refill….Cheers!

  13. Good Morning! The JOHN ALCORN: EVOLUTION BY DESIGN was great reading. I am a crazy amateur who sews, sculpts characters, paints with acrylics from my creative life. My family had a commercial artist who worked in Hollywood in the 1930-40’s for Harry L. Nace. The fellow recreated and enlarged actors and costumes for large photo ads for the Nace Theaters in LA. CA.
    Design ideas always come from a wacky childhood of reading, attending plays-musicals, museums and watching the crazy television in the 1050’s with grandparents who were born in 1885. Thanks!ATK

  14. […] and children’s book illustrator John Alcorn, who died in 1992. (There’s more information here at 7-Imp about John and his […]

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