Motor Illustrator: Gerald McConnell
September 1964 cover. Salesmen and mechanics from Ace motor look on as a man unveils a new pink car arriving on a car carrier.
Gerald Miller "Jerry" McConnell (May 17, 1931 — June 14, 2004) was an American illustrator best known for cover illustrations for Western genre paperback books. Born in East Orange, New Jersey, at age 18, he suffered from tuberculosis and was flat on his back for two years. It was during that time that he began to draw, making copies of National Geographic pictures. When he was well enough to venture out, a kindly neighbor took him to hear a lecture given by Frank J. Reilly (artist and educator who claimed he could teach a wooden Indian to paint — provided, of course, that the Indian wanted to learn) at the local woman's club. Once back on his feet, McConnell knew what he wanted to do and went on to study under Reilly and Dean Cornwell (illustrator under whom Reilly apprenticed) for five years at the Art Students League. It was also there he met his wife Jane Markey.
In 1953, claiming Norman Rockwell as an early influencer, he sold his first book cover illustration to Pocket Books. As much as he might have wanted to go it on his own, by 1955, he was working in the art department of the Albin Company (electrical contracting). But that didn't last long. Soon he was drawing two to three cover illustrations a week, amounting to thousands in his lifetime. Among the Western paperbacks he illustrated were: To Still the Guns; The Masked Gun; Apache Kid; The Relentless Rider; Gunsmoke Vengeance; Tumbleweed Trigger; Rocky Pass; The Shotgunner; Hell Canyon; Smoky Pass; Rogue's Rendezvous; Fort Suicide; and many, many others. There were paperbacks from other genres, as well, including such titles as: Bloody Jungle; Tidal Wave; Come Walk with Love; The Ultimate Weapon; The Green Brain; and The Saint Cleans Up. It's astonishing that he had time for anything other than book illustrations but McConnell also did magazine illustrations for New Home, Bowling, Columbia, Jack and Jill, Bell Telephone, and MoToR (1959 to 1964).
He found time, as well, to work in advertising. In 1967, when the AT & T art director wanted something different for an ad, McConnell thought he knew just the thing. He built an assemblage, a three-dimensional collage of materials. That same year, he wrote and illustrated a book, Assemblages. Three-Dimensional Picture Making. Thereafter, he designed and built assemblages (and photographer Cosimo Scianna shot them) for Newsweek covers ( November 10, 1980 and December 14, 1981), book covers, etc. He founded a studio, PropArt, to build ultra-realistic miniature sets for film and advertising, special events, and galleries. He made cityscapes that were used for Absolut vodka ads and a faux lake for a stereo ad that ran in Playboy. In addition, he and his photographer earned a Gold Clio award for their work on an intricate mummy construction.
McConnell taught at Pratt Institute, 1977-78, and, along with Tad Crawford (author, attorney, and advocate for artists' rights), taught a class on art law and business at Pratt-Phoenix, 1978-79. He is credited, again in collaboration with Crawford, with working to improve copyright protections for visual artists.
As President, publisher and owner of Madison Square Press, a small art book firm working in conjunction with the Society of Illustrators, McConnell was proudest of two titles, The Illustrator in America, 1880-1980, and The Advertising Art of Norman Rockwell.
McConnell, in 1969, was a founding member of the Graphic Artists Guild and, took an active leadership role with the Guild in the seventies and eighties. His association with the Society of Illustrators was long and rich. A member since 1962, he served on the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee for many decades and edited a number of their Annual Books. In 1981, he won their Hamilton King Award for his pencil drawing of Grand Central Terminal. McConnell's service extended, as well, to the Frank Reilly School of Art, where he was trustee and member of the board of directors.
He won numerous certificates and awards and exhibited his work at museums, galleries, and other venues in New York, Connecticut, Ohio, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.
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