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AUTO HISTORY

Motor Illustrator: Herb Mott

June 1963 cover. A grateful customer buys a potted plant at the Women's Club sale and, in a yellow convertible, takes it next door to her car mechanic.

June 1963 cover. A grateful customer buys a potted plant at the Women's Club sale and, in a yellow convertible, takes it next door to her car mechanic.


Herbert Morford Mott, Jr. was born November 10, 1923 in Ridgewood, New Jersey. His early artistic influencers were his aunts and uncles, particularly his Uncle (artist Edwin D. Mott), who lived nearby and enjoyed painting. When he was 8, they asked him to go along with them when they painted outdoors. He would continue painting with relatives well into his adult years.

After graduating from Ridgewood High School in 1943, he joined the U.S. Air Force. Soon after basic training, he became resident illustrator and cartoonist, illustrating stories in the base newspaper at Amarillo, Texas. Stationed at an air base in Guam during WWII, he was assigned to the graphic art department to produce training materials.

Post-War, he married and returned to New Jersey, eventually settling in Franklin Lakes with his wife and four children. He felt the need for a little more art education and went to the New York Phoenix School of Art. Then he joined the Henry Watts Studio as a "Board Man", drawing advertisements. He was gaining experience but he yearned to do much more and began free lancing his illustrations, selling them to advertisers, magazines, and book publishers. By 1952, his work was well-known and he was inducted into the Society of Illustrators.

Incredibly active throughout the fifties and sixties, his work appeared in men's adventure magazines, such as Adventure, Argosy, Bluebook, Bluebook for Men, Climax, Male, Men, Men Annual, Valor, Outdoor Adventures, Men's Pictorial, Real, Saga, C for Men, and Stag. From 1949 to 1954, he sold cover illustrations to Railroad magazine, 52 covers in all. (Note: In 1993, Mott returned to railroad illustration, creating a series of paintings of depots from about 1870-1930, utilized for covers of Vintage Rails.) Other magazine work extended to Boys' Life, Reader's Digest, and Sports Afield, Civil War Times Illustrated, Car and Driver, etc. Pulp magazines were another area of interest for the artist, his work appearing in Fifteen Western Tales, True Action, Western Story Round-Up, and others.

His book work illustrated westerns, modes of transportation, science fiction, and other topics, represented by such titles as these: Riders of the Rio Grande; Lincoln's Commando; Hangrope Town; Rider of the Mesquite Trail; The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction, 1960; Captives in Space; Junkyard Planet; Showdown at Skull Canyon; The Mystery of the Deadly Double; The Sky Riders; West of Laredo; Happy Birthday, America!; The Birth of Texas; The Fur Lodge; Great Cars of All Time; and Great Trains of All Times. In addition, in 1970, he edited Illustration 11, the annual publication of the Society of Illustrators.

In 1956, he began an association with the U.S. Air Force Art Program, which continued through the nineties, as he executed more than fifty historic paintings. He began with a painting of "Jimmy Doolittle's Bombing Raid on Tokyo", of which a thousand prints were made and which is still in use for Air Force advertisements. For a series of paintings of much earlier military engagements, in the sixties, he was commissioned to produce a series of Civil War paintings, many of the Confederate Navy, for the Vicksburg Battlefield museum. And in the eighties, he began producing a series of paintings for the U.S. Coast Guard, depicting sea rescues, arctic research, the first female Admiral, law enforcement at sea, etc.

There was also advertising work. In the seventies, that meant illustrations for the New Jersey Bell Telephone Company, many of which were used as cover art for their in-house magazine TelNews. In an association which began in the early sixties, Mott accepted work with Turner Construction, the company where his uncle Edwin had spent his career. Turner Construction Company was founded in 1902, and in 1910, the firm commissioned an artist to prepare drawings of their reinforced concrete building projects, put together to form an imaginary city, aptly named Turner City. The project was successful and led to an annual tradition of depicting the previous year's work. (Much of this year-by-year work is now included in the collection of the National Building Museum.) Although Mott had not done much architectural illustration before, he viewed it as a challenge. Coming the year following his uncle's death, he may also have viewed it as a kind of memorial to his uncle. He drew buildings to scale, checking with project managers on details as the work progressed. His vision succeeded and placed him in the good company of Turner artists who had preceded him.

In 1993, Mott moved to Taos, New Mexico and created a number of pieces about the historical Western frontier. His paintings moved beyond mere landscape to telling a story of the Old West. Later, he had a well-appointed studio in Tucson, Arizona, finally retiring to Moab, Utah.

In a rich and storied career, he taught at the Ridgewood Art Center and had three solo exhibits in New York and others in New Mexico. He also participated in numerous group exhibits.

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