Thursday, March 11, 2010

UNSUNG ARTISTS OF THE KIT BOXES





The visuals that decorate kit boxes are what the marketing men call ‘primary sales tools’. Put simply, if you can spot a decent box from a distance, the odds are that you’ll go over to have a closer look. Today, photographs are often used, and latest boxes from the likes of Airfix have the photorealistic look provided by CGI (Computer Graphic Imagery) software.

Back in the heyday of the plastic kit, the 1950s and 1960s, box art was generally created by hugely talented commercial artists, mostly unsung heroes of the illustration world. Kits were graced with beautiful paintings, many of them fit to be framed and hung on a wall. However, in graphic studios it’s always been normal practice to leave visuals unsigned, or signatures removed before printing - understandable, as the client is promoting a particular product, rather than an artist’s style of work.

But over the years, it’s good to report that some box artists have become better known. In the UK, Roy Cross is recognized for his splendid work on many an Airfix kit. In the US it’s been a similar story, with Jack Leynnwood’s finely-drawn 1956 illustration of a C-130 Hercules being noted for its dramatic use of perspective. Away from the drawing board, Jack had wide interests that ranged from playing a Wurlitzer organ and driving a Jaguar XK-E, to flying an AT-6 aircraft.

Richard Kishady’s painting of the ‘Red Baron’ Manfred von Richthofen’s Fokker Triplane sums up an exciting style that helped make a box-top a hot marketing item. The talented John Steel was a diver and photographer as well as a talented illustrator, and Revell featured him in adverts that ran in various 1950s-era magazines.

Right now, many Revell kit boxes are featured in the fascinating book Remembering Revell Model Kits by Thomas Graham. It’s a terrific read, and nicely printed too. Highly recommended if you’re into reading about, as well as making, model kits by Revell.

The pictures show, top to bottom:
1 Remembering Revell Model Kits book jacket.
2 Lockheed C-130 Hercules by Jack Leynnwood.
3 Fokker Dr1 Triplane by Richard Kishady.
4 Tugboat Long Beach by John Steel.

Visit Revell here.

Buy the excellent Remembering Revell Model Kits here.