With Further Ado #202: Greg Hildebrandt Part 3 – Rita, Bettie, Shannon and a Pin-Up Calendar

In the third part of our With Further Ado conversation with Greg Hildebrandt, we (finally) get to discussing his two new calendars, and start with why this famous fantasy artist has a new Pin-up Calendar coming out.

Please enjoy Part 3 of my interview with Greg Hildebrandt:

Ed Catto: That’s fantastic! And let’s shift – I want to be mindful of the time – let’s shift to the Pin-Up calendar. You’ve been inspired by pinups and it looks like it’s going to be beautiful.

Greg Hildebrandt: Well, I was born in 1939. So, I was aware of these things. You became aware of these things, even before you got to puberty. I was a little kid, and my grandfather had all the calendars. My father’s father. We’d go over to Grandma and Grandpa’s, and back in the day, they were very “old worldly” almost, even though my grandfather was born here, his wife was born in Austria. He had all these calendars in the basement, but basically, they were all Gil Elvgren‘s! (i.e., Pin-Up Calendars)

And I remember them lined all up. And going down (to the basement). Tim and me would go down and study them. Aside from once you were interested in girls, aside from that aspect. and we would go down and study them. We were just blown away by the painting of them, especially the style – that broad painterly look that he did. That was my first really focus for knowledge, or information. about Pin-Up art.

And then, of course, a man would always have the magazines. You would look at the magazines. With the photography that would never match the art. It would never match the art in those men’s magazines. They just didn’t have it.

EC: Yeah, the Vargas painting would be better than the photography.

GH: Absolutely. Absolutely! It’s like they’re trying for some perfection thing, or idealization. You know, I know, it’s dangerous to talk about this stuff these days, but there was a certain standard that they were after.

For a lot of them, their women start to look alike, and then there’s almost too much of a kind of a similarity. When I started my series, I wanted to have very individualistic people.

My approach was for each to be individual, and in each of these are I’m trying to tell a little story.

EC: There is so much story in each image!

Editor’s Note: There is more art from the calendar past the jump.

GH: That’s all part of the sequential background that I was obsessed with; either comics or film or animation. I was really obsessed with animation, early animation. And just to tell the story. So, the fun is that! And you’re being very personal about these things. So that that so I started drawing for me.

Jean is giving me the clues to what to talk about. {His wife hands him some prompts for our conversation}.

I have a tendency to go over all kinds of things.

EC: I could talk to you for 10 hours! You know I want to be focused too.

GH: My first focus on Pin-Up art was my grandfather’s calendar in the basement. All the women went upstairs to go to the bathroom, and all the men went downstairs.

And, of course, you know, (Pin-Up calendars were) in the garage. It was the old story, back then you would go to the corner garage and there would be Pin-Up calendar.

And then, once you become aware of girls, you’re drawing them as much as you’re drawing all the other stuff you were drawing, soldiers or monsters or rocket ships.

EC: Yes, sure, sure…

GH: That will be one of the things – generally, I just kept drawing. That’s how they all start. Time goes by, and I get into all kinds of other areas of illustration starting with animation in Detroit, industrial animation for Ford and GM. The Air Force, and the US Navy; all kinds of people. Great studio! Fantastic! One of the biggest industrial film producers in the country in Detroit anyway …but that’s a whole other story.

But again, you’re drawing Pin-Up there, because in your spare time that what guys will be drawing. I was an assistant animator and 60% of the time we spent drawing. And we would instruct each other. So, we’d learn a lot there.

Then I went to documentary filmmaking, then I went into illustration – you name it.

Finally, I met Jean. We got together and she was my rep, an agent, for a long-time…. way before we got married. Finally, after you’ve been through all the stuff with Jean, she started a publishing company, she decided to do the classics. You know. the public domain classics Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. And they were beautiful books – beautiful.

Michael Jackson was a big fan, and a lot of other people too. Robin Williams. You know, he bought some art from those books.

I finally did the comics stuff for Marvel. Then I finally one day I said to Jean, “I’d like to do some Pin-Up stuff. That’s always been there in the back of my head.”

EC: Sure.

GH: She’s 14 years younger than me. She knew that stuff. She said, “You’ve got to show me what you’re thinking of so that I can see it.” By this point where we’re in a relationship together. And so, we talked about it. With her, I kind of worked it out. I said, “I don’t want to do a lot of the stuff that they’re all doing right now. (Frank) Frazetta – all the guys who are like Frazetta – there’s so many Frazetta imitators with the girls with the swords and everything. I don’t want to do that.”

And she said, “Well, Noir. How about Noir? How about something you know. You always loved Noir films.”

And I said, “Okay good! That’s cool. That’s an area to land on.”

So, it starts with Jean making a suggestion, which is great. 80% of what I do is Jean making a suggestion, and that leads to a whole thing!

I said, “What the hell… I’m thinking of a story. What do I want to do? I want to do it like a girl – you know the old classic stripper? – with a bump and grind thing. The tassels and everything. We’ll go back to that stereotype or archetype.”

I prefer archetype opposed to stereotype.

“Is it cool? That’s cool. Where is it? In the theater? A party! A private party. In my head, I’m working all this stuff out. It’s a private party for Mafioso guys.” You know I’m saying? It’s rough compositional stuff with no models. just to get everything in. Here’s the primary basis for everything for me: compensation, The actual setup within the picture frame. (He makes an imaginary rectangular frame in the air.)

EC: Wow!

GH: My primary center of interest (is here). Where’s the secondary (center of interest)? How to lead the eye around. That’s number one, that’s number one. But if that composition’s not right on the money; it’s just not gonna work.

EC: I understand completely.

GH: I got the composition I wanted. And then, I had to get a model. Jean managed to get the model, but she still hadn’t seen the picture.

The model does the model session and I set that all up. I shoot that. I then paint the picture. I use all my friends. I’m in there in the back. My brother is in there. A couple of artists buddies of mine are all in there.

EC: You guys were all the mobsters in that!

GH: And you see a couple of horns in there.

EC: It almost seemed a like a little Rita Hayworth…it had that vibe to me.

GH: Shannon! This beautiful redhead posed for me. She was fantastic. She looked like that, and I was actually part of paraphrasing when I was drawing the sketch.

I was thinking what stripper from the day: Tempus Storm.

EC: Oh yeah. I think I know her. She was a famous stripper.

GH: She was constructed like that, a classic thing. With the red hair. She did a bunch of films for that brother and sister team that did them – like Bettie Page.

EC: Oh, Klaw or somebody?

GH: Yeah, Irving Klaw! So, I was kind of like thinking of Tempus Storm. She has got that kind of look, so it worked out beautifully and I painted it. I brought showed it in and showed it to Jean. She said, “Oh my God!” She flipped over it. She was going nuts for it, she really loved it, She was thinking about a New York show.

“I’ll do a gallery,” I said. “I’ll do a bunch of pinups as a focal point for the show!”

Jean asks questions and somebody told her Louis Meisel’s Gallery in Manhattan would be good for Pin-Ups. He’s the man who’s done the books with Taschen and all kinds of people. He’s the expert.

And so, she called him. And he said, “Yeah I know the Hildebrandt’s, yeah, yeah, like the Hobbits and everything.”

And she said, “No, no, no, this is something new. Greg’s really into pin-up art.”

“No, no, no,” he said. “There hasn’t been a good Pin-Up artist in 20 years.”

She said, “Let me only send it over to you. You take your time call me next week, when- the hell – ever.” So, she zapped it over to him.

Twenty minutes later he calls.

He loved it! And he said “Okay, what are you talking about?”

She said, “A show. A one man show.” And he said, “Okay we’ll talk.”

—-Join us next week for part IV!