Bill Ward Winner of second annual LEAD IN HIS PENCIL Award and 15 secrets you never knew about Bill Ward Vintage Sleaze
Vintage Sleaze is Proud to award the second annual "Lead in his Pencil Award" to Bill Ward!
What can one add to the under the counter acclaim given Bill Ward, the Big Gun of Bad Girl Art? Since most of it came long after he passed away in 1998, years after Parkinson's Disease robbed him of his most extraordinary skill? Well I can add plenty!
I once opined Bill Ward is likely the most recognizable artist since World War Two...for men anyway. From his hilarious drawings in comic joke books of the 1950s to the over/under the counter glossies like Adam in the 1960s to Cracked Magazine, Sex to Sexty and such into the 1970s and even the anatomy-centric magazines of Dian Hanson in the 1990s, nearly every male of every generation alive today has seen his work. I'm not sure how many would admit it, nor am I sure how many could name the artist, but certainly quite a few could. Even my wife can!
"Popular" art is not for the most part "Fine Art" and that goes without say. Even though "Fine Art" is Norman Rockwell, Peter Max, Leroy Neiman and bad landscape artists on TV for the masses, that isn't fine art either. The fine art world is tiny...so tiny most folks living between LA and NY couldn't identify the work on the cover of Art News or Art in America if you offered them a trip to St. Lucia or a set of brand new Maytag washers. SPIN THE WHEEL and NAME THE ARTIST. It's not going to work. The miniscule, insular, intellectual and incestuous real art world consists largely of an elite group of critics, collectors and connoisseurs, and most folks not only couldn't name many, they also couldn't care less. Despite all the education, museum shows, documentaries, books, feature films and even "America's Next Great Artist" on Bravo, we are still and always will be living in the "My kid could do that" world. I'm just saying.
Bill Ward did around 10,000 drawings in his lifetime. That rivals the number of known Picasso paintings (and both sold their own autographs!) By coincidence, Ward seems to have replicated his OWN Picasso in the window up above! I do not believe the Met, The Whitney, MOMA or LACMA own any Wards. The Kinsey Institute probably does. I do own a few, but not many, and I do own what is the largest known signature he ever drew. It hangs over my head like the breasts of Miss May's camera in the Grand Canyon here! But his original works are too dear these days for my wallet, despite his prodigious output.
I do not intend to romanticize a fellow who basically drew boobs...gigantic, pendulous boobs which existed only in his slightly twisted mind, nor am I claiming he was a great (or even a "fine") artist. Only that he contributed to the common mindset of men for decades, and his influence, by numbers alone, rivals just about any artist you could name. I'm sorry, art teacher...I believe more people have seen Bill Ward's work than Roy Lichtenstein or Mark Rothko, just as more folks in the 1940s could hum a Roy Acuff song than one by Sinatra.
So the secrets? Well, there are a few. For one, he drew some work with the pseudonym "McCartney" but I do not know why. Perhaps somewhere along the line, some sleazy publisher told him he was "under contract" or it was a gentleman's agreement that he work exclusively. Perhaps he felt he was getting "over-exposed" (pun intended) and needed to branch out. Maybe, like Garth Brooks and his hilarious, wig-wearing alter-ego Chris Gaines...he just wanted to see if his work would be accepted without his recognizable signature.
The color images above are from what I believe is a quite scarce thing...an original 1964 calendar for the Cal-Tram Company. They appear to have produced toilet valves...a most appropriate pairing! Consequently, being 50 years old, they are not often seen. Some of the images were included in the staggering Taschen book now out of print, I believe, but readily available. Similar work from the same period, with the McCartney signature, was published in the Fantagraphics book "The Pin-up Art of Bill Ward" which is a wonderful book as well. Yes, there are twelve of them, one for every month, and each so good they require no punch line. Only the least revealing are shown here. I'm glad some former plumber's assistant carried the thing home and put it in a box, and if I hold on to it long enough, I am sure the dates will repeat themselves and I can use it.
Bill did the illustrations for a Lili St Cyr Lingerie Catalog. Lili, or her handlers, had good sleaze taste! Under what have must have been extreme duress (and a difficult violation of his artistic standards) Bill appears to have depicted her ta-tas in a nearly accurate rendition. Lili was a mere 34.
He attended and graduated from Pratt Institute in New York, but not surprisingly is omitted from the list of notables who graduated. Shame on them. Heck, I'd use one of his drawings on the cover of the catalog sent to parents of ANY budding art student!
1991 he both mailed and sold colored by hand Christmas cards, one of which depicts Santa struggling with his leather boots instead of a busty woman.
Tattoo artist Brooke Cook will do a fairly reasonable Bill Ward tat on your arm!
He worked on the Jack Binder Comic Book "Bulletman and Bulletgirl"
He drew the cover for the famous Decca LP The Lone Ranger satire in which Tonto turns to the Ranger and says "what do you me WE paleface?" In a remarkable coincidence the stuntman for the real Lone Ranger Clayton Moore was also named Bill Ward and was, at the time, owner of his horse, Traveler! Bill Ward would ride Traveler past the camera (wearing a mask) anytime Clayyon had to rush somewhere.
During world war two, Ward drew some recruiting and war bond posters. He drew an underground comic which appears in Weird Smut Comics in 1985, and had a continuing series "Quest for a Big Pair" which ran in Juggs Magazine.
An artist calling himself "Mamillus" is attempting to replicate Ward works. I can not link to them, he seems to be recreating Ward's later, demented years.
Some Beautiful unfinished watercolors by Ward are shown on The Artist and His Model site HERE
He was straight and also was not "into" the activities he depicted, he did it for the money.
He did some pretty nasty stuff for the covers of some newspaper format "swingers" type publications aimed at particular sexual orientations late in his career, and he was STILL being paid $50 for a cover, $25 for "inside" pages.
He sold at least one drawing to the previously discussed Charley Jones Laugh Book. (1958)
There was ANOTHER Bill Ward who worked as an illustrator in the UK who did drawings for Men's gay publications. He passed away in 1996. Finally, Bill Ward was the name of Ozzy's drummer during the glory days of Black Sabbath. This Bill Ward survives today, despite often having had his beard set on fire by the boys in the band as a prank, once receiving third-degree burns.
So Bill Ward is awarded the illustrious second annual "Lead in his Pencil" Vintage Sleaze award. Let's make that....aWARD!
(For more information about the artist, check out the official Bill Ward Website run by his family)
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