Tuesday, 13 July 2010

SUMMER OF SWORD EXTRA: JO KOTULA AND HIS MOON PROSPECTOR

I was chuffed to bustin' earlier in the summer when this old US Newseek magazine from June 1961 landed on the mat. Ever since I first came across it browsing for 'Moon Prospector' in the late 90's I've promised myself one. And here it is! I've blogged before about how I think it's the first real public colour artwork showing what we know to be the Moon Prospector and how it might have influenced the box artist of the Century 21 toy. Finally though the mystery of the cover artist has been revealed - his name's on the cover and credited inside [see below]: US artist JO KOTULA [1910-1998].
and the inside credit re. 'The Cover' a bit closer....
I'd never heard of Mr. Kotula but that would all change. But first here's the rest of the space stuff in the magazine. First up is this great Boeing ad with the classic ascending Dyna Soar image I've come to associate with Boeing staff artist Warren McCallister [so that's two SWORDesque artists' impressions in this one 1961 magazine!]
The main article is 'Men on the Moon' with a final boxed section called 'Lunar Scouts Prepare the Way' including our friend the Prospector.
and here's that cool 'boxed' section up close with our 'Prospector' [is this the earliest 'public' use of the name?]....
and finally there's a nifty colour ad for Polaris missiles no less [it was 1961 after all!]
I mentioned that I'd never heard of Jo Kotula, which having searched around a bit I'm now surprised at, as he was so well-known, well-loved and utterly prolific. He made a name for himself as one THE cover artists for the US magazine Model Airplane News, including this cool 'flying wing' cover below from 1942 [left]. He also painted more Newsweek covers including the 1960 submarine painting below [right]:
The late Jo Kotula is also a famous model kit box artist no less! Along with his Model Airplane News [MAN] covers it's for these he's perhaps most well-known. As you'd expect for a famous artist, who like so many of that golden generation of aviation and aerospace painters - Valigursky and McCall - has sadly left us, there are many tributes to him on the net. His place in aviation art is further secured by the fact that in 1986 he was a founding member [along with Bob McCall] and past president of the American Society of Aviation Artists, whom I wrote to but alas didn't reply. I also wrote to the current editorship of his old employer the modern Model Airplane News [no response], who published this celebration of his work. More interesting still was 'Stuffinder"s account of his dealings with Mr.Kotula including sorting through his paintings with him ready for sale [wrote to him about the possible whereabouts of the Newsweek 'Prospector' painting but alas no reply again - I must be annoying!]. There's also Kotula prints for sale over at Plan 59. There's even a modern book about aviation box art 'BOX TOP AIR POWER', which includes the artist's work too [we need one on space toy box art!].

The best online tribute I could find by far is a fabulous archive of MAN covers and a wonderful box art slide show gallery by Lindy Hopper over at Jitterbuzz .The whole site takes a while to open as there are hundreds of images [and it's had over 9 million views!]. I contacted Lindy and she kindly sent this reply, which acts neatly as a final word:

"Hi Paul

While this is the first that I have ever heard of Project SWORD, I can tell you a few things about Jo Kotula. Basically, if he painted it, it was exciting. I have some pictures on the main Model Airplane News page that illustrate that he could do as well with battleships, submarines and tanks as he did with aircraft. It is my understanding that Kotula worked from photographs and drawings when the "real thing" wasn't available. So, it is very likely that he was able to do a painting of the Moon Prospector from NASA drawings. He was very prolific and probably would have been very enthusistic about Project SWORD.
Lindy"

2 comments:

  1. Kotula is very famous in the plastic kit world. His work was mainly for Aurora but he also painted for Air Lines, and some of that work later appeared on the boxes of FROG and Novo.

    Sean

    ReplyDelete
  2. another fine piece of research Mr W.

    ReplyDelete

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