Norman Adams was commercial art’s Babe Ruth.
If Robert Fawcett was “The Illustrator’s Illustrator” of commercial art then Norman Adams was its “Babe Ruth,” and Robert Fawcett knew it, as did most of the professionals of commercial art, like Charles E Cooper.
Commercial art was one of the most lucrative professions in the world, and while thousands and thousands of perfectly good artists and illustrators were desperate for any type of work in the profession: Norman Adams graduated from art school in LA and went to work for the “New York Yankees of commercial art,” the Charles E Cooper Studio… to become its Babe Ruth.
“While commercial artists were content to score “runs” with their illustrations Norman Adams went one step further with his art to score “Home Runs,” alias Babe Ruth.
If ever there was a person born to be an artist it was Norman Adams.
From the youngest age Norman was passionate about painting. He would collect every image he could from art books, newspapers and magazines and then set out to paint better. He was especially impressed with three artists that more than any other perfected their trompe l’oeil (literally, “fool the eye”) style into this word “disbelief”: William Harnett, John F. Peto and John Haberle.
Norman Adams took everything every artist could give him and then went beyond… so he could do the “unbelievable.”
paint better and better paintings so that when he entered them in shows or exhibitions all the other paintings would work together
to make his paintings: unbelievable. Times Three.
ONE: Before he graduated from the Los Angeles Art Center School he created a portfolio of paintings to impress the managers of Illustration Agencies. His portfolio was so impressive that THREE of the leading Illustration Agencies in NY offered him a job while thousands of perfectly good artists and illustrators were begging for work. He ended up working for the “New York Yankees of Illustration”; the Charles E Cooper Studio …. to become its Babe Ruth.
TWO: once he was established in NY as a “Babe Ruth of Illustration” he submitted his best paintings to Society of Illustrators shows to convince all the professionals of commercial art that even as a rookie in the business he could do what nobody else could … as he won award after award until it got boring. He impressed not only Illustrators but gallery owners from all over NY who often kept calling him wanting to sell his “unbelievable” paintings. But he was too busy working as an Illustrator, mostly day and night, to consider painting for galleries. More or less: all the paintings at these Society of Illustrators shows made Norman Adams’ paintings appear “unbelievable.”
The measure of the “unbelievable” however was not in the art critics, it was not in the Illustrators, and it was not in the gallery owners: it was in Security. The Security at these exhibits would insist that something unbelievable was in Norman’s paintings because while visitors would browse all the other painting in the show many of them, especially the kids, had to touch what was “unbelievable” in his paintings.
THREE: towards the end of his career Norman Adams did what he had done all his professional life: take the time and effort to gauge the competition. Then he raised the bar after he was specifically paid to paint a painting that would “steal the show” at the largest and most popular 1988 Wildlife Art Show in the country at the time, in Minneapolis. Not only did the painting “steal the show” to get the “Best of Show” award but it was literally a show-stopper. While most people walked around browsing the artwork… many if not most had to stop and sometimes stand in line to stare at with “disbelief” at Norman Adams’ Golden Grand.
All the paintings at this huge art show made this Golden Grand painting of Norman Adams a show-stopping: Unbelievable!
It is by far Norman Adams’ biggest and most impressive “Home Runs.”