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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Jon Peaty: A Reminiscence

A little over four years ago, I posted a brief piece about Jon Peaty, an artist whose work appeared in a single Swift Annual. This was, to my knowledge at the time, his only contribution connected to comics. At the time I was unable to locate any information at all about his career, although a later internet posting mentioned him (reproduced in the original post) and there was a little activity in the comments which added some details.

I have recently heard from R. D. Farley, who knew Peaty in the 1950s and 1960s and at one stage worked in the same studio. I'm pleased to present here a little reminiscence from Bob about Jon which adds considerably to what we know about him. The illustration at the top of our column is one of Jon Peaty's hand-drawn Christmas cards to Bob.
I first met Jon when I joined an art studio called 'Pointel Design Company' in Villier's Street, on the first floor of a building opposite the side steps to Charing Cross Station. It was run by Bill Stammers (Design and Illustration) and George Penney (Still life, Fruit and Veg etc).  Jon was a freelance with desk space. Usually this meant a peppercorn rent with the studio having first call on your time for which you invoiced them.

In those days most ads and posters were very labour intensive.  We lesser mortals put in the backgrounds, buildings, interiors and artifacts.  Jon would then come along and paint in the figures with his usual clean and crisp technique.  Sometimes he would work on a separate art board which was then cut, stripped and pasted down, (with Cow Gum).

After a while the studio moved to Kennington Cross, on the first floor of a building occupied by a firm called Puddifoot, Bowers and Simonette who were wood, ivory and carvers.  The last time I was there the site seemed to have been covered by a building called 'Winnie Mandela House'.  I worked next to Jon and at this time he had begun to forge an association with an American group called 'Bailey Souster'(spelling?) who were keen to produce American style comics in the UK.  Jon was an ideal artist for this purpose. He would lightly block-in the subject matter in position on the frames in pencil.  Then, working with incredible speed would draw in the pics using the tip of a No.3 long haired sable.  He was very accurate and I never saw him go back over his work although, he was human and must have done sometimes!  He was, at this time, I am certain, drawing 'Marvelman'.  In a recent article in the 'Magazine and Book Collector' Marvelman is dealt with at length but no mention of Jon?.  Both Jon and I at this time worked on countless butter labels.  Butter had, would you believe it, just come off ration.  Spicers were producing greaseproof wrappers with small producer's logos on them, under the blanket of 'Cow & Gate'  We drew buttercups, happy cows, farmers wives, haystacks, stiles, milkmaids you name it!

Around this time Pointel started to break up.  I went up to a studio in the West End, while George Penney set up on his own in Moorgate (later to New Bridge Street) Jon I think went with him for a while.  We all kept in touch and worked on projects together.  I introduced Jon to The Bugle Press (New Street Square, long gone) for whom he did cartoons in various trade magazines.  Both Jon and I worked for George Penney, who was now prospering, on advertising samples for 'Inveresk Paper Mills' and 'Spicers'.  All manner of subject matter, wild life, cartoons, still life etc etc.  Somewhere I have a little drawing of a Scotsman done by Jon at this time,  If I can find it I will email it to you.
We met regularly and at one time I had lunch with him and two Americans presumably Mr Bailey and Mr Souster.  George Penney from time to time booked the 'Cricketers' on the green at Morden? for a good thrash for all his friends, and Jon introduced me to his wife, I seem to remember him bringing his little girl, Lorna I think.   About this time I set up my own studio in Bow Lane in the City.  Jon, in partnership with someone I forget who, set up a studio at the end of Bow Lane next to the main entrance to Mansion House Underground.

At this time he was almost specialising in 'Mobiles' which were fast becoming a craze.  They were everywhere, toy shops, art galleries, corn flake packets and so on.  Each mobile was drawn out on a single board and when reproduced was partially punched through and the string, in position, threaded through punched holes. You just popped it through the card and hung it up, Jon must have done hundreds.

One day he came up to my studio and showed me some wild life paintings, drawn for reproduction.  Lots of different kinds of animals in one forest clearing, that sort of thing.  This was about the time of the 'World of Wonder' and 'Knowledge' and many other magazines.  Which they were for I have no idea.

I think he gave up commuting around this time and I assume worked from home.  He told me he was going over to pure art and see how it worked out.

Probably the last time I saw Jon he came into my studio and said he had found a really good money spinner.  He was giving lessons and demonstrations to American service wives at one of the air bases.

He was quite a bit older than me and had served in the war,  I guess commissioned.  But there is something which has puzzled for years.  Jon was never shy about showing his portfolio.  In it he had a number of drawings of the 'Two Types' quite definitely drawn by him.  In case you have not come across them,  they were popular cartoon characters during the war, one army and one airforce with appropriate moustaches.  They were drawn I think by Jon the newspaper cartoonist.  What part, I wonder, did Jon Peaty play in their creation?  Any ideas?

Some further research reveals that Jon Peaty was the son of Welsh-born Archibald Frederick Ernest Peaty and his wife Eleanor Mary Evans, who married in Glamorgan in 1912. John Archibald 'Jon' Peaty was born in Cardiff, Glamorgan, on 7 March 1914, the eldest of three children. Peaty grew up in Cardiff, although his parents moved at some point to The Barn, 7 Fulford Road, Scarborough, where Archie Peaty died in 1963.

Jon Peaty, meanwhile, had moved to Hove, Sussex, where he married Mary J. Fellingham in 1942. His address in 1950/52 was 2 Chapel Mews, Hove, and he continued to live on the south coast until at least 1973, his address for most of those years [1958/73] being 82 Downland Avenue, Southwick.

Bob's reminiscence mentions the possibility that he drew 'Marvelman', although I think this unlikely... instead, I offer you another possibility: 'Masterman'. And the Americans that Bob met were not Bailey and Souster but Kenneth King and Malcolm Ganteaume, although the King-Ganteaume agency did also supply strips to a number of Len Miller's comics. He may also have been, contemporarily, working for Bailey-Soustar on comics published by Sports Cartoons / Man's World. If this is the case, Peaty would have been in good company as these two agencies had such talents as Joe Colquhoun, Jim Holdaway, Syd Jordan and Philip Mendoza on their books.

Peaty also drew the feature on Louis Braile in Girl Annual 9 (1960), so he potentially had comic connections throughout the 1950s.

The artist of 'The Two Types' was William John Philpin Jones (1911-1992), also born in Wales. As 'Jon' he created the hugely popular 'Types' - two eccentrically-dressed, elegantly moustached officers with the  Desert Rats battling through Africa and Italy during World War II - in 1943 for the Eighth Army News, eventually drawing some 300 cartoons featuring the characters until 1946. I wonder whether Jon Peaty, like the other 'Jon', had anything to do with the wartime British Newspaper Unit?

John Archibald Peaty died in Ryedale, North Yorkshire, on 26 January 1991, survived by his wife and three children, Lorna, Susan and David.

2 comments:

Kate Caruso said...

I knew Jon Peaty when I lived in London and I believe that some of my family members have several of his paintings. My mother and her socialites were part of the American Women's Club, and Jon was their teacher. They frequently met and painted at our house in Kensington, at 44 Kensington Square. I have very fond memories of Jon and would love to provide more detail if David is still interested. I can be reached at Katecaruso@gmail.com. All the best!

Anonymous said...

Just came across this page while googling my grandfather who was in fact Ernest Edward Bayly - the Bayly of the Bayly-souster group. He wasn't American, but I have some lovely original American style comic strips and advertising sketches done by him. Have never been able to find much information on the company or their work do if you have any other information about them I'd love to hear about it! Emma_bayly@yahoo.com