• Gl_1

    George Lois by Jeremy Liebman

  • Gl_2

    Esquire cover, October 1962

  • Gl_3

    Esquire cover, April 1968

  • Gl_4

    George Lois (left) and then-Esquire-editor Harold Hayes

  • Gl_5

    I Want My MTV, 1982

Graphic Design

Issue #6: George Lois Interview

Posted by Alex Moshakis,

In 1962 George Lois produced an Esquire cover on which he correctly predicted the outcome of a world heavyweight title fight, prior to the bout actually happening. Alongside then-editor Harold Hayes, Lois went on to create a series of covers that not only reacted to contemporary and controversial issues, but which provoked debated and swayed public opinion. In our Issue #6 interview, of which an extract is included here, Lois revealed (and revelled in) the huge importance of the covers, but was keen to reiterate that he was, and still is, an ad man.

It’s Nice That: Did you always know you were creative?

George Lois: When I was 13 or 14 – when I was about to graduate from public school – my plan was to go to some normal high school. But my art teacher stopped me. She came up to me and said: “George, do you have 10 cents?” I said yeah, and she said: "Get on the subway right now, and go to the High School of Music and Art; it’s at 135th Street and Convent Avenue.” She didn’t have to describe where it was – I spent my whole youth delivering flowers for my father, who was a florist, and who delivered all over New York. I knew the city inside and out. She said: "Get there for 10 o’clock, and take a test and go to the High School of Music and Art.” She gave me a portfolio, one of those black portfolios with strings on it which I’m sure she paid two dollars for – a lot of money back in those days – and she opened it up and in it was about a hundred of my drawings she’d saved from the time I was six or seven years old. She said: "You will get into this school. They’re going to give you a little bit of a test, a drawing test, and you’ll do wonderfully”. And I’ve known since then.

So you drew a lot as a kid?

Yeah. When I was very, very young – five, six, seven, eight years old – my mother and father would force me to go to sleep at 10pm. I went to sleep with my sisters but I was in a separate area. I would sleep for maybe two hours, and then I would get up at 12am or 12.30am and I would spend two hours drawing in secret – I wouldn’t let my parents find out I was doing it. I would just draw and draw in the middle of the night, listening out with one ear in case somebody got up or something.

What about now?

I still did it until about five or six years ago. I’d sleep a couple of hours and get up for a couple of hours, go back for an hour and a half and then get up for the rest of the day. Now I’m little bit older I have to sleep for around four hours a night. But in any case, the point is I could draw terrific from the time I was a young, young kid. I used to cut out headlines from newspapers and I’d take a pencil and I’d draw perspectives – two lines disappearing into vanishing points. My teacher, when I was eight years old, said: "Oh my, George, who taught you perspective?” I didn’t even know what perspective was! I was just drawing what I could see – when I looked out of my window I could see how shapes worked, and how to draw them. When I got organised and really learnt about the history of art – when I read about people like Giotto and Duccio who were painting perspective – I remember thinking: but I invented perspective when I was eight years old.

Read the full interview in It’s Nice That Issue #6, out now.
You can also read extracts of our George Lois interview on NOWNESS.
Portrait by Jeremy Liebman.

Portrait8

Posted by Alex Moshakis

Alex originally joined It’s Nice That as a designer but moved into editorial and oversaw the It’s Nice That magazine from Issue Six (July 2011) to Issue Eight (March 2012) before moving on that summer.

Most Recent: Art View Archive

  1. Ellakru-painting-7home-int

    Latvia-born Ella Kruglyanskaya now lives and works in New York, depicting cartoon-like friends and “frienemies” out-and-about in large-scale oil paintings and murals. Ella’s work is packed with bawdy humour, exaggerated forms, exuberant mark-making and interactions. She describes her intention as “pictorial events… [that] aspire to an unspoken punch line” – the content, references and line-work all filtered through comedy.

  2. Anniedescarteaux-collage-7home-int

    Annie Descôteaux’s work is confident, engaging and straight-forwardly slapstick. The Montreal-based artist works with installation, drawing and collage and has seen her work exhibited and discussed at conferences on colour theory. In equally impressive outings, it’s also appeared in Bloomberg and Pica magazines, among other publications. Annie’s collage work is well-balanced with clean lines, sharp colours and discreet humour; each piece littered with raw steak, fried eggs and shuttlecocks.

  3. Oliviervrancken-untitled-1-inthome

    Olivier Vrancken is a graphic designer and artist based in Holland. Painting and drawing his way through commissions and personal work, he is inspired by everything from primitive art to the great lyricists that are Black Sabbath. Olivier has exhibited all over Europe, his Cubist aesthetic and visual references laden with nods to cut-outs, still life, architecture and the human form. There’s a great colour palette to his work and some nice titles like Bad Hair Day and Wanderlust. Olivier’s work reminds me of the prints that appeared all over the T-shirts of the 1980s, in a good way.

  4. Menutnutnut-drawing-4-int

    Me nut nut nut was one of Jason Murphy’s daughter’s first utterances, and is now the name for his drawings of awkward stories of fear and incompetence. Inspired by the physical comedy of The Young Ones and The Ren & Stimpy Show, Jason’s drawings rely on comic intuition and references to real-life moments, like dropping a potato on his cat.

  5. Seamus_murhpy_pj-harvey_-recording-in-progress_-2015.-an-artangel-commission.-_1_int

    While we wait to take our turn to become a sort of strangely sanctioned voyeur as PJ Harvey records her ninth album, thinking about what’s ahead feels peculiar. Essentially, we’re going to see PJ (Polly Jean) Harvey, her band, producers Flood and John Parish, a photographer and two engineers making an album in a Something & Son-designed box, formed of glass that allows visitors to see in, while the musicians can’t see out.

  6. Atelierbingo-list-int

    Up to the point when I opened Atelier Bingo’s new zine Wogoo Zoogi I’d never wondered what two aliens in heated conversation might look like. Having had a read I can now confirm that the answer is “they are speaking, singing very strangely, and they have a hair on their tongues." The newest bout of work from French illustration and surface design duo Adèle Favreau and Maxime Prou is a wonderful celebration of playful, dynamic, abstract art; blending shapes, colours and patterns in a glorious puddle of chaos thinly disguised as alien chat. In fact, it’s everything we’ve been led to expect from the pair, who we’ve dolloped praise on in the past.

  7. Faigahmed-carpets-list-2-int

    Faig Ahmed is an Azerbaijani artist doing remarkable things with carpets. He takes traditional Azerbaijani rugs – enormous, beautiful intricate creations – un-weaves them, and reconstructs them to create new patterns and shapes, subverting traditional usage of rugs as domestic objects to be walked all over, and rejuvenating them with optical illusions and techniques reminiscent of contemporary internet art. 

  8. Slavs_tatars-loveletters-home-int

    The work of Slavs & Tatars is awash with unlikely cultural references, balloons, archives and carpets. Identifying “the area east of the former Berlin Wall and west of the Great Wall of China” as the focus of their work, their projects are generous, engaging and genre-crossing. Starting as a reading group before shifting into making their own work, Slavs & Tatars have recently been working on a continuation of their Long Legged Linguistics project, a multi-faceted study of language as a source of emancipation. The somewhat secretive collective were kind enough to tell us more about this and their “bazaar” approach to making work.

  9. Davidbatchelor-october-13-int

    If you go down to the Whitechapel Gallery anytime between now and early April you’ll be sure to come across a huge breadth of work chronicling the adventures of the black square, from 1915 all the way up to the present day. It’s fairly monochromatic, as you might expect. Upstairs, however, things get drastically more colourful – especially once you come to David Batchelor’s specially “disrupted” issue of October, one of the most respected art journals out there, first published in 1976 and edited by esteemed writers Michel Foucault, Richard Foreman and Noël Burch.

  10. Alexdacorte-easternsport-1-int

    Perennial student artist Alex Da Corte has qualifications, residencies and awards coming up to his eyeballs having studied Film, Animation and Fine Arts at New York’s School of Visual Arts, Printmaking and Fine Arts at The University of the Arts, Philadelphia and then a cheeky MFA in Sculpture at Yale. Busy guy!

  11. Duane_hanson_-_karma3

    Karma Books have just published a catalogue of Duane Hanson’s post-humous exhibition Flea Market Lady. Shown at New York’s Gagosian Gallery, Duane’s flea market ladies are taken from real-life characters and cast in bronze. An incredible feat of observation and skill, his work captures the character of his models and creates a very real atmosphere of flea-ing. Karma have kindly let us publish an extract from the imaginary conversation Maurizio Cattelan has with the artist in the foreword to the book:

  12. Hdl5_copy

    Hubert de Lartigue paints photo-realistic portraits that “serve the beauty” of his models, and his muse. He considers “emotion and soul” the most important part of a painting and spoke to us about his working process, inspiration and the impact of his muse, Octavie.

  13. Main_10.00.34

    If I won the lottery I’d open a gallery, and when I opened my gallery I’d totally rip off everything that David Kordansky Gallery does. From the big stuff like the very well-curated, cool list of artists they represent, to the impeccable printed matter they produce, to the matter of their easily navigable and well designed website – these guys are celebrating people’s work in the best way possible.