Hamilton artist Leif Peng starts job to emphasise his illustrations

Hamilton graphic artist Leif Peng was only partway through the creation of a publication on Canadian marketing illustrator Will Davies last year when he already knew what his next novel would be about.

Peng, who with his son Simon and Simon’s partner Phoebe Taylor, released “The Art of Will Davies” in 2015, is now crowdfunding to release “Ken Dallison: A Life in Illustration.”

Peng has established a 30-day Kickstarter effort to raise $27,000 to cover the costs of production, print and supply of 500 copies.

If they do not fulfil their target by Aug. 12, nevertheless, the job will not go through at all, Peng says. That is because Kickstarter requires a capital target to be satisfied to be able to disburse cash. When it’s not met, Kickstarter returns the assurances.

After getting his start in London, England and then immigrating to Toronto in the mid-’50s, Dallison grew enormously successful — especially in America for his freehand drawings and sketches of everything from race cars to planes to the 1970 launching of the Apollo space shuttle, which he was dispatched to watch live in the scene by Flying magazine.

Over a five-decade career, he was sought out by the likes of Esquire, Car and Driver, Sports Illustrated and National Geographic for magazine illustrations, and by Honda bikes, General Motors and Chrysler for marketing illustrations. Like a live reporter, he was sent to “cover” occasions with his pen and ink.

To this day Dallison, who now lives in Mississauga, still draws and paints commissions for car collectors and auto museums all around the globe.

When Peng approached him about doing a novel, Dallison says his first idea was that he was jumping the queue. Certainly, there are more notable illustrators who should be recorded in a publication before his.

But he was also flattered, he says, and he is having fun helping Peng and the team pick which works to include in the group.

The novel about Davies and now the one about Dallison spun out of Peng’s web log, “Now’s Inspiration,” where he researches the history of midcentury Canadian commercial art.

When analysing marketing, he says, he did not learn the history of graphic arts in Canada.

Along with that, leading publishers do not pursue these market areas because it is not economically rewarding, he includes. But now that indie publishers can print small runs for comparatively affordable costs, enthusiasts like Peng can document these important Canadian artists whose work has appeared in magazines, on billboards and mass market paperback book covers, but whose names are not broadly known.

Along with selecting the art for the publication, Peng and the team ran extended interviews and transcribed them to read alongside the pictures.