donderdag 14 juli 2011

Michel Da Capo

After a few months hard work I finally found the time to write a new weblog entry. It's a bit harsh that I should start again with some rather sad news. But nevertheless I feel the need to write something about Michel "Da Capo" Terstegen, who passed away on July 4, 2011.

Michel is of course best known for his record shop in Utrecht, but that's not how I became acquainted with him in the first place. Michel was also a frequent visitor (if not deejaying himself) of many sixties themed parties. Parties which I, not quite coincidently, also like to go to. On those parties I got to know Michel as a very enthusiastic, kind and warm-hearted person. Despite his age - he's about five years older than me - he had always kept a boyish charm, which made his companionship very pleasant indeed. No need to tell you we always welcomed Michel with open arms.

But there's more to Michel. Michel was part of the mod revival movement in the late 1970s/early 1980s. I've always been a bit envious of that. Or should I say fascinated? I guess a bit of both. When I was 14 years old I saw the motion picture Quadrophenia. I was quite impressed by that movie and walking out of the cinema that night I decided I wanted to be a mod too. But there weren't any mods in Rotterdam at that time and I had no frame of reference at all, other than the movie. I didn't know where to buy the right clothes and I didn't know where to buy the music. It didn't help either that I was a very shy boy and nothing like the adventurous kind. So I kept on daydreaming and stayed just how I was, which was nothing outspoken really. A year later I learned that there was a mod scene in Utrecht, but I did nothing with that knowledge. Utrecht was just a step too far away for a shy boy like me.
The early 1980s also had its rockabilly revival. My friends at that time were much more attracted to that rather than this mod thing and so they became rockabillies. Well, you know what they say; if you can't beat them, join them. I have to say, I've enjoyed being part of a youth culture and I still like a good rockabilly tune, but my fascination for everything mod kept on itching. By 1986, at the age of 21, I became more self confident and a little bit more adventurous. Consequentially my preferences for mod clothing and music became more outspoken. I guess that in the end I became, although not planned as such, a mocker.

I can't exactly remember when I met Michel Da Capo for the first time, but it must have been somewhere around the mid-nineties. From the moment that I found out that Michel had been part of that legendary mod revival scene in Utrecht, I always kept on asking him questions about that period. Luckily Michel was always happy to tell about those days. Listening to his stories it somehow made up for the all the things I missed out on because of my lack of will power to become a mod in the late 70s.

The last time I spoke with Michel was on August 28, 2010. That night I was questioning him again about the ol' days. Somewhere during the conversation I blurted out that one of the reasons why I appreciated mods, was that they were always well mannered (I'm not referring to the beach riots of 1965 of course). "Well mannered!?" Michel replied, "Pieter, you couldn't be more wrong! We weren't well mannered at all!" He told me that from time to time, whilst hanging out, the Utrecht mods got rowdy. When the battle cry "Slooopuuuhh!" sounded, these angry young men started to demolish anything on their way, like running over and jumping on parked cars and more of that sort of thing. Now of course I don't approve of that sort of behavior, but I just adored hearing Michel telling about it with that mischievous sparkle in his eyes.
On top of that, it was my last conversation with him and because of that I will always treasure this story.

Michel passed away way too soon. He was still in the midst of life. Also he wasn't given much time to say goodbye to the life he enjoyed so much. Hardly half a year after he had heard the horrible news that he was suffering from stomach cancer Michel's body gave up. I didn't see Michel whilst he was sick. I didn't see the decline of his body. In my memory I still see him as lively and cheerful as ever and that image is very vivid.
I went to his funeral last Saturday. I listened to the farewell words of his beloved ones and somehow it felt that something didn't fit. Sure enough these words were all about Michel Da Capo, but I could not match the farewell outings with Michel who's still so very alive in my memory. I just couldn't imagine him being dead. "This can't be the same Michel I know", I thought to myself. "You'll see for sure, the next 60s party we're having, he'll come walking in just as he always used to do". I don't think this feeling will change. At every party we'll enjoy in the future Michel will be present. Probably over the years my common sense will make me see that it isn't possible anymore that he'll be there in the flesh, but then again, in spirit he will always be.

zaterdag 26 maart 2011


In this entry I would like to bring up a topic that has nothing to do with my work as an illustrator. It's about illustrations alright, but these kind of illustrations haven't influenced my own work at all. To be honest, I couldn't make these kind of illustrations even if I wanted to. I just haven't got the skill.
It's about aeroplanes too. I like pictures of aeroplanes, especially aeroplanes made approximately between 1910 and 1960. So this entry of my weblog is strictly for my own - and hopefully yours too - visual enjoyment.

I came up with the idea for this entry when my friend Frits Jonker send me a trading cards album. The album is called Wings of Speed, 50 years of air speed breakers and was produced in 1960 by J.Lyons & Company Limited, Cadby Hall, London W14. Maybe that doesn't ring a bell, but Lyons Tea surely will. One could collect the cards for this album by buying packets of this brand of tea. The album I got from Frits is almost complete, except for the very last card, which coincidentally pictures the very same aeroplane which is on the front of the cover, according to the underline.

The album contains some very beautiful pictures of streamlined aeroplanes. The name of the artist is not credited in the album, but fortunately the artist was wise enough to sign the illustration on the cover. The style of the illustrations on the cards are very much alike to the one on the front cover, so one can safely assume that Mister Keane did all the colour illustrations in this album. I'm not sure about the black and white illustrations, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if he did those as well.
The lay-out of the pages is done with great taste and the handlettering is first rate. (click on pictures to enlarge)

As you well can imagine, J.Lyons & Company Limited weren't the only ones who made trading cards with pictures of aeroplanes. In my collection of scraps of old paper are some trading cards which were manufactured by Lubro Beschuit, a Dutch company that made beschuit (Dutch rusk) somewhere in the mid-twentieth century. Alas, I only have a couple of Lubro Beschuit cards. I don't have the accompanying album Wat is dat voor een vliegtuig? (what kind of aeroplane is that?). So you'll have to do with just these few cards.

I really don't know much about the picture you'll see below. I bought this sheet with pictures of aircrafts in the 1980s along with four other sheets with the same topic, as well as some others with pictures of animals. I always thought that these picture sheets were reproductions, because they were absolutely mint when I bought them. The shop had quite a stock too. But besides that, nothing really indicates that they're reproductions. Everything about them looks authentic. The pictures are even embossed! That's quite an expensive way to make reproductions. So whilst preparing this blog I started to think maybe they're not reproductions at all, but old stock. I know, it sounds too good to be true. But then again, the 1980s were marvellous times for buying the most incredible vintage stuff from the mid-twentieth century for almost nothing. So maybe I'm right, or maybe I'm wrong. I guess I'll never know.

You might wonder with what purpose these colour prints where manufactured. I'm afraid I don't know that either. The only clues to be found on the prints are a small logo and that they were made in England. The logo reads "MLP", but that's not much to go on. Some of the colour prints have the logo of Toffee Crefin, a Belgian candy manufacturer, on the back. So maybe these pictures were intended to be given away for free with the purchase of a Toffee Trefin product, just like the Lyons and Lubro trading cards.

I don't know if Toffee Crefin also produced paste-in albums for these pictures. I couldn't find anything that would indicate they did. There are a lot of questions unanswered for, but that doesn't spoil the beauty of the pictures themselves at all!

Beautiful pictures of aeroplanes are of course not only to be found on trading cards or similar prints, but also in books. I do love the children's book Airplanes, which is part of the famous Little Golden Books series.

The book is written Ruth Mabee Lachman and the illustrations are done by Steele Savage. Mind you, this is the 1959 edition in which the pictures of the aeroplanes are updated to its time. The first edition was published in 1953 with illustrations by Lenora and Herbert Combes. Sadly enough I don't have that edition, so I can't make a comparison.

Another book with smashing illustrations is All About Aeroplanes. I bought this book whilst visiting Dear Old Blighty on a book market in Wells, Somerset. The book is written and illustrated by Galbraith O'Leary, who also made a wonderful book about British trains, titled British Trains. All About Airplanes is published by The Heirloom Library, London.

The book is undated, but looking at the jet fighters, I would guess it was published somewhere between 1952 and 1957.

To conclude this entry I would like to show you this lovely jigsaw puzzle I got from my Australian friend Miike ( no misspelling there, that's how he writes his name). The jigsaw came without a box, so not a clue to any manufacturer or date. The only clue to its origin is in the abbreviation TAA, which stands for Trans Australian Airlines. But since I got this present from an Australian friend, that was already quite obvious.

Of course these are just a few pictures from my collection. It's not my intention at all to give you a complete conspectus of illustrated aeroplanes. I just wanted to show you some pictures I get enthousiastic about. I hope you've enjoyed them too.

woensdag 5 januari 2011

Nu-Vue playing cards

One of my favourite pastimes is to scour flea markets, thrift-, junk- and charity shops. In itself nothing special. I don't think I exaggerate if I would say that millions of people have the same hobby as I do. With all that competition it makes it hard to find anything that's a little bit interesting and somehow it always seems that someone else has the greatest finds instead of me. It's just my envy as I darn well know. Not really a virtue of mine I'm proud of, to say the least.
However, sometimes I do get lucky and find something that I'm really pleased with. Like this set of playing cards I found in a recycle shop last year.

I was immediately attracted by the TWA logo on the back of the pack. I'm very fond of anything connected with airline companies in relation to the mid-twentieth century, you must know. Although the logo of the company is printed on the back of every card, Trans World Airlines is not the manufacturer. These Nu-Vue playing cards, as they are called, were made by Brown & Bigelow, a division of the Standard Packaging Corporation, Minnesota, U.S.A.
Brown & Bigelow licensed the use of the Nu-Vue playing cards to other companies. As far as I could find out, Penguin Cleaners and the Desert Inn and Country Club, Las Vegas also made use of the services of Brown & Bigelow.
It's not easy to find an exact year as to when these cards were first published. The most vague estimation I could find was somewhere in the 1950s - 1970s. The most specific date was 1964, but I'm not sure if that refers to the year of publication of the TWA edition or maybe another company or the real first publication of the Nu-Vue playing cards.

The pictures on the Nu-Vue playing cards are of sheer elegance and nothing like a standard set. The name of the maker of these beautiful designs is nowhere to be found on this product and I think that's a bloody shame!

You may have noticed the cryptical slogan on the package in the first picture: "the modern eye-saving concept in playing cards". This sentence may have puzzled you as much as it did me. The pictures on the cards are a bit stretched and compressed, which gives them quite some elegancy, as I have mentioned before. Looking at the ace of spades below, you can see this even more clearly. But what I don't see, is how this can be in any way "eye-saving". I can hardly imagine that stretching and compressing the pictures can result in saving one's eyesight. On the other hand, this might be exactly what Nu-Vue tried to accomplish. I guess the answer to that will always remain a mystery.

Here's some other puzzling information that can be found on the carton of the Nu-Vue playing cards:

One wonders if it's even possible to make playing cards germ-proofed, but on top of that, what could ever be the use of doing such a thing!?! Germs are almost everywhere! Unless you're intending to play a game of cards in a operating room, I really don't see what good it will do having germ-proofed cards. It all sounds a bit like poppycock to me!
Not that I mind. On the contrary, enigmatical statements such as the eye saving bit and the germs-proof thing makes this set of playing cards ever so much more precious to me!

Back to the pictures on the cards; they were most certainly a source of inspiration to me whilst making a logo for a webshop. Although I did not copy the unknown artist's style to the letter, the influences are obvious.

It seems only right to give the anonymous maker the credits he or she deserves, but most of all I would like to thank Mister, Miss or Mrs. "X" for making the world just a little bit prettier with this beautiful set of playing cards.