Meet The Man Who Drew Don Draper
“Sean Connery, DB3” by Mr Brian Sanders. All images courtesy of Mr Brian Sanders
A new exhibition celebrates the drawings of Mr Brian Sanders.
One afternoon in 2011, a veteran artist working at his studio in the English countryside received a mysterious phone call from the US. “I’m calling about some old illustrations I’ve found – could you tell me if you know anything about them?” On receiving them, the artist replied that one of them was his. “Can you still do it?” said the voice at the other end of the line. “I’d like to commission you for some work, although I can’t tell you what it’s for.” This rather covert call turned out to be from Mr Matthew Weiner, creator of the whisky-quaffing, tobacco-fuelled series, Mad Men. “I had to sign a contract which meant I wasn’t allowed to talk about it to anyone before it was published,” says Mr Brian Sanders, who in the 1960s and 1970s, produced the sort of illustrations that Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce would jump through hoops for. “I had been watching the series and almost started smoking again”, he adds.
“I had to sign a contract which meant I wasn’t allowed to talk about it to anyone before it was published,”
Inspired by the artwork on vintage TWA menus of his childhood, Mr Weiner tasked him to create the promotional art for the sixth season of the drama. To create the works, Mr Sanders revisited the “bubble and streak” method – a technique using acrylic paints pioneered by the great American illustrators, such as Messrs Bernie Fuchs and Mark English. The resulting vivid colours and rich textures create an impressionist look that’s distinctly 1960s.
“Le Mans”, 1963, by Mr Brian Sanders
Mr Sanders, who has an exhibition opening at London’s Lever Gallery this week, was sought by a host of leading publications of the era, including the trailblazing Nova magazine, which epitomised the spirit of Swinging London with its radical blend of controversial editorial content and cutting-edge fashion.
It was Nova that commissioned him for a series of illustrations on people’s foibles, and his tongue-in-cheek image of Hollywood icon Mr Warren Beatty is featured in the Lever Gallery line-up. “In Beatty’s case, people did tend to think he was a bit empty headed, answering questions without actually saying anything. Reporters would complain that he never gave them a single quotable sentence… that was the idea behind this piece,” Mr Sanders says.
“Warren Beatty”, Nova magazine, 1970, by Mr Brian Sanders
As the proud owner of an Aston Martin DB3, Mr Sanders and close friend Mr Adrian Bailey – who worked for Queen magazine – decided to take a trip to Le Mans in 1963. “We both had Astons, so we wanted to see the team race. I thought I could prepare something that would make a good article. Then the Aston blew up and didn’t finish, so the idea came to nothing, but I produced that one piece for myself.”
One of Mr Sander’s career highlights was a commission from legendary director, Mr Stanley Kubrick. “Kubrick’s team had been shown some of my experimental collage work and I got called in and asked if I’d like to illustrate the making of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I’d go down to Elstree Studios and spend two days a week on set drawing whatever I wanted,” he says. Although Mr Sanders observed Mr Kubrick from a distance during filming, he recalls meeting him post-production: “I bumped into him at a friend’s party, where he bummed a fag off me – he seemed to have given up! I was a great admirer of his and the work he was doing at the time.”
“Filming of the Moonpit scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey”, 1965, by Mr Brian Sanders
For 007 buffs, the illustration of Mr Sean Connery posing next to an Aston Martin DB3 – which was actually Mr Sander’s own car – is sure to be the exhibition highlight. “It just so happened that I was reading Goldfinger and I realised I’d got the car! It was lovely… my children have never forgiven me for selling it!” he admits. In a fortuitous twist of fate, the number plate of Mr Sander’s DB3 contained the numerals 700, which can be seen in the work.
Despite his success, 80-year-old Mr Sanders remains modest about his achievements and shows no signs of slowing down after a prolific, five-decade career: “I always wanted to be an artist and I’ve been trying ever since – I’m still trying!”