Thursday, August 11, 2016

Ken Dallison:"I was saying to myself, 'When will anybody ever be able to turn the page in a magazine and go, "That's a Ken Dallison."'

In this fifth abridged excerpt from my interview, Ken Dallison describes the challenge of discovering one's own style. There are just over twelve hours left in our Kickstarter campaign. Please visit the campaign page to pledge any amount.

LP: Have a look at this… this is from Maclean’s from around 1959.


KD: Ooohhh yeah!

LP: And what I noticed here is that you’re painting!

KD: Yeah, you know what’s funny is at that time I was being influenced by Jack Potter. You know his Coca-Cola ads?

LP: Sure.

KD: Every so often I worked in that medium, then I found the Magic Marker and started using those - with the cans of colour, you know? So I’d squeeze the felt into a can and use the dye with a brush. I found that medium pretty good. I was always trying to experiment and find myself. At this stage I was saying to myself, 'When will anybody ever be able to turn the page in a magazine and go, "That's a Ken Dallison."'

(Above: a Ken Dallison illustration executed with Magic Markers, publication unknown, c. 1960)

KD: How do you find that identity? I was really worried about it and everybody would say, 'Oh don't do that to yourself!' But I couldn't help it. I would imagine all artists go through that, especially when we're in magazines, seeing our work in print. Somebody would go, 'Oh, that's a James Hill... that's a Will Davies...' but I felt like I was floundering in these areas, and what I didn't realize was the drawings - the scrappy drawings I'd done on the streets of London - was it.

LP: Were you seeing Robert Weaver's work at all?

KD: Oh yeah, I loved Robert Weaver. I mean... I don't know what that guy does but he was brilliant. When he did that series on crime, and the St. Valentine's Day massacre, it was unbelievable.

LP: So can you tell me chronologically... I have you in Canada right up until 1960.

KD: Well I did work in Canada after that. I moved to London and did Ford ads, making twelve thousand pounds a year - which is loads of dough... my father would be making a thousand pounds a year at that time.

LP: So you went from Canada to London?

KD: Yeah. I made a contract with a studio in London [Artist Partners].

(Above: one of Ken's Ford illustrations, done through Artist Partners in London, c. 1959)

KD: So anyway, next we moved to New York, and to break into the New York market - to survive - Gene Aliman [Maclean's art director] gave me another story, “High Places.” I found this technique of really using my pen and ink.

(Above and below: Ken Dallison, Maclean's magazine, January 6, 1962, detail and full spread)


KD: I’d found this technique where I was going, you know, scratchy everywhere. I mean, scratch this, scratch that, like this kind of thing here, only with a pen. And I did the Senate or something in Canada, full page, with all the people…


KD: ... and it’s all these scribbles and scratches and criss-cross... and at the time I thought maybe I’ve finally found an identifying technique. [Ken chuckles] But really, I look back on all these things I tried and I knew, ’No, you’ve got to simplify this.’ But it was all these drawings that nudged me towards the ID on my car drawings.


Our Ken Dallison Kickstarter campaign is nearly over. This is your chance to order a copy of what will be an extremely limited collector's item, "KEN DALLISON, A LIFE IN ILLUSTRATION" Please visit our Kickstarter page today!



  1. It's always interesting to hear the artist speak in their own voice about their life and career—and very nice of Ken to give a quick shout-out to my dad. Wishing you much success with the book!

    1. Thank you Age - and actually, this being an abridged version of the interview, you haven't read everything Ken actually said in praise of your dad, whom he holds in the highest esteem.

  2. Very interesting artworks