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Hugh Laidman

Hugh Laidman


Hugh Laidman (1914-1987) was a Western New York artist, freelance illustrator, muralist, teacher, and author is nationally and internationally known for his versatility. He is regarded as an accomplished commercial artist, portrait painter, figure & landscape artist, and animal illustrator. His witty syndicated comic strip “Middle Class Animals” appeared in over 100 newspapers in the United States, Canada, throughout Europe and in South Africa from 1970-72. He began his professional career when he was fourteen and from then on mastered working in all types graphic media. He authored & illustrated several how-to books on drawing and painting, and was a consultant to the art departments of various universities. He maintained studios in New York City, New Hope, PA, and East Aurora, NY.

Born in New York City, Hugh was raised and went to high school in Niagara Falls, NY and later graduated from the Pratt Institute in 1937. While there he won awards, honors and scholarships and was commissioned to paint two murals. After graduation, he became an art director and freelance illustrator. He was a partner in Van Valkenburg Associates and subsequently became art director and vice president of James J. McMahon Advertising, both in New York City, until the outbreak of World War II.

In 1942, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps (USMC) and served as a combat artist in the South Pacific, chronicling the battles throughout the Pacific Theater of Operations. The muster rolls of Headquarters for the USMC list Hugh as the first combat correspondent to report. Hugh was head of the USMC art program as Officer in Charge and along with fellow Marines Elmer Wexler and Vic Donohue, were the first three artists to go into combat at Guadalcanal during WWII. They produced many sketches of that long and difficult battle. As a result, he received a battlefield commission and also contracted malaria, but still managed to produce numerous sketches of the battle and various military exercises.

Following the war in 1945, Hugh and his wife Betty moved to East Aurora, NY, and the two collaborated on new book and art projects. Hugh built their home and art studio from the timbers of an old Grand Island, NY carriage house. The Laidman’s stayed in the Western New York area raising three daughters; Anita, Cecily and Stephanie.

In the early 1960’s, Hugh was chosen by the National Gallery of Art to record his impressions for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). In the early days of the NASA space program (1963-69), Hugh was among a group of selected artists, including such luminaries as Norman Rockwell, Paul Sample and James Wyeth, who were chosen to illustrate the Apollo missions. His work for NASA also included paintings for the original launches of the early manned space probes, the push for the moon and the earliest training of space shuttle crews. His work was included in NASA’s exhibition “Eyewitness to Space” and the book of the same title in 1971. Hugh also went on to become president of “Creative Projects” for Creative Notebook, Inc., a problem-solving publication for college administrators.

Author of several how-to books on drawing for beginners, intermediate and advanced artists, Hugh established himself as one of the leading authorities on art and drawing. Many of his books were published in foreign language editions, sold worldwide and some are still in publication: How to Build Your Own House (1950); How to Make Abstract Paintings (1961); The Complete Book of Drawing and Painting (1974); Animals: How to Draw Them (1975); Figures/Faces: A Sketcher's Handbook (1979); and Drawing Animals (1979).

“The base of creativity is knowledge.” Hugh said, “An outsider usually considers the art world a hotbed of creativity although in reality it is frequently a deathbed of imitation. Knowledge of the basic tools and materials, plus at least an acquaintance with their potential, is a small step in the right direction. Knowledge of the tools and materials in relation one to the next is a giant step. Most artists feel more at home in one medium. The simple fact is that an ability to work in one medium serves to reinforce an artist’s capabilities in the next one in which he chooses to experiment…with the hope that lifting any mystery that surrounds a given process might remove the fear that is evidenced by so many specialists. A fundamental in the entire process of the artist is a knowledge of drawing. To distort effectively, the artist must first know how to draw correctly.”

Hugh exhibited in many museums and galleries here and abroad. His work was featured on the covers of various national magazines and publications. He did several covers and ads for Colliers Magazine, a cartoon series for The New Yorker magazine, and numerous illustrations for Hearst Publications. He did commissions for many different companies large and small for such organizations as; Marine Midland Bank, Buffalo, NY; Erie County Savings Bank and the Buffalo Savings Bank, Buffalo, NY; Allied Chemical Corporation, Buffalo, NY; Thiokol Chemical Company (now known as ATK launch Systems Group), Standard Oil of New Jersey, NJ; and Sun Oil (now Sunoco), Philadelphia, PA. He had paintings that hung in the Ford’s Exhibit at the 1964 New York World’s Fair and the Iranian Pavilion at the 1967 International and Universal Exposition (Expo 67) in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. One painting from the Expo 67 later hung in the palace of the Shah. His works are in many museums and private collections in the U.S., England, New Zealand, Australia, the East Indies and Japan.

Hugh worked in all media including, but not limited to oil, acrylic, watercolor, pencil, pen & ink, marker, charcoal, crayon, conte & litho sticks, pastel, casein gouache, scratchboard, and brush & ink.

Mark Strong, Hugh Laidman,, (Accessed 12/30/2011)