Sunday, May 17, 2009

Attention all illustrators!

I had an email a couple of days ago from Bible Artist Keith Neely. Keith informs me that he has three filing cabinets filled with magazine pictures that he's been collecting for over 30 years that he is willing to give away to anyone interested! Keith explained that because all of his work is now Bible related, and due to the fact that he is approaching semi-retirement, he no longer has use for them.
Keith, quite rightly, doesn't want this collection to go to waste as it is a gold mine for any illustrator.

Just in case you are thinking that three filing cabinets full of magazine pictures doesn't sound very interesting, let me explain to you exactly what this collection is.
In his email, Keith used the term 'Scrap files' which I presume is the American name for a collection like this. In the UK we have the much grander term of 'Artists reference files'. I was going to liken artists reference files to 'Google Images' but it would be more accurate to liken them to your own personal library of 'Stock photography'.
Before the internet came into existence, many artists built up a collection of pictures to use for reference. They might be photos of mountains from National Geographic, or Pyramids from a travel brochure. These collections contained pictures of literally everything, which is why they took so long to collect and why they are never complete!

Not every artist saw the importance of such a collection, but I was fortunate to sit next to an artist back in 1976 who did. Mike Barrett had an artists reference system that was second to none! Mike had started his collection back in 1958 and It was contained in two filing cabinets in the office at D. C. Thomsons.
I remember once asking Mike if he had any references of an Italian Policeman as I had to draw one. After a couple of minutes, and with Google like efficiency, Mike produced a neat folder from his filing cabinet titled 'Foreign Police uniforms', and sure enough it contained photos of Italian policemen. That's how good these old reference systems were! It was Mike Barrett who said to me "An artist is only as good as his references!"

I don't believe that the internet has made these collections redundant either as they contain magazine quality pictures, (not low res Jpeg's), and these pictures are never likely to surface on the internet either. Collections like this are becoming very rare because the artists who own them are either already retired, (like Mike), or about to.

Keith lives in Indiana in the U.S. Anyone interested in his collection should email me at and I will pass on your email to Keith.


Bible artist said...

I forgot to mention that artists who kept these reference systems are usually compulsive hoarders too! Mike Barrett had collections of everything from military helmets to crisp packets!
I owe a lot to Mike. Not only did he teach me everything I know about illustration, but he also invited me to church where I became a Christian.

Both he and Jimmy Glen had a great testimony in the office. For many years they also led a weekly lunchtime Bible study for D.C.Thomson employees.
Jimmy Glen was also running 'Quest club' which was a kids club at our church in Dundee, and he's still running it today, 33 years later!!

deboraw said...

Retirement? How can he retire? I thought artists just artist away...forever. Sigh. What a lot of work to collect those wonderful references! Deboraw

Paul Green said...

Most artists can't afford to retire Deboraw. And that's the truth. Just the fortunate few who can actually earn good money.

Bible artist said...

That's true Paul.
Also, Keith said he was going into semi-retirement not full.

Even if an artist retires, I don't think that they would stop drawing. It would probably become a hobby again, like it was before they went professional. No more deadlines!

Bible artist said...

I'm amazed that no one has emailed me yet about these filing cabinets! I thought that my email box would be full of requests by now! If I lived in the U.S. I'd be on my way to Keith's house with a big van! (although I might not tell my wife that I was bringing three more filing cabinets home!!)

I'm guessing, but maybe illustrators today just don't see the value of a collection like this.

deboraw said...

Just curious, how big are the 'filing cabinets'? I would love something like that, but suicide wasn't in my plans, and since moving from a largish two story dwelling into a ? (very) modest one story ranch--mid 1940's era...I'm sure that would be a possibility if I ever tried putting any more of anything into our dwindled space...eeekkk face here. Smile--Deboraw

Bible artist said...

Filing cabinets in the UK are about 4'3" high x 18" wide. I expect filing cabinets in the US are fairly similar, so yes you would need a fairly big office/studio to house 3 of them comfortably.

I would love this collection too, but I would also struggle to house them!

Paul Wesley said...

wow..that sound soo wonderful to own.
i would love something like that, but I live all the way in India and work in UAE..sigh..

Bible artist said...

Great website Paul, and an impressive client list!
Yes, I would like this collection too!

kevinzico said...

Is the reference material still being offered?

Bible artist said...

Hi Kevin
Yes, I think so. I've forwarded on your comment to Keith so he should be able to contact you via your blog.
Let me know how it goes!

Bible artist said...

Just noticed that you have no email details on your blog Kevin. If you send me your email, I'll pass it on to Keith. How's that?

Bible artist said...

Just heard from Keith on this, he says "Still have the files. I don't have to ship the "files" I'll just put the "hanging files" in boxes and ship them.
Anyone can contact me direct." So Keith's email is:

Nyccole said...

I am searching for a Keith Neely that did some illustrating for "Show Me Jesus." His work would be a great asset to my newly developing children's ministry. I hope to find him and if this be him I hope someone gets his collection that will use it for God's glory as I am sure that he did. Thanks! Nyccole

kevin hill said...

Nice Work

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