Sunday, December 13, 2015

Camouflage Artist | J. Clinton Shepherd

American artist J. Clinton Shepherd
J[oy] Clinton Shepherd (1888-1975), an American muralist, illustrator and sculptor, is typically referred to as a “pulp artist” because of the illustrations he made for lowbrow publications. There is a biographical article about him on Wikipedia as well as on the website called Field Guide to Wild American Pulp Artists (including work examples). Less widely known is his involvement with camouflage, during both World Wars.

Shepherd was born in Des Moines IA, where his father was a men’s clothing salesman. After graduating from high school in 1906, he enrolled at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. He dropped out in 1909, at which time he and a younger brother traveled to the Northwest, apparently looking for adventure. According to some sources, they ended up living briefly with the Crow Indians.

By 1910, he had returned to the Midwest, where he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago until 1914, and thereafter worked as an artist. Prior to World War I, he served as a bugler in the Illinois National Reserve (despite an apparent hearing defect). After the US entered the war, it appears that he served in the Air Corps from 1917-1919. According to an article by Helen Van Hoy Smith, titled TROOPS, CIVILIANS LEARN CAMOUFLAGE ART, The Miami News (September 13, 1942), it was during his war service that Shepard gained “practical knowledge of it [camouflage].”

In 1919, Shepherd and his artist wife (née Gail English, also a graduate of the Art Institute of Chicago) moved to New York, with the hope that he would flourish as a professional illustrator. During the next decade, he enjoyed considerable success as a magazine illustrator for Collier’s, Saturday Evening Post, Woman’s World, and other newsstand magazines. From 1925 until 1938, he lived in Westport CT, where, following the decline of more prestigious publications, he turned to making a living by painting covers for cheap pulp publications. He also returned to his interest in Western subject matter, and produced a series of bronze sculptures, not unlike those of Frederic Remington.

J. Clinton Shepherd (left) and Gail Shepherd, completing mural

From 1938, Shepherd lived and worked in Palm Beach FL. There, he taught at Barry College (now Barry University) in Miami, and served as the director of the Norton Gallery School of Art. As is documented in the news article cited earlier (supplemented by two press photographs), during the summer of 1942, he offered a free class for soldiers and civilians on how to design camouflage based on his own WWI military experience and “a working knowledge of camouflage as an artist.” The class consisted of “building and camouflaging a model town but which contains certain military structures.”

The article goes on to say that “Mr. Shepherd accompanied the lessons in camouflage with lectures and drawings. The camouflaged town represented several different methods of camouflage.” He also “called attention to the fact that nature provides the best examples for the camoufleur…Since time immemorial, men in wars have emulated nature in their recourse to camouflage.”

J. Clinton Shepherd, Self-Portrait (1946)

From 1947 until his death in 1975 (at age 86), Shepherd continued to work as a portrait artist and muralist in Palm Beach.