Mel Birnkrant's “Annotated Archives”
The fabulous paintings on the Outer Space Men packages are the work of the late, great artist/art director Robert Engle.
Harry Kislevitz, the owner and originator of Colorforms, being an artist himself [He first conceived of Colorforms as a means of composing paintings] revered good art work, considered it all Important, and spared no expense to get the Best. That is why, whenever a Colorforms toy required a realistic cover painting, he hired Bob Engle.
Bob was not only an amazing artist, but a great guy as well. He was also the Cover Editor of "Newsweek", solely responsible for each weeks cover. Bob hired and directed whatever talent was neccessary. But, when a realistic drawing or painting was required, he often did the work himself. Harry admired his artwork on a magazine cover and called him up. Thus, began an association with Colorforms that lasted many years. During that time Bob created the cover art of some of the most collectible Colorforms play sets. His cover paintings for "The Munsters" and "The Addams Family" etc. are Classics.
Bob was the perfect artist to render the product panels for the Outer Space Men. He also painted the small planet on each card. At the time the actual figures were not available yet; thus, he worked entirely from drawings and photographs. That in itself was quite an accomplishment, but more amazing still is the fact that he painted everything, [are you ready for this?] ...UPSIDE DOWN! Yes, that was another of the incredible things about Bob Engle, whatever the subject matter, he always painted Upside Down. He felt this gave him absolute objectivity, and freed him of any stereotypical preconceptions.
I remember one day at Pratt Institute. The life drawing instructor placed a chair upside down on the model stand and said "Draw this!". Everyone in the class was thrown off balance. Suddenly we were unable to rely upon what we knew about “a chair”. We were forced to actually observe what was before us and carefully render only the abstract shapes and shadows that we saw. This is how Bob painted all the time, freed from subjective interpretation, his paintings were always fresh, and his likenesses were perfect.
The finished Paintings were sent to Hong Kong for engraving,... never to be seen again.
Copyright Acknowledgment: All images of THE OUTER SPACE MEN , THE WORLD OF THE FUTURE and other Products and Images, created by Mel Birnkrant, are Copyright (c) MEL BIRNKRANT
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