Sunday, August 26, 2012

Illustrator James McMullan

James McMullan (b. 1934) grew up in China, where his Irish grandparents founded an orphanage, and a lace and embroidery business that supported the orphanage. McMullan's father continued in the family business, but was killed at the end of World War II, while serving in the British Army.

McMullan and his mother lived in Canada and India during World War II, and after his father's death, James immigrated to the United States, where he studied at the Cornish School of Allied Arts in Seattle, and the Pratt Institute in New York.

Communication Arts  |  1986

In 1966, James McMullan joined the ground-breaking Push Pin Studios, where he worked with Milton Glaser and Seymour Chwast.

Communication Arts  |  1986

An outgrowth of that association was many illustration assignments for New York Magazine.

McMullan has also illustrated for many national magazines, including Esquire, Sports Illustrated and National Geographic.

In 1979, McMullan married Kate Hall, a writer of children's books, and they have collaborated on six picture books.

James McMullan has been closely associated with the Lincoln Center, and has produced more than 40 theater posters.

In 1998, Penguin Studio Books published The Theater Posters of James McMullan.

McMullan has taught for years at the School of Visual Arts in New York, and has written two excellent instructive books, Revealing Illustrations and High-Focus Drawing.

Communication Arts  |  1977

All illustrations for this posting that are not otherwise credited have come from James McMullan's own website. When visiting there, be sure to check out "Poster Progress," where you'll see how the artist's ideas and design solutions evolve!



  1. Hello Mark, Thanks for this introduction to the art of James McMullan, of whom I was unaware. To me, his style is most appealing in his nature/outdoor scenes, so I hope he did more of this type. The Little Foxes poster is a Gothic masterpiece.
    --Road to Parnassus

    1. Hello, Parnassus - I had many, many theater posters from which to choose, and I included The Little Foxes, in part because I thought his calligraphed title was a brilliant match for the artwork.

  2. Dear Mark - James McMullan is another new illustrator to me.
    Your first image reminded me of illustrations by Quentin Blake who illustrated Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
    I enjoyed looking at his website, and in particular I liked his theater poster designs which appear to have a period style to them.
    I discovered too, that he was born in Tsingtao, a place that H and I visited many years ago and where we had several adventures.

    1. Dear Rosemary - James McMullan has certainly lived a remarkably varied life. Having spent some of my own teenaged years in Asia, I know that one returns home and sees all that is Western with very fresh eyes. I don't doubt that his own childhood has in some way informed his later design work.

  3. Mark a great profile of this amazing artist. His use of color and illustration art principles astound me. Off to his site!

    Art by Karena
    2012 Artists Series

  4. Mark, I adore James McMullan's work! Thanks for this post. Just when I needed some cheering up, McMullan's work did just that. :)

    I most especially love his theater posters. Especially the one he did for, I think, a George Gershwin show (might have been Cole Porter, can't remember) with a 1930's woman in blue and white stripes and a big floppy hat, seen from the back. Such an exuberant illustration. It's on the cover of his book (The Theater Posters of James McMullan) but the show title is missing.

    I also love the illustrations he did for Vogue (or maybe Vanity Fair - sorry, Mark, you know how faulty my memory is) a few years ago featuring some brilliantly colorful Indian scenes.

    Fabulous post!

    1. Hi, Yvette - The poster you're remembering is for Cole Porter's "Anything Goes." It's also the cover of the book, "The Theater Posters of James McMullan," with which I'm familiar. I haven't seen McMullan's "Revealing Illustrations" and "High-Focus Drawing," but will be on the lookout for them. They've been described as great design and drawing texts.

  5. James McMullan's career is amazing! Such a portfolio and such accomplishments. I did not know he contributed to Esquire (?). Thanks for featuring him, Mark.

    1. Hi, Loi - I've collected years of advertising annuals, and it's interesting to see trendy styles that evoke a certain decade, and then the work of artists like McMullan, whose style is timeless.