Bill Ward (1919 – 1998) was amongst the most prolific of the classic era pin-up artists. His drawings of curvaceous, slinky, sexy and sometimes lewdly suggestive ladies won him plenty of work throughout his long pin-up art career. Whether they were blonde, brunette or ash white-haired, Ward’s buxomy sirens were the centerpoint of his comedic panels.
Ward began as an art assistant at a Manhattan art agency in the early 1940s but was fired when he accidentally cut an illustration for a Ford automobile. After that, he found employment as an artist for Fawcett Comics, most notably drawing Blackhawk. During the 1950s Bill Ward created Torchy, his most famous creation and one of the earliest “good girl” pin-up characters.
In the mid-1950s, when comic book artists were having a difficult time finding work amidst the Comic Book Authority crackdown of family values, Ward found his true calling drawing his racy ladies in jokes that he also wrote himself. Throughout the six decades that Ward worked in the business, it’s estimated that he drew 10,000 of these sort of pin-ups.
As one of the early pioneers of the pin-up glamour girl look, Ward’s women typically wore underwear that would be considered fetish culture for that era. Black stockings, high heels, opera-length gloves, long cigarette holders and lacy frills on their undergarments were all staples of Bill Ward glamour pin-up creations. These ladies (and some seemed to be ladies of the evening) were more Betty Page than the shy sort of girl next door.
While working in this era, Bill liked working with the Conté crayon, a square-shaped compressed stick of charcoal and wax or clay. This technique allowed Ward to give the nylon stockings of his women a sheen not found in traditional paint or pencil illustration. And if the lady was wearing something of vinyl, then all the better to capture the reflection of light bouncing off of the material.
The Conté crayon also allowed Bill to switch it up sometimes with the color of the pin-up’s hair, or her choice of provocative dress or lingerie.
Torchy was mild compared to these more suggestive Bill Ward drawings being published in the pages of mens magazines, but there were also full-on adult cartoons that Ward produced. Typically these would wind up in the pages of publications that catered to more hardcore nude imagery, but his illustrations would still retain Ward’s tongue-in-cheek style of bedroom humor.
In the 1970s, Ward also wrote and illustrated short comics for mens adult magazines featuring hyper-sexualized women with impossible curves, and winding up in impossible to believe sexual situations. While there is a ton of work from him in this latter era of his career, it’s Bill Ward’s art from the early days contributed greatly to pin-up culture and helped expand it into new realms.
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