JOHN MILLAR WATT

Illustration

Millar’s career in illustration began in the trenches of Northern France, where his drawing skills served on many levels; technical diagrams used for instructional maneuvers in the field, watercolours painted with his “Bijou Box” of watercolours and Whatman papers sent by his mother in England, to distract his own mind from the calamity of war, and silly caricatures of his fellow men to raise a smile through the ranks. He would not predict that before WWII, a tribunal would be held which imposed a moral obligation on him to keep drawing his cartoon strip POP for national morale.

Millar was demobbed in 1919. He and his elder brother Joe returned to live at home in Ilford, and with younger brother James and sister Marietta (‘Cis’), helped their mother adapt to life after the loss of her husband to the war. Joe and James immediately followed family tradition and embarked on engineering careers, Joe emigrating to Canada.

Millar wanted to make something of his artistic aptitude and for some time, was the despair of his mother. To pay his way at home, he drew sports cartoons into the night for the Daily Chronicle and took what work he could by day. A competition for the cover of a woman’s weekly paper brought Millar’s work to the attention of the editor of the Sphere and a long association of illustration for that, and other periodicals such as the Illustrated London News followed.

Early success with his POP comic strip enabled Millar to take a studio in Fleet Street above the Cock tavern and from then on, he was at the centre of commercial illustration and publishing.

After his wife Amy’s death in 1956, Millar remembered the village of Lavenham in Suffolk where he had sketched with Munnings. He bought a house in the village from Harrod’s Estates Department and he and his daughter Mary, settled there until his death in 1975.

Advertising work for the agency of Mather & Crowther continued into his active retirement. Millar produced a rival campaign when Truman’s Ales wanted to rival the success of Guinness’ Toucan campaign. Millar’s explosive and colourful “More Hops in Ben Truman” featured a POP-like character - minus a leg - and it was a huge success. Millar also produced memorable work for Shell and other household brands such as Sunblest bread and Cherry Blossom polish.

Advertisment for Shell

Advert for Shell

He continued to produce historical illustrations, especially for children’s reading. His work appeared in Thriller Picture Library (covers and interior art, especially Robin Hood and Dick Turpin), Robin Hood Annuals (covers and full colour plates), Look & Learn magazine (colour and black and white illustrations for many famous historical scenes and events), Ranger (Treasure Island serial) and historical work for Topper annuals.

Vimy Ridge, Northern France

Canadian Gun Pit, Vimy Ridge, WWI


Illustraiton from Sphere

Illustration from Sphere magazine.




Robin Hood jumping from a tree

Robin Hood jumping from a tree. © Look and Learn

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