Over twenty years ago, I painted almost 100 illustrations that adorned Beech-Nut Baby Food labels. Since then, the company has redesigned their jars and my illustrations aren’t there anymore.
My client paid extra to own the original art and there wasn’t any time for me to get copies (transparencies) of my artwork. I was an assembly line artist, painting quickly while simultaneously creating layouts for subsequent labels.
When I wrote my Beech-Nut story for this blog in 2011, I lamented the lack of images to share. I only had color copies and a few slides an art director had given me. (I have since updated that post with better images!)A month ago, I was joyfully jarred when I received an email with this heading:
BEECH NUT ARTWORK MASTERS: Judy, I have over 80 of your Beech-Nut Artwork masters. Please contact me! No joke.
It seems that a lovely art director, whom I’ll call “K,” rescued my original art from a dumpster.
I am going to tell this blog story by sharing our correspondence:
Hi Judy, I was the Art Director for the Beech-Nut Prepress house.
After we lost the Beech-Nut account in 2001 (I think) they told us they only wanted their ‘electronic assets’ sent to the new Prepress Vendor. As an artist I was sickened when I saw the pile of 3” binders in the trash. I could not walk away and leave them. I have hoarded them and kept them safe for 18 years.
I have spent a lot of time poring over the detail and craftsmanship of your illustrations and have always admired your work.
I retired last February and yesterday I was looking for something and I ran across the binders. They are not “mine” to sell, but they must be treasured. They are too incredible to not be shared with the world. They had a sticker with an address for “Judy Unger.” I wondered, “Does she even live there anymore or will she think I am insane?”
Today while sitting at my computer, I was suddenly randomly curious over what the “latest” Beech-Nut label looks like (because it could never be as wonderful as it was with Judy’s illustrations [and yes, I called you by your first name in my head]).
I ended up running down a rabbit trail on the Internet for about an hour, when I found a website that had a familiar feel and a blog from February 6th 2011 (9 years to the day between me running into your illustrations and you posting your blog). My head exploded.
I have your Beech-Nut Artwork Masters. If you want them I will ship them to you.
Let’s get them back where they belong! K
What an amazing message for me to receive. I am blown away!
I always lamented that I sold my originals and didn’t have any copies. Now I’m very excited that I will get to see all of those images I painted years ago.
All thanks to YOU! I can’t believe they were going to be thrown away. YOU SAVED THEM FOR ME! How can I thank you?
I plan to scan them all and this will definitely become a beautiful story for my blog.
I would like to gift you with a signed original painting once I’ve scanned everything. It could be one of the Beech-Nut paintings or something else. I will send you some ideas. Please use my Fed Ex account, which is xxxxxx.
I still can’t believe you found me! Thank you! Judy
Yahoo!!! I thumb my nose at every person that rolled their eyes when I tried to explain that some things have “value,” not everyone can see. I am thrilled to have brightened your day. It has certainly brightened mine.
I wandered through your sites. You inspire me.
The reason I “retired” last year was due to breast cancer. I needed to focus on myself full-time. In 10 days I have a 1-year follow up mammogram and I am more nervous about it than I would like to admit. Your writings of your ankle injury and recovery sound very familiar.
This is exciting and rejuvenating. Giving you back something you lost is such a great feeling. I will get them packed up and to FedEx this week.
I would LOVE a signed piece! We will discuss.
Glad to have made your acquaintance, your new friend, K
I was just thinking of you today – it has been over 10 days and I was praying you received good news from your mammogram.
I was out of town and came back yesterday and wanted to reach out. Hoping you are well.
You are so sweet. My news is all good news! One year CLEAR!
Monday’s news came as a relief. So much about cancer is just WAITING. Waiting for the next test, or waiting for the results of the last one, waiting for a surgery date/appointment, waiting to heal before starting the treatments, and then you have to wait a YEAR for a formal test to see if everything is progressing as expected. It seems like I have been holding my breath for a year.
Whew. As you can imagine, I slept very, very well on Monday night. Now that the waiting is over, I can get back to LIVING.
Thank you so much for your note. I am very pleased that our paths have crossed in this universe. K
Hi K, I’m so excited to let you know that I’ve written a story about this and it’s on my blog. Thank you so much again! The kiwi and berry art will be coming to you soon. 🙂
HAHAHAHAHA!!!! Look at all of those Unger Art boards!! No longer hidden in a tote bin in a closet! I hope they bring you some income as ‘recycled’ art!
What no one understands is that your art work was just about 1:1 size for the LARGE jars. You painted those so tiny and they were still too big for the small jars. The art final size was about the size of a penny or smaller! Make sure your blog readers understand the size ratio of your hand-done (back in the day) artwork. The tiniest of paint brushes created that artwork. NO ONE does that anymore. The HAIRS on the kiwi were always amazing to me. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent through the years admiring the detail of the art boards under a printer’s loupe. (More hours than I would like my old employer to know!) I am still in awe.
I love the down scatter shot of the art board with your hands. It’s the closing the chapter on the “tale of the Unger Art boards.” A shot of the artwork with the hands that created them. Now they can happily age and hopefully provide you with some passive income.
It is even fun that your creative child (all grown up) is an active participant in the telling of the Unger Art board tale. So it continues.
Hugs and Friendship, K
I’m so glad I could share such a heartwarming story on this blog. I have a new friend with K, and will be sending her two signed original paintings soon.
Currently, I continue to sell my stock illustrations exclusively on Getty. Commissioned work is very sparse, although I never give up hope that things might pick up once again.
On the topic of making friends, I contacted Thomas Bond who was the art director I worked with on many of the Beech-Nut illustrations. We have been connected on Facebook for six years. When I shared this story with him, he wrote:
Hey Judy! What a really cool, wonderful thing to happen for you! This makes me so happy. I follow your adventures on FB, as I’m sure you also see what’s going on in my life. I moved to Waikiki a year ago and spend most days just relaxing. Thank you for letting me know, and wishing you all the best! Hugs, Thomas
Scanning my old artwork was such a pleasure. For my first Beech-Nut story, I created two large medleys of my illustrations. They were tiny, but fun to see as a large group.
But I’ve decided for this post, to share larger versions of my images. I’ll let a portion of those illustrations tell the rest of this story.
Life is certainly filled with surprises!