Wilson McLean

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Wilson McLean (born 1937) is a Scottish illustrator and artist. He has illustrated primarily in the field of advertising but has also provided cover art for music albums, sports magazines (including Sports Illustrated), a children's book, and other commercial endeavors.[1]


Wilson McLean began his career in a London silkscreen studio at fifteen years of age and, to date, has won most major illustrator awards in the United States. Born in Scotland, he moved to London at age ten where he attended St. Martins and the Central School at night while working on the staff of magazines and design studios. This exposed him to the work of American illustrators and painters and convinced him that he would eventually go to America. Two years of national service stopped him from painting for that period. He then went back to the design studios in Fleet Street for a few years, doing little of interest but working on his drawings at night.


At twenty-three, Wilson moved to Copenhagen and began a freelance career; he also married a Norwegian woman; after a year, they moved to Spain, then home to London, where he quickly established himself, working with publishing houses, advertising agencies and magazines.

New York City[edit]

He then decided the time was right for New York. 1965 was the year he came to New York for six weeks to try his luck. The first week, an agent took him on, and he got his first commission from The Saturday Evening Post, which he did in a borrowed studio; that was followed by three more magazine jobs, which he took back to London.

Returning in 1966 with wife and child, he moved to the Upper West Side, thinking this would continue as before, but although this was a very creative time in New York and there was no shortage of work in general, McLean experienced several lean years before gaining a reputation. He realized he did not yet have a signature style and point of view, and the competition was fierce, so after a couple of years or so experimenting with different mediums and observing more concept-oriented pictures, he gradually accomplished a breakthrough in 1973 with important work for Look Magazine, Sports Illustrated and Playboy.

His diligence paid off, and he worked for various of clients from advertising, movie posters, record covers, Time Magazine covers, book jackets, annual reports, etc. McLean's awards include several silver and gold medals at the Art Directors Club of New York, plus the prestigious Clio for television commercials for Eastern Airlines.[2] He won nine silver and four gold medals over the years at the Society of Illustrators in NY and, in 1980, the Hamilton King Award for best in show[3] and gold that same year at the Los Angeles Art Directors Show.


In 1974, he met and later married Rosemary Howard, an ex-model turned photographer. They shared a loft/studio in the Flatiron District of Manhattan and split their time between Southampton and NYC. The Society of Illustrators Gallery in NYC gave him a one-man show in 1978, and a few years later, he went to Zürich for two summers running to work on lithographs ending in a show of work there in 1984. During the years, he has participated in group shows in New York and other parts of the country. He is represented at the National Portrait Gallery[4] at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., the National Air and Space Museum in D.C., and the London Transport Museum’s permanent poster collection.[5] In 1985, to commemorate European Music Year, the Royal Mail commissioned him to design and illustrate five stamps for a special edition of British composers, and he designed a set of four stamps for the US Mail illustrating the Broadway musical Oklahoma! around that same time.[6]

McLean contributed to an exhibition and book for the United Nations environmental program entitled Art for Survival.

A children's book called If The Earth.. were a few feet in diameter[7] published by the Greenwich Workshop Press featuring eighteen paintings, is his only experience with that genre. In the year 2000, for the Millennium, the United Kingdom's postal service commissioned a stamp, one of a number produced by such people as David Hockney and Eduardo Paolozzi.[8]


His teaching has included Syracuse University, The School of Visual Arts, guest workshops at Savannah College of Art and Design, Ringling College of Art and Design in Florida, and workshops throughout the United States.

Hudson, New York[edit]

In 2000 he and his wife moved to Hudson, New York from Long Island and Manhattan. Mclean now lives full-time in Hurley, NY

In 2007, McLean had a show of work at the John Davis Gallery in Hudson, New York. In 2009, there was a show of Italian landscapes at the Conrad L. Mallett Gallery in Hartford, Connecticut. The Society of Illustrators in 2010 inducted McLean into the Hall of Fame.[9] In 2011, McLean designed and painted the Earth Day poster, which the State Department in Washington, D.C. produces yearly. In 2011, he was interviewed for the National Endowment for the Arts Art Works blog.[10]


  1. ^ "Wilson McLean". wilsonmclean.com.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-08-13. Retrieved 2012-09-07.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "The Society of Illustrators: Hamilton King Award Past Inductees". societyillustrators.org.
  4. ^ "Search results for: , McLean, Wilson - Collections Search Center, Smithsonian Institution". si.edu.
  5. ^ "Artist: Wilson McLean - Poster and poster artwork collection, London Transport Museum". ltmcollection.org.
  6. ^ "Wilson McLean". si.edu.
  7. ^ Miller, Joseph (1998). If the Earth...Were a Few Feet in Diameter: Joe Miller, Wilson McLean: 0766710851317: Amazon.com: Books. ISBN 0867130547.
  8. ^ The Post Office (12 November 1998). "ROYAL MAIL MILLENNIUM COLLECTION LAUNCHED BY TOP DESIGNERS AT THE HOME OF TIME". prnewswire.co.uk.
  9. ^ "Wilson McLean". Society of Illustrators.
  10. ^ "Bluehost.com". arts.gov.