The Art of Advertising Mad Men

Artist Partners’ illustrator Brian Sanders has created this iconic image for the cult TV series.

One of Waterloo's most creative businesses has a fascinating link with the hit American series Mad Men. 

Christine Isteed, of Artist Partners, our area’s own illustration agency, was taken by surprise when an article in The New York Times directed world-wide attention to work created by her friend, Brian Sanders. He had just created the image above for the next series of the ’60s advertising drama, Mad Men.

Christine found herself fielding calls from media across the world, all of which were obsessively chasing the story of how Brian, a successful illustrator even in the 1960s, was asked to create the artwork for series six of the smash-hit.

The Guardian and the BBC are amongst those who have already covered the story of how Brian’s work was spotted in Lifestyle Illustration of the 1960s by Mad Men’s creator, Matthew Weiner.

75-year-old Brian was delighted to be asked to create the image in the style of some of the iconic pictures he created through Artist Partners in the swinging sixties, but his lips were sealed for the duration of the commission and until publication. Only immediate family living in his household knew of the exceptional project.

Christine, who calls Brian Sandy, said: “I just think it’s so lovely that Sandy is being acknowledged for his early work in this way.”

Over the past 50 years Brian’s work has ranged through all areas of illustration from tiny postage stamps to large-scale paintings, one of which featured the Presentation of Standards to the Royal Tank Regiment by HM Queen.

Christine first met Brian, who was a director of Artist Partners when she joined the Soho-based company in 1973 as a ‘Girl Friday’ – advertising lingo for someone who did everything from running reception to buying lunches and even cutting artists’ hair.

Working in the shadow of the Windmill Theatre was not too different from the life depicted in Mad Men, with long lunches fitted in around work on film posters, advertisements and the occasional photographic assignment.

Christine remembers: “Everyone smoked apart from me, and the company held drinks parties on Fridays where artists, clients and agents got together.

“It was wonderful. The building was full of creative people. When I first saw Mad Men it just reminded me so much of those early days. There was the same kind of stuff going on...the drinking…the smoking…”

Christine rose through the ranks and bought control of the 62-year-old company before its move to The Chandlery in Westminster Bridge Road, Waterloo. Coincidentally, one of Brian’s earliest ’60s commissions was a cover for Officer Magazine, which was housed in the Central Office of Information just a street away to where Artist Partners is now based.

Christine currently represents some 30 artists, whose work includes portraits, political caricatures and book cover illustrations.

Brian regards the Mad Men poster as a one-off as he now devotes his time to working on self-initiated projects and is currently drawing images from his childhood spent along the River Thames.

Born in Southwark, Brian went to school at the foot of Tower Bridge. He has further Waterloo connections as the book he is currently working on shows the construction of the 1951 Festival of Britain site. As a child he spent much time drawing in the Imperial War Museum as well, which later in life helped him to design over fifty sets of stamps based on military subjects.

Speaking about his image of Mad Men’s Don Draper he said: “When Matthew Weiner of AMC found my work he knew that was the feel he wanted for the poster’s design.”

To find out more about Artist Partners, Christine and Brian, click here.