Yes, they had preferred artists. During the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, artwork wasn’t always created in house. Williams or another company would design a game, and then they would hand the game over to another company that just did art. This second company had their own staff artists. In the case of Gottlieb, they used one particular artist, Roy Parker.
So the look of each manufacturer’s machines took on a personality based on the artist—the theme was almost irrelevant. The art really didn’t have anything to do with the actual game play. It could be about almost anything. Clearly some games were designed with a card game like poker or blackjack or something like that in mind. But with a lot of the themes, the art could’ve been anything. The art company would often come up with names for the games, and they would do all the artwork based on the actual whitewood, which was the name for the raw prototype game without art on it. They would pretty much do whatever they wanted, but they knew what the companies were expecting, so that’s why the companies used the same artists over and over.
There were different artists in different years. Gottlieb started out with Roy Parker, who died in 1965 of cancer. Art Stenholm took over and did a lot of Gottlieb artwork through the rest of the ’60s. So you had these artists who would do games for a particular manufacturer for years and years. By the ’80s, the games were getting more sophisticated with voice and speech, and the theme of the game was more set in concrete, so an artist couldn’t really re-theme a game. So a lot of the artists were brought in house and actually worked at Williams or Gottlieb or Bally, and the artwork on the games became much more entwined with the theme.
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