© Paul Markow
A Brush With Greatness
Larry Toschik was just a kid when he turned pro. He didn't get rich that day, but when he sold one of his chalk drawings to a customer in his father's sporting-goods store in Milwaukee, he became a professional artist in the literal sense of the words.
The guy in the store offered him 50 cents, which doesn't sound like much, but in the early 1930s, a half-dollar would have bought a lot of Valomilk Candy Cups and Choward's Violet Mints. The money was nice, I'm sure, but more than that, the sale of the sketch helped launch an artistic career that would eventually get the attention of Raymond Carlson, the longtime editor of Arizona Highways. Decades later, it caught my eye, too.
I spend a lot of time flipping through old issues of this magazine — especially the stuff we did in the '40s, '50s and '60s — and about a year ago, I came across one of Mr. Toschik's illustrations. It was an oil painting of two snowy plovers, which made our cover in February 1982. I remember thinking: I'd hang that in my house. Right over the fireplace. I was impressed. Just as Mr. Carlson had been.
Over the next several weeks, I saw more and more of Mr. Toschik's work: mountain lions, golden eagles, black bears. I was mesmerized every time — I'd just stare at the pages. That's when I realized we needed to resurrect the artistry of Larry Toschik. I brought it up at our staff meeting, and we added it to the editorial calendar. The next day, literally, I opened a letter from Peder Andersen of Livermore, California. He was writing to share the sad news that his old World War II buddy, Larry Toschik, had passed away.
A few months later, I got an email from Tom Toschik: "Arizona Highways was literally bread and butter for our family through the '50s and '60s — my dad designed the layouts for the magazine each month. I remember riding over to the magazine offices with him sometimes as he delivered his work to Ray Carlson. When the magazine decided to publish an article written by my dad, along with some of his paintings, in March 1967, none of us could have envisioned the transformation it would bring to our lives. The response to his artwork from around the world was phenomenal. He rose from obscurity to international recognition as one of the great American wildlife artists."
You'll see what Tom is referring to in Perfect Illustrations. It's a beautiful portfolio that features a small sample of the nearly 100 paintings and drawings that we published in the '70s and '80s. I love the javelina on our back cover, but I think my favorite is the illustration of the black bears and aspens on page 33. Bears and trees are two of my favorite things, and one of the main reasons I do so much hiking. I love Arizona's backcountry, which takes center stage in this month's cover story.
Like always, our annual Summer Hiking Guide features some of the state's most scenic places to hit the trail. And on those trails you'll see congealed lava, petrified sand dunes, mountains, meadows and streams. In addition, keep your eyes peeled for Howard Calvert. He's the 73-year-old mega-hiker who's featured in In It for the Long Haul. If you see him on the trail, tip your hat and say, "Glory to your feet." It's an old Albanian road greeting. If you see Zephanie Blasi, don't bother saying anything. You won't have time, because she'll be flying by on her Bianchi Methanol mountain bike, a high-performance machine that's worth more than the car she uses to haul it.
In Biker Chick, you'll learn more about Zephanie and her love of mountain-biking, as well as her attempt to make the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team in a sport that's dominated by Europeans. She's not intimidated, though. Like Larry Toschik, she's a pro, and there aren't many others in her league. Glory to your feet, Zephanie. And your legs and your arms and all the rest.