Hilton Head artist who worked on campaigns for Frosted Flakes, Allstate, dies at 93

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Hilton Head artist who worked on campaigns for Frosted Flakes, Allstate, dies at 93

Published Monday, February 18, 2013   |  609 Words  |  

The Hilton Head Island artist who gave Allstate its good hands, Frosted Flakes its tiger mascot and the island's most noted developer a bust for his gravesite has died.

Ralph Ballantine, an illustrator who helped shape Hilton Head's fledgling artist community, died Saturday. He was 93.

"He was very humble about his own talent ... not a boastful person at all," said Louanne LaRoche, who owned the Red Piano Gallery, where Morris & Whiteside Galleries is now located.

Before Ballantine moved to the island in 1967, he already was a giant in the illustration world. His pen gave Chicago's ad agencies and consumers some of their most enduring images: Allstate's good hands logo, Tony the Tiger, Charlie the Tuna and the Schlitz Malt Liquor bull.

But the story most often told about Ballantine -- that he was the model for the Jolly Green Giant -- might have made many forget his prodigious talent.

And that might have been the way he preferred it.

LaRoche remembers Ballantine coming to her gallery to do live-figure drawings, work she called "exquisite." But he always seemed more eager to discuss the work of others and to deflect praise of his own.

"He always felt like he could do better," LaRoche said.

Though modest, he won adoration from his peers.

"He was a great, really fine draftsman. He could draw figures and hands fantastically, but the thing that would knock me out is his industrial drawings" said Joe Bowler, an island resident who was inducted into the Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame in 1992.

"He was just a terrific guy to know," Bowler said. "It added a lot to my life knowing him."

The two met at an island roundtable organized by Bowler and attended by many of the island's most distinguished illustrators and artists, including Coby Whitmore, Joe DeMers and Walter Greer.

"I'm sure that everybody who ever contacted him within the art field was impressed with him and admired what he did and admired him as a person," Greer said.

Though Ballantine was known best for his drawings, especially his attention to detail, he also was an exceptional sculptor and architect, Greer said.

Ballantine created the bronze bust of Charles Fraser that adorns his grave at the Liberty Oak, overlooking Sea Pines' Harbour Town. Ballantine also designed the nearby CQs restaurant, the Saddlebag Building next door and the Old Fort Pub on Skull Creek.

But for LaRoche, Ballantine's legacy extends beyond anything he penned, sculpted or designed.

"I think his greatest legacy is within the people that he has supported," LaRoche said. Ballantine's knack for giving those around him his full attention and encouragement is something LaRoche said she tries to emulate.

Ballantine raised two sons, Peter, 68, and Todd, 66, with his late wife Sis. Both grew up to work in the art world.

"He's the reason why I'm an artist and the reason my brother is an international art director," said Todd, adding that he learned to draw by watching his father.

"He made accuracy beautiful," Todd said.

Ballantine remarried in 1995. Evelyn Ballantine was at his bedside Saturday morning when he died of natural causes.

Services for Ralph Ballantine are being planned for this spring.

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