Animated Filmmaker R.O. Blechman’s Ink Tank Archive Comes to STL

Added on by Doug Dowd.

Happy Friday! I am so pleased to be posting this here. A cache of vision, grace and wit has found its way to St. Louis. See below. 

A significant collection of works and documents from the animation studio The Ink Tank, owned and operated by cartoonist and animator R.O. Blechman 1977 – 2004, is finding a permanent home in the D.B. Dowd Modern Graphic History Library at Washington University in St. Louis. The Library specializes in the collection, preservation and study of popular illustration and cartooning, and houses the papers, works and archives of many graphics-industry leaders. 

Among Blechman’s best known works—sparingly drawn with his trademark wiggly line—are the talking pink stomach from a 1967 TV commercial for Alka-Seltzer, numerous illustrations for The New York Times Book Review featuring his big-nosed Everyman, the PBS Christmas special Simple Gifts, and a sixty-minute animated film visualizing composer Igor Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du soldat (The Soldier’s Tale). The latter three-year production won an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animated Programming in 1984. 

The D.B. Dowd Modern Graphic History Library is honored to receive the archives of The Ink Tank, which include the production materials for some 384 commercials and the films Simple Gifts and The Soldier’s Tale; as well as short animations for NBC, CBS, and others; and unfinished works such as the film Candide (screened at the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art [MoCCA] Arts Festival, New York, in 2016). There are also drawings, watercolors, animation cels, storyboards, DVDs, and related studio and business materials and documents, all in fine condition. Ephemera related not just to The Ink Tank’s daily operations but also to the cultural life of New York City include photographs, programs, invitations, and Christmas cards. 

Professor D.B. Dowd, Director of the Dowd Modern Graphic History Library, says, “What I most admire about R.O. Blechman’s animation work is how subtle, lovely and specific it is. The tempo of the movement (and the editing) is the tempo of lived experience, not the hyped-up superfast cutting we have grown so accustomed to. Blechman fashioned a way of drawing, designing and directing for the screen that was all his own. We are devoted to telling a story of modern American life through popular sources like magazines, posters and films, and we could not be more thrilled to have R.O. Blechman’s Ink Tank archive coming to Washington University and the Dowd MGHL.” 

Drawings, designs and paintings are by Gary Baseman, Guy Billout, Seymour Chwast, Jack Davis, Jean-Michel Folon, Andre Francois, Milton Glaser, Al Hirschfeld, James McMullan, Ronald Searle, Jean-Jacques Sempé, Maurice Sendak, Charles B. Slackman, Edward Sorel, Tomi Ungerer and 

other luminaries of illustration and cartooning. Over 100 other drawings and watercolors are by Blechman himself.

This culturally rich collection will directly benefit students in Washington University’s Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, who work with the special collections in the D.B. Dowd Modern Graphic History Library in assorted studio and history classes. The Library may also loan objects for exhibition to the University’s own Kemper Art Museum and elsewhere. This acquisition also benefits advanced scholarship in American studies, visual culture, and business—foci currently pursued by many faculty and visiting researchers.

Born Oscar Robert Blechman in Brooklyn, NY, in 1930, young Blechman attained early success shortly after attending Oberlin College, when his illustrated Christmas story The Juggler of Our Lady became a hit in 1953. It was turned into an animated film in 1958, and the original book was reissued in 1997. It is now considered a classic and a progenitor of today’s thriving art form of graphic novels. An anthology of Blechman’s graphic stories titled Talking Lines was issued by the esteemed comics and graphic novels publisher Drawn & Quarterly in 2009.

Blechman opened a design studio in 1960, followed by The Ink Tank animation studio in 1977. Projects he directed spawned creative collaborations with eminent peers, such as children’s book author-illustrator Maurice Sendak and Push Pin design studio alumni Seymour Chwast and James McMullan. His diverse client list, which includes IBM, General Motors, Burger King, McDonalds, Johnson & Johnson, Hallmark, Sony, Perrier, the Smithsonian, and MTV, demonstrates just how widespread Blechman’s impact on American visual culture and commerce has been. 

Blechman, who has been publishing cartoons and illustrations for the thinking man or woman since 1949, has always imbued his seemingly gentle cartoons with poignant social commentary, from race relations in 1958 and the Vietnam War in the 1960s to intolerance and disenfranchisement today. These have appeared in Humbug, The Village Voice, The New York Times, The New Yorker, Story, The Nation, and Huffington Post

R.O. Blechman has been appointed to the Art Directors Hall of Fame and the New York Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame, and was honored with the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Cartoonists Society. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) curated a retrospective of The Ink Tank’s accomplishments in 2003.

R.B. Blechman, animated Alka-Seltzer commercial, 1967. A man and his stomach go to therapy together. The stomach is voiced by Gene Wilder at his neurotic best. Blechman's animation is delightful. 

R.O. Blechman, The Soldier’s Tale, PBS, 1983

R.O. Blechman, The Soldier’s Tale, PBS, 1983

Jean-Philippe Delhomme, painted backdrop for Barney’s New York animated commercial, 1994

Scott Gericke, MGHL identity, 2017. 

Lively Pictures of "Boring" Things

Added on by Doug Dowd.

April 2017––I'm updating this post to report that these illustrations, for the Better Homes & Gardens Handyman's Book, no longer remain unattributed. Through the magic of the interwebs (and Twitter), I'm delighted to announce that we know who did the wonderful work that goes uncredited in the publication itself. The 2-color section dividers were created by Lorraine Fox, a midcentury illustrator. I put the pieces together by comparing these to other work highlighted in a series of tweets by Ward Jenkins (@wardomatic), who provided a link to a 1967 interview published on Leif Peng's blog in two parts here and here. (Fox's interview responses point plainly to a certain Modernist essentialism that begs questions today. She might well have sworn off these pieces in favor of later things that she seems to have thought more "original" and true to self, but I am not convinced. Her "decorative" work [a slur in Modernist diction that she may have internalized] holds up quite well.) Thanks to Ward and Leif. So happy to type Lorraine Fox's name in these captions!  

There can be no question that this post establishes my design-geekishness beyond a reasonable doubt. Guilty as charged. But in Graphic Tales' ongoing project to celebrate visual achievement in unlikely places, the anonymous integration of design and drawing in the project highlighted here is worthy of notice. I mentioned chiaroscuro the other day in the context of Astro Boy; the Handyman's Book section dividers rely on much more restricted, but no less rigorous, use of light and dark.  

Illustration has its limitations as a word: chief among them, a narrow quality. I have tried to suggest more capacious readings of it, drawing the etymology of illumination or shedding light, but it's an uphill battle. If I had another word, I'd use it. 

But the problem with narrow readings isn't confined to people outside the field. Many students come to the act of illustrating with a very limited sense of what's possible, especially in restricted circumstances. The time-honored two-color problem–back in the day, born of limited printing budgets; today, in an era of four-color ubiquity, a tactical approach–qualifies as a restriction. A subject I've written about before.

Exasperation with available visual means pales in comparison to asked-for depictive content: that's waaaay more limiting. Like, I mean, to the point of soul crushing. Say our young illustrator is handed an assignment to create a series of images about a canoe trip. Seriously? I have to illustrate a canoe trip? Just people standing around, with like, canoes? That is so boring! I can't possibly do anything with that subject!

How to begin? The old saw about there not being any small roles–only small actors–sort of applies. If characters are supplied with decent verbs, they have a chance to do real work in the picture.

In support of that position, I turn to the uncredited illustrator for the Better Homes & Gardens Handyman's Book, a compendium of information for the do-it-yourselfer published by the Meredith Corporation in 1951. (My copy is a later printing, from 1957.) Linda Solovic picked this one up for me at an estate sale, knowing full well that I'd love these things. God bless Linda Solovic. The BH & G guide was designed for a binder (not full of women) to enable the user to pluck out relevant information without having to lug the bigger thing around.

But binders are awkward, as Mitt Romney knows. To counteract the physical challenges of the three ring contraption, the designers (also uncredited, as were the copywriters) used heavy stock dividers to break up the sections of the book.

The beginning of each chapter is signaled by an orange or yellow divider bearing a legend and a snappy illustration that gives the potentially dreary topic (Doors and Windows!) a friendly little kick-off.

The value relationships on the orange divider pages are nicely balanced.

I am particularly fond of Walls and Floors for the use of negative line to define the tiles and sweeping black line to define the glue on the floor (which is totally implied; despite the chapter head, there are no walls). The yellow dividers are less effective, due to the neighboring values of yellow (8) and white (10); you can't really read fine white lines on a yellow field. 

I have adjusted the levels of the yellow dividers in Photoshop to produce more contrast between yellow and white. The actual color is more lemony than this one, but a tougher read.

The back side of each divider provides informational content.

These things are charming, clever and inventive. Props, materials and implied spaces are used to create narrative specificity and to fill out the design. A "simple" subject is given form and wit; the reader is nourished and fortified. Note also that the approach is dominated by flat shape and an abbreviated approach to faces, informed by knowledge of how figures actually work (although the physics of how a few figures manage to stand up is open to question).

So now, what about that canoe trip? What scenes will we see? Can the landscape be largely omitted, leaving the figures and the props to carry the information? (Hint: yes.)

Lorraine Fox (uncredited), Power Tools, section divider illustration, Better Homes & Gardens Handyman's Book, Meredith Corporation, 1957. 

Lorraine Fox (uncredited), cover illustration, Better Homes & Gardens Handyman's Book, Meredith Corporation, 1957. 

Lorraine Fox (uncredited), Fastening Techniques, section divider illustration, BH & G Handyman's Book, 1957. 

Lorraine Fox (uncredited), Windows and Doors, section divider illustration, BH & G Handyman's Book, 1957. 

Lorraine Fox (uncredited), Walls and Floors, section divider illustration, BH & G Handyman's Book, 1957. 

Detail, Walls and Floors

Lorraine Fox (uncredited) Building Materials, section divider illustration, BH & G Handyman's Book, 1957. 

Reference Tables, Wood Screws and Nails, section divider verso, BH & G Handyman's Book, 1957. 

Lorraine Fox (uncredited), General Index, section divider illustration, BH & G Handyman's Book, 1957. 

Display That! (Examples + Commentary)

Added on by Doug Dowd.

(Re-edited; originally posted March 1, 2014.

When I started this blog in 2007, I identified several subjects of interest: graphic connoisseurship, broadly speaking; the relationship between cartooning and illustration; the culture of popular images and artifacts; and informational images.


Since that time I have continued to teach synthetically-oriented courses in communication design. These experiences are designed to address illustrators, designers and hybrid types. In many respects my own work has a hybrid sensibility. 


I like making pictures that inform and/or document. 




When this post first appeared, I was working with wonderful colleagues Amy Auman and Scott Gericke in Word and Image 1–a really fun, if challenging, course to teach.  

In 2017, commencing the same project, Amy is abroad and Scott is taking a break from teaching; Liz Sullivan is still in the mix; and Vidhya Nagarajan and Heather Corcoran are on the team. Heather has not yet appeared due to her other duties, but students, do not miss Heather's excellently written design blog. This post on book covers will be relevant. 





We're in the early stages of a new project: The Collection Poster. Each student has been assigned a topic (e.g., mammals, firearms of the Napoleonic Wars, echinoderms, summer apparel). They are to research the subject, then develop a collection of 8 to 20 items to present on a poster measuring 16 x 20 inches. Their approach can be taxonomic, historical, primarily decorative, explanatory (How a Steam Engine Works), or some combination of thereof. It's an awesome problem; we're jealous of the students who get to work on it!







Today I'm pulling old and new sources together to provide a sense of just how big the world can be on such projects. Many students, when presented with the problem, experience it as a limitation. "Why would I make a poster that just shows _________? That's boring!"  Well, it might be. It also might be fascinating, delightful, eye-opening, wonderful!

Here, then, are some samples of images which display groups, things, people, sites, processes, etcetera. These samples are varied, but far from exhaustive.

An astronomical diagram with type, from the mid 19th century. 








A cross section of skin, from the 1965 World Book Encyclopedia. Very straightforward: a black-and-white drawing enlivened and clarified with tints. Given a good key drawing (no small thing) it would take about 30 seconds to do this by multiplying the black layer in Photoshop and throwing a little color behind it.












A similar image at a rather different scale: a still from Destination Earth, an industrial film from 1956 with a modernist sensibility, showing offshore oil exploration in cross-section. (More stills from this film here.)




Several variations on a theme: figures displayed to show relationships or actions on a single plane.


A Fremont petroglyph, from Nine Mile Canyon, Utah, photographed by my friend and colleague Stan Strembicki a few Mays ago. He climbed up on a ledge to shoot this one, just as I was beginning to figure out that you can drive into Nine Mile Canyon, but you can't drive out the other end. Big bummer.









A WPA poster promoting a play; note the hieratic arrangement of the figures and the effective and efficient use of 3 colors. 











A character sheet presenting the cast of The Jetsons, 1961 or 62. 










Ed Benedict draws Snagglepuss, 1958. The "display" is inadvertent, really: he is just trying things, one next to the other. The traditional draftsmanly drawing material devoted to flat modern form is surprising, appealing. 







For comic relief–plus drawing meets photography. On the distressingly named I cannot find an attribution. 









Reasons to buy a Dodge Polaris, especially if you're female.









An essay in line weight, by Elizabeth Buchsbaum, from Animals Without Backbones. I have written about her before. (I would really like to locate her drawings for exhibition purposes. I once heard from someone in the Buchsbaum clan, but then the line went dead. Anybody out there?)












Matisse flattens with color, erasing depth from a putatively descriptive picture: the Red Studio. Militant two-dimensionality. 






France, as it appears among the Geographical Panels in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. I stood in this room in 2003, agape. I bought the ridiculously expensive book, which sits among my atlases of various cartographic and typographic personalities. A really beautiful thing; lovely color and variation in treatment.











Data underscored by image, but not subordinated to it. It seems like a metaphor, but really isn't. More like a simile, I guess.








Google Street View before the fact.









In the urban vein, here's an illustration from Sasek's This is London. Okay, it's deep space, so not strictly informational, but look at the handling of the cars. None of them overlap. They're simultaneously units of information and decoration.






The Swedish graphic designer Olle Eskell. Clear rules, elegant decisions, charming and comic result.







This may not be intelligible, but who can gainsay its urgency? By Francesca Ryan. Children are ferocious intenders. I love this thing. (I pumped the contrast on the pencil, producing that somewhat over-the-top yellow. Not Francesca's fault. Bad art direction!)











An index of weaponry. 












Olle Eskell, again. A positive/negative flip on traditional display, combined with whimsical narrative. 













More old stuff from Britain. Specimens from a book of English fossil finds. To some degree like the spearheads above, a stone wall built from tiny pebbles and varied rocks, mortared with negative space.











Speaking of calcified stuff: cetaceans (whales) as artifacts as well as a kind of 3D chart, at the Galerie de paléontologie et d'anatomie comparée in Paris. What a wacky place. My photograph, from the summer of 2013.








Game boards provide excellent case studies in systematic display, from the purely geometric… 










…to the more pictorial. 










To pay my respects to the winter gods who have been gentle with us indeed, even as March arrives: an ode to meteorological phenomena.  





Finally, an array of heads, completed this week at a frantic pace as part of a quick turnaround project. Mostly skeptical people at a public hearing...





Happy composing!

Milt Groth, Automobile Paper Dolls, center "Playtime" spread, Jack and Jill Magazine, circa 1950.

D.B. Dowd, 1967 Chrysler New Yorker and 1965 Ford Econoline Pickup, from "Shanghai Pictorial," Spartan Holiday No. 1, 2012. 

D.B. Dowd, Cassiopeia Does the Twist, an evening's worth of stargazing notes, August 10-11, 2008, near Moab, Utah.

Jim Flora, cover illustration, Research and Engineering, January 1956.

John Emslie, Transparent Solar System Displaying the Planets with Their Orbits, as Known at the Present Day, published by James Reynolds and Sons, London, circa 1844. 

Illustrator credit unavailable, Cross Section of Human Skin, World Book Encyclopedia, 1965. 

Oil Exploration, still from Destination Earth, 1956. John Sutherland Productions. Directed by Carl Urbano, Production Design by Tom Oreb and Victor Haboush. 

Stan Strembicki, Fremont Petroglyphs,  Nine Mile Canyon, Utah. 2012.

Richard Halls, WPA poster design for The Emperor's New Clothes, 1936. 

Ed Benedict (?), Character Sheet for The Jetsons, a Hanna-Barbera Show, 1962. George, Jane, Judy et. al., may have been designed by Benedict–they betray his sense of shape. I have never been able to find a character design credit for the show. 

This is definitely Ed Benedict, as the signature shows. Snagglepuss character design, 1958. I shot this on my iPhone (a little grainy) at the Norman Rockwell Museum in February 2017, at the Hanna Barbera Show. Benedict's pencils were the best things in it. 

Credit unavailable, Drawing On Windows Because Work Gets Boring, Sharpie on window pane. Posted on

Illustrator uncredited, advertisement, 1960 Dodge Polaris.

Elizabeth Buchsbaum, Polyp Types, Hydra, from Animals Without Backbones, 1937.

Henri Matisse, The Red Studio, 1911.

Stefano Buonsignori, Map of France, from the Geographical Panels in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. 1576.

Global Emissions, Good Magazine.

Illustrator uncredited, a fragment of a broadsheet-sized rendering of the Astor family real estate empire, published on January 1, 1899 by the New York World.

Miroslav Sasek, Picadilly Square, in This is London, 1960.

Olle Eskell, a park with cityscape. 

Francesca Ryan, Untitled (Megalomanical Obelisk with Tapeworm? Powerline Vaudeville?). 2013.

Spearheads. A Scandinavian expert memorably named Worsaae catalogued Viking artifacts in the British Isles in 1846-47. This is one of 12 watercolors (No. 3, to be precise) to appear in An Account of the Danes and Norwegians in England, Scotland, and Ireland in 1851-52.

Olle Eskell, cover illustration, Graphis 39. 1962.

"Eocene Shells at Bracklesham" from The Geology and Fossils of the Tertiary and Cretaceous Formations of Sussex, by Frederick Dixon. 1850. This (and a thousand other printed pictorial excavations) at the wonderful blog Bibliodyssey.

Galerie de paléontologie et d'anatomie comparée, Paris.

Kolor-Blox game board, circa 1935

Snakes and Ladders, forerunner of MB's Chutes and Ladders. N.D. Snakes is creepier, but way cooler, too.  

An encyclopedia of weather, crammed into a tidy rectangle. Meteorology, illustration by John Emslie, London, 1844. 

D.B. Dowd, Audience at Public Hearing. Project pending. (Will provide citation in March '17.)

The Visual Correspondent

Added on by Doug Dowd.

I reflect upon/write criticism about/curate exhibitions concerning the culture of illustration, and the illustrated periodical, broadly speaking. But my own practice has moved over the past decade to a narrower territory: reportage drawing, or "onsite work" in the vernacular. That enterprise has begun to reemerge in the digital era, now marching beneath the banner of "visual journalism." 

I am working with students on just such a studio project right now, even as my other class, an academic seminar exploring the illustrated periodical, has brushed up against the reportage as a historical topic. 

The subject is a rich one. Illustrated perspectives on the news have informed readers in several distinct epochs: from the mid19th century to 1900 or so, from the 1950s until roughly 1980, and once again during the Internet era, with increasing interest evident today. 

At right, I am provide a diverse set of examples, historical and contemporary. Citations are provided in captions. 

I have written on this and related topics before. At the bottom of this post are a set of links, which I recommend to those, especially, who are just beginning to explore this material—which is quite poorly represented in narratives of either narrative image-making or the press.

Illustrators, known as “special artists,” played a key role in the illustrated press, a creation of the mid-19th century–when the invention of wood engraving (1795) and improvements in printing presses and paper-making made truly industrial image production feasible for the first time. Special artists provided visual and textual narrations of the Crimean War for the Illustrated London News, and of the American Civil War for Harpers Weekly. “News pictures” lived a longer life than strictly necessary in the press, as illustrated accounts were regarded by audiences as more persuasive than photographic ones into the 20th century. 

In 2015 I curated an exhibition in the Teaching Gallery at the Kemper Museum at Wash U titled Parallel Modes: Illustrated Visual Journalism and American Photography, 1955-1980. From the pamphlet essay I wrote at the time, a quick summary of the resurgence of the “special artist” tradition, in a more editorial form:

...As attitudes shifted, new opportunities were taking shape in magazine publishing. Illustrators had played prominent roles in presenting “the news” during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but as the century unfolded photography completely supplanted drawing as the primary means of representing events. From the 1920s on, the most prominent illustrators of the day were illustrating not news but romantic short stories in mainstream magazines. Those polished, idealized images relied extensively on photography to stage elaborate narratives, redrawn and painted in gouache. Around the same time, however, a younger group of illustrators emerged to reinvigorate journalistic drawing in American publications. Led by Robert Weaver, they detested romance illustration, which they regarded as hopelessly artificial. Instead they worked in the field, typically foregoing reference photography and using the immediacy of on-site drawing and expressionistic paint handling to report on real conditions. Photographic reportage remained dominant in magazines; the new journalistic drawing emerged as a complement to it. Weaver, Robert Andrew Parker, Cliff Condak, and veteran illustrator Austin Briggs, among others, worked on assignment for Sports Illustrated (SI), Esquire, Fortune, and Look. These magazines had begun to publish first-person nonfiction writing with a strong point of view, essays that relied on the techniques of fiction writing–an approach that came to be called “New Journalism.” Influential art directors such as Richard Gangel at SI commissioned illustrated features to reinforce the new editorial approach.

The break with, and hostility toward, prevailing practices in magazine illustration is difficult to overstate. Gangel, for example, emphasized what he would not publish: “Anything deriving from that exhausted old tradition in which the artist, as a mere interpreter of somebody’s script, painted gorgeous, dreamy works for ladies’ love stories—each creampuff page setting art backward a baby step.” (Dick Gangel, as quoted in “Letter from the Publisher,” Sports Illustrated, February 3, 1964. Gangel’s harsh judgment categorically values reportage over fiction illustration, and–implicitly–male audiences over female ones.

The Visual Essay. The magazines published visual essays, or suites of images by a single illustrator based on topical first-person reporting. Cliff Condak’s “Big Men on the Move” for SI captured daily life in the NBA, featuring the 1963-64 Cincinnati Royals and rising star Oscar Robertson; subtextually, it also showed an integrated locker room to a nation still adjusting to interracial intimacy at any level. Robert Weaver used a charcoal pencil and sketchbook, not a camera, to develop his spring training portfolio for SI–cannily documenting still-segregated Florida ballparks and the social order they represented. The Weaver baseball drawings shown here represent a fraction of the fifty sheets in his sketchbook, most with drawings front and back. Weaver developed a suite of paintings from these drawings for the illustrated feature “Spring Training: Fresh Starts and Old Hopes,” that ran in SI in 1962. A more direct translation from drawing to printed page is visible in Weaver’s work for Nicholas Pileggi’s feature on Little Italy in New York magazine. (New York, famously rebooted by editor Clay Felker and graphic designer Milton Glaser in 1968, became a showcase for New Journalism as well as the primary–and later, nearly the only–venue for Weaver’s work.) The drawings were reproduced directly and enlivened through the use of spot-color printing.

Austin Briggs’s landscape for Look betrays deep skepticism about the New South. Showy roadside billboards dominate the frame; only slowly do we discern the diminutive cotton pickers along the horizon line. Finally, Robert Andrew Parker’s work for Fortune may be less suggestive of social commentary, but the abstract energy of his approach is unmistakable. Parker’s feature on the Bethlehem Steel Corporation delivers a sense of what hot furnaces and molten metal are like. These illustrators–especially Weaver and Parker–became closely associated with the visual essay. As a “Letter from the Publisher” in Sports Illustrated declared in 1964: “[We hold] that the artist-reporter can do as much as the word-man or the cameraman to capture the shine and movement of sport. He brings his private and opinionated eye to the event; when he does his job well he catches truth in a new way.” (Gangel, again. The male pronouns are a little much, but think Mad Men.) 

Links to relevant material in other posts: Mike Hirshon in Amsterdam; on composing from within, as opposed to simply looking at things, see Thickets, Screens, Scrims, of particular value to those working on the studio project mentioned above; "Drawing the Smell of Creamed Rice," on the poetic drawings of a friend in Germany; Back in the Swing, about a research trip Robert Weaver took to baseball spring training in February 1962–a New York Times feature from 9 years ago; on an interlude spent drawing airplanes, and the opportunities and problems afforded by the use of photographic reference. Finally, have a look at Urban Sketchers for evidence of a contemporary movement in this area. 


D.B. Dowd, Two Views of the Pizza Oven on West Tuscarawrus, Canton, Ohio. 2010. 

D.B. Dowd, Two Views of the Pizza Oven on West Tuscarawrus, Canton, Ohio. 2010. 

A. Berhaus and C. Upham, Washington, D.C.––The attack on the President’s life––Scene in the ladies’ room of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad depot––The arrest of the assassin; from sketches by our special artist’s [sic] A. Berhaus and C. Upham; Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, July 16, 1881. President James A. Garfield twists in pain, having been shot in the back. An onrushing crowd approaches from the right. Secretary of State JamesG. Blaine supports the president while turning to gesture toward the assassin, Charles Guiteau, Having lost his bowler in the fracas, we see Guiteau set upon by witnesses at left to the rear. One grabs his left arm, another the back of his coat; a third prepares to club him with a cane. Garfield died twelve weeks later, having never resumed his duties.

A. Berhaus and C. Upham, Washington, D.C.––The attack on the President’s life––Scene in the ladies’ room of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad depot––The arrest of the assassin; from sketches by our special artist’s [sic] A. Berhaus and C. Upham; Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, July 16, 1881. President James A. Garfield twists in pain, having been shot in the back. An onrushing crowd approaches from the right. Secretary of State JamesG. Blaine supports the president while turning to gesture toward the assassin, Charles Guiteau, Having lost his bowler in the fracas, we see Guiteau set upon by witnesses at left to the rear. One grabs his left arm, another the back of his coat; a third prepares to club him with a cane. Garfield died twelve weeks later, having never resumed his duties.

Chris Ware, Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid in the World. This serialized graphic novel tells a story in flashback. Repetition and a lovely page design communicate the passage of time. 

Chris Ware, Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid in the World. This serialized graphic novel tells a story in flashback. Repetition and a lovely page design communicate the passage of time. 

Joe Deal, From the Beach Cities Series, Zuma Beach, 1978. Gelatin silver print. Photography plays an enormous role in the story of visual journalism. Deal was no journalist, but an attentive viewer of landscape. One of the photographers who came to prominence in the New Topographics movement, his work is totally relevant in such discussions. I included his work in the Kemper show in 2015. He was also my friend and onetime boss, having hired me to work at Wash U in his role as dean of the School of Fine Arts. (In 1992!) 

Joe Deal, From the Beach Cities Series,
Zuma Beach, 1978. Gelatin silver print. Photography plays an enormous role in the story of visual journalism. Deal was no journalist, but an attentive viewer of landscape. One of the photographers who came to prominence in the New Topographics movement, his work is totally relevant in such discussions. I included his work in the Kemper show in 2015. He was also my friend and onetime boss, having hired me to work at Wash U in his role as dean of the School of Fine Arts. (In 1992!) 

Lynn Pauley, Bombed Murrah Building, Oklahoma City, on assignment for the New Yorker, April 1994. Unpublished.

Lynn Pauley, Bombed Murrah Building, Oklahoma City, on assignment for the New Yorker, April 1994. Unpublished.

Robert Weaver, Spring Training Sketchbook, installation shot from Parallel Modes, 2015. 

Robert Weaver, Spring Training Sketchbook, installation shot from Parallel Modes, 2015. 

Austin Briggs, Highway Billboards with Cotton Pickers, illustration for  “The Fast-changing South," written by George B. Leonard, Look, November 16, 1965.

Austin Briggs, Highway Billboards with Cotton Pickers, illustration for  “The Fast-changing South," written by George B. Leonard, Look, November 16, 1965.

Cliff Condak, Tom Hawkins Driving, 1963. Made (but unpublished) for “Big Men on the Move,” Sports Illustrated, October 28, 1963.

Cliff Condak, Tom Hawkins Driving, 1963. Made (but unpublished) for “Big Men on the Move,” Sports Illustrated, October 28, 1963.

Robert Andrew Parker, The Private Strategy of Bethlehem Steel, cover illustration for Fortune Magazine, April 1962. 

Robert Andrew Parker, The Private Strategy of Bethlehem Steel, cover illustration for Fortune Magazine, April 1962. 

Wayne Thiebaud, Down Penn Street, 1978. The plasticity of the space is of particular interest. (Hat tip to Mike Hirshon for the citation.)  

Wayne Thiebaud, Down Penn Street, 1978. The plasticity of the space is of particular interest. (Hat tip to Mike Hirshon for the citation.)  

Mike HIrshon, Construction Site Drawing. 2016. An alum of the undergraduate communication design program at Washington University. He went on to get his MFA at the School of Visual Arts program started by Robert Weaver: Illustration as Visual Essay. For others in this series (one of which has just appeared in the new American Illustration annual, click here.)

Mike HIrshon, Construction Site Drawing. 2016. An alum of the undergraduate communication design program at Washington University. He went on to get his MFA at the School of Visual Arts program started by Robert Weaver: Illustration as Visual Essay. For others in this series (one of which has just appeared in the new American Illustration annual, click here.)

William Glackens, Loading Horses on the Transports at Port Tampa, Inkwash and Chinese white, field sketch on assignment for McClure’s Magazine, 1898. This drawing is in the Library of Congress collection. 

William Glackens, Loading Horses on the Transports at Port Tampa, Inkwash and Chinese white, field sketch on assignment for McClure’s Magazine, 1898. This drawing is in the Library of Congress collection. 

D.B. Dowd, Lulu's on Olive. 2015.  

D.B. Dowd, Lulu's on Olive. 2015.  

Steve Mumford, cover illustration for Harper's, October 2013. Evidence for the proposition that illustrated journalism is inching back into view–if mostly online, as opposed to print. This project is an exception. Mumford published Baghdad Journal, a book of reportage drawings he produced on location in Iraq 2003-04, with Drawn & Quarterly, in 2006.   

Steve Mumford, cover illustration for Harper's, October 2013. Evidence for the proposition that illustrated journalism is inching back into view–if mostly online, as opposed to print. This project is an exception. Mumford published Baghdad Journal, a book of reportage drawings he produced on location in Iraq 2003-04, with Drawn & Quarterly, in 2006.   

Steve Mumford, Guantanamo Exterior, illustration for "A Kangaroo in Obamas' Court," by Lawrence Douglas. Harper's, October 2013. 

Steve Mumford, Guantanamo Exterior, illustration for "A Kangaroo in Obamas' Court," by Lawrence Douglas. Harper's, October 2013. 

Owls, Devils, Wagons: Adventures in Picture Lotto

Added on by Doug Dowd.

This is a re-edited post from a number of years ago, with updated examples and discussion. In some respects I am speaking directly to students, as this blog has transitioned to being, above all, a teaching tool. But the more public dimension of this writing remains interesting to me, as the literature of writing about drawing (aside from the lingering Beaux-Arts tradition) remains more limited than might be ideal. How do we talk about image-making of symbolic or calligraphic varieties, or which rely on such ways of seeing? 

I am teaching a methods course this fall to illustrators and cartoonists (once called Visual Worlds, about which I have written before here and here), now entitled–more concretely–Image and Story. The first portion of the class is, for lack of a better term, diagnostic

Last week I handed out a set of four sheets, each of which included six boxes...

...making a total of 24 drawings to be required. When 13 students did the project, it produced 312 drawings, which is a decent data set for reflection. We looked at them yesterday. A significant variety, as one might expect: but also, shifting conventions and forms of visual logic within the same student's group of works. That was by design: I encouraged them to try different approaches. 

A valuable question: is the group (or more locally, the subgroup) a meaningful set? Do the images cohere, visually and/or conceptually? The project was not couched in those terms: rather it was presented in a very matter-of-fact way: please fill in the boxes. The subjects range from objects to animals to people. There are a few wild cards thrown in, like "chemistry," which require rhetorical reasoning. Typically the range of responses extends from the purely symbolic to the rendered or modeled, with many steps in between. 




One of the specified subjects was wagon. The Picture Lotto wagon (of which more presently) shown here might qualify as a Platonic wagon. 








Another subject was devil. Lots of class discussion was devoted to the latter. As that discussion unfolded, I slowly remembered that I had made just such an emblematic devil some years back. I've shown him at right in context, with citation. 










A third subject was owl. Owls have long been conventionalized in cartooning and illustration. They have also been beaten to death by the home decor industry over the past several years. Enough with the owls! some students complained. But they provide a useful problem: how to simplify and/or codify a form that already has a set of "rules" for depicting it? 





Last spring I made an owl illustration, too. Said owl is connected to my undergraduate experience at Kenyon College in Ohio. 

I created him to commemorate an a cappella group I sang in many years ago. 

For a discussion of the limitations of logo/mascot drawing in the Age of Adobe Illustrator: Of Billikens and Plaid-Patterned Elephants.




Returning to the problem at hand for students: emblem-images like these do straightforward work, but they can be clunky or graceful; diffident or fresh. For a cultural (as well as professional) source of contemplation, consider a midcentury visual game, Picture Lotto.

The pink-field illustrations above at right are picture lotto cards, akin to bingo cards, used for collecting game pieces. The images in both cases are credited, incompletely, to one C. Clement, noted on the box cover (not shown). My friend and colleague Linda Solovic found them at a flea market this summer; she took the box and the game pieces, I got these. The game was produced by Samuel Gabriel and Sons Company, circa 1950.

Another version of the game was produced by the folks at Golden Funtime Punch-Out Books, a heavy-stock department at Golden Press, all part of the genius outfit of Western Publishing in Racine, Wisconsin. They made punch-out card things. As this scan shows, this game was manufactured in 1962.

The Golden Funtime version makes explicit what the Samuel Gabriel game leaves implicit: categories of things.

The collection cards for the former organize the material into groups: Travel, Pets, People, Toys and Things We Use








I have added a few scans from a big stack of cards I picked up at a St. Louis antique dealer. These images are from an educational Uno deck published by Kenworthy Educational Service in Buffalo. 


The illustrator(s) working on this project had widely variable days in quality. Some of these (like lady) are lovely; others are sturdily competent (like car). Street seems tossed off, even careless, and the logs for smoke are a bit indifferent. I'm rather fond of enjoy, however. Too bad the format serves the vertically-oriented images so poorly. 

















Back to the Picture Lotto sets from Golden Funtime and Samuel Gabriel. Here's evidence that people at these firms looked at each other's work. In both cases, the image for television features a console TV set with a puppet show playing.







The puppets in both cases suggest European Punch and Judy marionettes. And Howdy Doody was a marionette. But the most influential television show involving puppets from the time period was the brilliant Kukla, Fran and Ollie, which debuted in the late 1940s. Presumably the Punch and Judy profiles had more generic value to these illustrators in 1950, though by 1960 the same approach seems likely to have been a teeny bit dated. 







KFO went off the air in 1957, but Fran Allison and her pals enjoyed a long career in varying formats after that. I remember seeing KFO reruns as a child.







Okay, students: Your project will now head for completion according to one of two approaches. In Option A, I want you to make your project a contemporary version of Picture Lotto: choose three of the given categories (Travel, Pets, People, Toys, Things We Use), with a sixth option included in your menu: Things We Fear.

You choose the items within the categories. I want to see 12 pieces, very nicely resolved with typography integrated into the solution. Keep the color to a limited palette: no more than three colors, plus white. Have a blast.

Option B is for those of you whose early efforts went with special relish to the people prompts: the milkmaid, the pirate, the waitress, etc. Your group of 12 will consist of two sets: 6 occupations, and 6 People from Other Times and/or Places. Costumes will probably be important, and provide a chance to explore the line-and-shape dialogue we talked about in class. 

NOTE: It goes without saying that representations of Other in prior eras can be–well–complicated. For a discussion of same in the work of the husband-and-wife team of the Hollings, have a read here. The entry is focused on Lucille Webster Hollings, and is one of the entries in our Women Illustrators project, explained here.

Have at it. 





C. Clement, Picture Lotto Game Card, Samuel Gabriel Sons and Company, circa 1950

Draw Me form, Image and Story assignment (a version of which has been used from 2010-2016).

C. Clement, Wagon, circa 1950

D.B. Dowd, screenshot detail, Animated Ulcer City Landing Page, 2004. This project was animated by Melanie Reinert who worked in my shop back in the days of Macromedia Flash. That's a self-portrait on the phone, along with a rat (a favored trope of Melanie's) and a winking devil with flaming charcoal briquet. The devil illustration had been created a few years earlier for a tee shirt design to commemorate a family vacation at Seven Devils, North Carolina. He's been squashed a little to fit in the elliptical sign shape. The same character also appears very briefly in Scenes from Starkdale, Ohio, an experimental animated project from 2006-07. 

Ward Kimball, character design for Professor Owl in Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom, an Oscar-winning educational short from 1953. 

D.B. Dowd, Kokosinger Owl, 2-color version. 2016. This design was used on a baseball cap for the 50th anniversary of the Kokosingers' founding in academic year 1965-66. The a cappella group got its name from the Kokosing River, which is alleged to mean "owl creek" in the American Indian language (Miami? Delaware?) of origin. 


Picture Lotto Game, Samuel Gabriel Sons and Company. 

Golden Funtime Punch-Out Books. Golden Press, 1962.

Illustrator Uncredited. Golden Funtime Punch-Outs: Toys and Things We Use. 1962.

Illustrator Uncredited, Flash Cards from Uno: A Phonics Game, manufactured by Kenworthy Educational Service, Inc., of Buffalo, NY. No. 2192. Published 1957, following several editions with different illustration and typography from the mid 1940s. I found a library entry in Melbourne Austraila that credits guide book authorship to one Stella I. Wood. My set does not include a guide, though there is a pad of score sheets. 

C. Clement, Television, circa 1950.

Illustrator Uncredited. Golden Funtime Punch-Out. A television that looks sort of like a radio. The puppet is the point. 1962.

Fran Allison with Kukla and Ollie. Circa 1950. 

The Hollings (Holling C. Holling and Lucille Webster Holling), Netting Fish, in Children of Other Lands, Platt & Munk, 1929. 

The Hollings (Holling C. Holling and Lucille Webster Holling), detail, title page, Children of Other Lands, Platt & Munk, 1929. 

Godspeed, Father (A Colonel in Clover Update)

Added on by Doug Dowd.

I wrote this post, about the first of the David Dudley Dowds, twenty-two months ago. Our father was the fourth David D. Dowd. Today I add to it, in a spirit of mournful celebration. Our father has died at the age of 87. 

Dad was born on January 31, 1929 and passed on–not away–at three o'clock in the morning on August 4. A constellation of my siblings and I were able to be with Mom and Dad in Naples, Florida from the day his leukemia was detected. From diagnosis to the end took three weeks to the day. He suffered no pain. Dad was grateful for a productive life and his "beautiful family," as he referred to us.

Dad was born in Cleveland and grew up in Massillon, Ohio. He graduated from Washington High School (1947), and attended the College of Wooster (1951) and the University of Michigan Law School (1954). He served in the U.S. Army in the Judge Advocate General's Corps in Germany (1955-1957). He went on to a career in public service that included stints as a city councilman, county prosecutor, Ohio Court of Appeals Judge, Ohio Supreme Court, and a Federal District Court Judge (Northern District of Ohio) for the longest stretch of his career, from 1982 to 2014–when he retired at 85! 

A number of obituaries have appeared in the Ohio press, including the Akron Beacon Journal, The Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Canton Repository. They capture aspects of his person and his work well. 

There will be a memorial service for him in the church he grew up in, Central Presbyterian in Massillon, on August 20 at 10:30 AM. His ashes will be interred in the ancestral graveyard in Seville, Ohio, along with his forebear, Colonel David Dudley Dowd No. 1 (about whom much more, below.) 







The grief is fresh. At the moment, I have but this to say: our dad was an extremely capable and hardworking person, whose devotion to the law was fierce. But above all he argued a brief for a surpassing decency. Once when young I conveyed an unattractive pride in my own abilities in his presence. I have never forgotten his ungentle rebuke. "Douglas," he said, "don't be so sure of yourself. There is always somebody smarter, or stronger, or faster, or more talented. Always." This from a college valedictorian. He went on to stress that it's what a person does with what he's given that defines him. Stay humble, and get busy making something of yourself, he effectively commanded. 

I have thought a lot about that credo over the years. Intelligence and talent are value-neutral. They're like having blue eyes or being left-handed. They have nothing to do with goodness and decency and moral grounding. Attorney Kevin McDonald–fellow Kenyonite, Kokosinger of slightly older vintage, and friend–represented a client in a massive eight-month trial before my dad in 1983-84. He sent a very gracious email to me yesterday. "Your Dad," he wrote, "was a great judge who could not hide that he was a fine person as well."

Well said.

Careers can be wonderful things, and we are grateful for the many appreciations of Dad's work on the court which continue to appear. As his son, however, I admire his commitment to fairness, his willingness to do whatever it took, and the way he conducted himself as a person above all else. He was a great steward in the biblical sense of the term–as were his beloved brothers Jack and Jim, the latter of whom survives him.  



Below, some colorful family history, illustrated.




October 2014. My older brother's name is David Dudley Dowd. So is my father's. I have a nephew by that name, and my grandfather answered to it, too. His father, "Dud," was the second, sire of the first. But for the virile dotage of "the Colonel," the progenitor, none of us would have walked the earth. 


David Dudley Dowd No. 1 owned and operated a stagecoach that ran between Cleveland and Seville, Ohio in the late 19th century. He owned the Temperance Hotel, also in Seville, a town in Medina County. The Colonel earned his honorific during the Civil War, when he drilled troops in town. His obituary read, "During the times when 'general training' was in vogue, [Dowd] was Colonel of the 2d Regiment, 3d Brigade, 9th Div., O. M."  His family was of Connecticut, particularly Old Saybrook, Madison, and Guilford, where a Doude had shown up in 1649 (Henry, from Kent, but possibly Irish passing as English) and from which certain later Dowds had moved to the Western Reserve–a strip of Northeastern Ohio. [This is why parts of NE Ohio really feel like Connecticut, and why the Midwestern United States actually begins at the far bank of the Cuyahoga, or the West Side of Cleveland.]



Despite his local prominence, the Colonel (that is, David Dudley Dowd No. 1) faced a problem. His first marriage, ended by the death of his wife Mary Harris Dowd, had produced two daughters and a son, Manfred, who married but did not father children.



David lacked a male heir, a carrier of the name. In his dotage, the Colonel took as Wife 2 a woman referred to in family lore as "the Widow Decker." She possessed a first name–Mary, like No. 1–but it doesn't come up much. Despite her nondescript title, the WD was plainly not without charms. The Colonel had a last go in him, and–at the age of 73–he produced a male descendant, David Dudley Dowd 2, later "Dud," otherwise known as "the last drop." But Dud evinced the Colonel's penultimate issue. Charles Augustus followed two years later. Dud and Charles lived until 1958 and '59, respectively. 

God bless the Colonel.





I have been to Seville. There's a leafy ancestral graveyard called Mound Hill Cemetery at which I have paid my respects to DDD1.


The Colonel was fond of the monument he purchased, and which still stands: he had himself photographed next to it. 








Aside from his burial site, several artifacts associated with the Colonel remain. One of them in recent years has passed to me, not quite by accident. As my folks thinned out their stuff in stages from one single family home to another in Massillon, Ohio (where I grew up) then to a condo, then finally off to South Florida, their library was carefully dispersed. Being a bibliophile and ephemera maven, I became the obvious choice to receive a handful of what others might have thought mouldering volumes, but to me were treasures.


One such book has yielded certain period curiosities, and one genuinely fabulous discovery. The curiosities first. 



The Geological Survey of Ohio was published in 1873 "by authority of the legislature." How it ended up in the Colonel's library is unknown to me. Was geology a hobby? Would it have been useful to him in his affairs, when looking at property?


Own it he did: he signed the (blank) first page. 








The best parts of the book are the beautifully colored maps. Both text pages and maps (I think) were printed on a letterpress. (The maps look engraved, but the paper is so thin and brittle that it seems impossible to have been printed wet, which intaglio engraving would have required. They may be chromolithographs--I'll have to go back and look at them again.) The colored blocks would have been printed first. In a few cases minor details are hand-colored. I have wondered how the palettes were developed. 









The lettering and typography are of the period. So, too, is the diction. Note in the detail of Montgomery County, near Dayton, the designation "lunatic asylum," positioned near the Mad River, no less. Not far from the Soldier's Home, either, less than a decade after the end of the Civil War. 













Finally, the wonderful moment: paging through the book in detail, I discovered, between page 562 and 563, a dried out four-leaf clover. If we assume that he was the one who placed it there, and that he did so around the time that luck (and the Widow Decker) brought him DDD2, that four leaf clover has been tucked in that book for 135 years. I put it back, and placed the volume on the bookshelf that holds six or seven of my very favorite books. Totems, really. 

Gotta get me to Seville. And soon. 



August 2016. I will in fact be in Seville before long, with my mother and siblings and my own family, to witness the interring of my father's ashes in the family plot. A wonderful setting, and a fitting spot for the most recent spiritual graduate in a long line of DDDs. 




David D. Dowd, Jr. Phil Masturzo, Akron Beacon Journal file photograph, 2014. 

David D. Dowd, Jr., John C. "Jack" Dowd, and James F. Dowd. David and Jack are looking like some sharp-dressed men. Jim appears downright pugnacious. Family snapshot taken by David D. Dowd, Sr. or Martha Combrink Dowd, late 1940s. Shady Shores Resort, Dowagiac, Michigan. My cousin Deb Clinebell (née Dowd, daughter to Jim and Betty) sent this to me yesterday via a text message. I think she re-photographed a snapshot in an album. 

David and Jack both attended the College of Wooster and Michigan Law. Jack was a partner at Squire Sanders & Dempsey, and a major figure in Ohio and Cleveland public project financing. When Jack died, Dad created a book project to memorialize him, which we designed in my shop. 

Jim Dowd went to Cornell and Yale Divinity. He had a distinguished career in the Presbyterian Church. We produced a volume of Jim's sermons, which for which I made illustrations. This angel does double duty today, ushering Dad along. 

The Original. Daguerrotype of Colonel David Dudley Dowd (1806-1888.) 

Medina County, Ohio. Note Seville, bottom center. 

Photograph of the Dowd monument in Mound Hill Cemetery, in Seville, Ohio. Medina County. I got this photograph and the two historical ones off when I entered DDD1's name. 

The top-hatted colonel standing next to his monument. He looks older. Seems likely to have been shot around 1880. 

The Geological Survey of Ohio. Published 1873.

Inscription signature, Colonel D. D. Dowd, in the leaf of a family copy of The Geological Survey of Ohio. 1873. My father's namesake. 

The Geology of Summit County. The yellow, pink and brown colors are printed inks; the orange is hand-applied watercolor. 

Map Showing LInes of Junction of the Cincinnati Group (near Dayton, Ohio). All three map colors are letterpress: citron, rust and baby blue. 

Detail of period hand-lettering. 

South of Dayton, near the Mad River, note Lunatic Asylum. Be thankful that you live in the 21st century. 

The four-leaf clover stuck between pages 562 and 563. 

Detail, four-leaf clover.

ICON Talk: Bibliography for Liberal Arts + Illustration

Added on by Doug Dowd.

I am speaking at the ICON conference in Austin. My initial proposal read thusly:

This session will present a “liberal arts” agenda for educating illustrators in the tradition of the narrative arts. Illustration education badly needs a dollop of theory to deepen the practical and extend the entrepreneurial aspects of current programs. 

Training illustrators has been a powerfully practical affair for more than a century. Commercial and technological developments dominated professional discourse beginning in the Gilded Age. The “applied” orientation remained in force after illustration entered the university in the postwar era, and has accelerated with the advent of digital culture. The associated habits of mind have tended to warp educational experiences. That is, fixations on what image to make and how pictures are made have canceled out other questions, such as why pictures at all?

“Theory” has a bad name in illustration circles, in large part because modern art theory was used to disallow our field. Dominant schools of art criticism in the 20th century ignored or ridiculed illustrators. But the avoidance of theory has weakened illustration education by leaving its students without a considered set of values and sustaining literature to draw upon. 

Illustrators work in a long deep tradition of narrative art. Students are well served by collisions with important primary texts... When students are given the opportunity to grapple with [such texts] ...they gain the skills and confidence to manipulate ideas. At least as importantly, engagement with serious thinkers applicable to their tradition gives them a chance to overcome the unspoken biases many have imbibed in the still dominant precincts of fine art and art history. There are competing ideologies, and students should have an opportunity to explore and test them, too. 


Below are some texts I have used with students in a mixture of studio courses and academic ones. Many of them can be adapted for use in both. Feel free to email with questions or comment. 

Aristotle. Selections from Poetics. Translation by S. H. Butcher. Internet Classics Archive. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. © 1994-2009 Briefly addressed in my ICON talk. An excellent text to explore the carpentry of narrative; the six elements of drama provide a handy value set to explore emphasis for the student. 

Auden, W.H. “The World of the Sagas,” from Secondary Worlds; Essays by W.H. Auden. New York: Random House, 1968. Pages 49–84. Wonderful discussion of artifice and plausibility, among other things. 

Baudelaire, Charles. “The Painter of Modern Life,” in The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays, translated and edited by Jonathan Mayne. London: Phaidon, 1964. Pages 1-40. The essay was written in 1860, and published in 1863.  Also covered, superficially, in my talk. The flâneur as a archetype, and an argument for particularity in the representation of modern/contemporary life. 

Bazin, André. "The Ontology of the Photographic Image." Translated from the French by Hugh Gray. Film Quarterly Vol. 13 No. 4 (Summer 1960). Pages 4-9. An arresting text: photography as mummification. 

Bogart, Michele H. Selections from “The Problem of Status for American Illustrators,” Chapter 1 in Artists, Advertising and the Borders of Art. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. 1995. Pages 15-27; 52-61. Bogart's book remains the only substantial art historical study to engage illustration as an anxious professional culture that developed in a particular historical context. 

Brecht, Bertold. “A Model for the Epic Theater,” in Directors On Directing. Edited by Toby Cole and Helen Krich Chinoy. Indianapolis, Indiana: Bobbs-Merrill, 1953. Essay translated from the German by Eric Bentley; first appeared in the Sewanee Review in July 1949. Pages 234–244. A discussion of alienation and representation which is less academic than it sounds. 

Brunetti, Ivan. “Introduction” and “The Single Panel Cartoon,” in Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011. Originally published as a supplement to Comic Art #9, edited by M. Todd Hignite, 2007. Pages 3–9, 29–35. Concise, clear, 

Crawford, Matthew B. Chapter 1, “A Brief Case for the Useful Arts,” in Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work. New York: The Penguin Press, 2009. Pages 11–36. Crawford's book is a critique of contemporary definitions of labor and a defense of what it means to know something with your hands. I sometimes start with this reading in a studio course. 

Dowd, D.B. “Women Illustrators and Creative Ancestry,” in Notables in American Illustration. Brief biographies with critical sketches of work by women illustrators, culled from the tear sheets of the Walt Reed Illustration Archive at the Modern Graphic History Library at Washington University, and from the author’s collection of illustrated educational texts. May 22, 2016. 

Emerson, Ralph Waldo, “Self Reliance,” in Self Reliance and Other Essays. Mineola, New York: Dover Thrift Editions. The essay was first published in 1841. Pages 19-38. For people entering a competitive field, a bracing text. 

Greenberg, Clement. “Avant-Garde and Kitsch,” (1939) and “Toward a Newer Laocoon,” (1940). Anthologized in Art in Theory 1900-2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas. ed. Charles Harrison and Paul Wood. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing. 1992, 2003. Pages 539-549; 562-568. I think all art students should read Greenberg, but illustrators really have to know "Avant-Garde and Kitsch," just to be familiar with powerfully influential trash-talking of popular visual media. They should read Plato for related reasons. 

Mamet, David. “Pig–The Movie,” in On Directing Film. New York: Penguin Books, 1991. Pages 79–101. Out of print. But an excellent introduction to shot selection as storytelling, a must for people working for the screen. 

Plato, Selection from The Republic: Book X. Translated by Benjamin Jowett. Internet Classics Archive. Cambridge: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. © 1994-2009 Plato's misgivings about representation (by both painters and poets) have dogged "creatives" for many centuries. Best to know about and wrestle with it. 

Ruskin, John. Chapter Four in The Stones of Venice, Volume III, The Fall. Boston: Estes and Lauriat, 1894. Pages 166–197. A seldom reprinted section of Ruskin's major work. He skewers the Neo-Platonists, amusingly. 

Shahn, Ben. “The Education of an Artist,” in The Shape of Content. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1957. Pages 111–131. Painter, illustrator, photographer, lithographer, and hand letterer, Shahn is a powerfully humane representative of the graphic tradition. 

Sontag, Susan. “Notes on Camp.” Against Interpretation and Other Essays. New York: Dell Publications. 1966. ("Camp" appeared in 1964.) Like Greenberg, Ruskin and other great critics, Sontag takes no prisoners. "Camp" was an early success if a bit sprawling. It can be used in association with JC Leyendecker or Jessie Willcox Smith to discuss LGBT creative history, as well as exploring subjects like fan art. 

Wang Wei [701-761 CE] and Li Ch’eng [d. 967 CE]. Texts on landscape painting, particularly Wang’s poem on that subject, in Early Texts on Chinese Painting, compiled and edited by Susan Bush and Hsio-yen Shih. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1985. Pages 172–180. Wang instructs the young painter quite directly, conveying the value of tradition and received styles. What is originality? What is plagiarism? How does culture play a part in the answers to those questions? 

Austin Briggs, Flash Gordon Sunday strip. December 21, 1941

Ivan Brunetti, New Yorker cover illustration, November 1, 2010. 

Constantin Guys, Sketches in Madrid. The Illustrated London News, July 28, 1856. 

Rebecca Sugar, Steven Universe, 2013.

Ethel Franklin Betts, cover illustration, Fairy Tales from Grimm, Edward Stern & Company, 1909. 

Neysa McMein, Self Portrait cover illustration for McCall's, June 1932. 

Ben Shahn, Crowd, n.d.

Ben Shahn, Crowd, n.d.

D.B. Dowd, cover illustration, Spartan Holiday No. 3: French Lesson. Summer 2016. 

Jaleen Grove Post-Doctoral Fellow at MGHL / Washington University

Added on by Doug Dowd.

This will be going up on the Washington University site early next week, but to beat the weekend rush, here's some exciting news: 

The University Libraries are pleased to announce the appointment of Jaleen Grove, Post-Doctoral Fellow in Popular Print, effective July 1, 2016. Her position has been created to serve ongoing development of the Modern Graphic History Library, a division of Special Collections in Olin Library. 

Dr. Grove's responsibilities will include working with the faculty director, Douglas Dowd and Modern Graphic History Library Curator, Skye Lacerte, to revise and expand the MGHL catalogue. She will also coordinate departmental research projects, while conducting her own research. She will teach courses in visual culture at the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts, and work with students and visitors to interpret the collections.  

Jaleen Grove is an art historian with specialization in illustration studies and illustration history. She is author of Oscar Cahén: Life and Work (Art Canada Institute, 2015), and co-editor of A History of Illustration (Bloomsbury, 2016, 648pp), the first textbook in this field. She has also served as Associate Editor of the Journal of Illustration since 2012. Grove’s Ph.D. dissertation (Stony Brook University, 2014), which was supported by fellowships from the Norman Rockwell Museum and from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, concerned national identity and the cultural influence of magazine illustrators in Canada and the United States. She also holds a BFA from Emily Carr University (1999), and an MA in Communication and Culture from Ryerson University (2006). A full time artist and graphic designer before embarking upon her academic career, she still maintains a studio practice alongside her research and writing.

We're excited to have Jaleen joining us for the next two years. Congratulations to her (and us)!  

Oscar Cahén, cover illustration, Maclean's Magazine, October 15, 1951. Jaleen Grove has worked at the Cahén archive, among other important projects. She has just published a monograph on Cahén's work. 

Dr. Jaleen Grove

Dr. Jaleen Grove

Harry and Alfred Make Pictures of People

Added on by Doug Dowd.

I have written often about the final project in Word and Image 1, which is a Figure, Story and Staging problem. The first order of business involves choosing a set of characters and setting them loose in a narrative. In all cases, anybody who wanders into the picture needs a verb, or something concrete to do. This is a direcorial problem.

We have talked in class about theatrical problems versus cinematic ones. In a movie, the camera can change position to show us what we need to see. In a play, there is no such option. We don't get up and change seats; we see the stage pictures that the director composes for us. 

Narrative problems with figures were the stock in trade of midcentury magazine illustrators. We are lucky to have a trove of such work in the Modern Graphic History Library here at Washington University. 

Here are some sample works by Al Parker (1906-1985): specifically, Parker's early two-color work, from the late 1930s well into the 40s.

Those pieces show the clever narrative and design sensibility of all Parker's work.

They are still modeled in the manner of the era, before he began to pursue the (occasionally radical) flatness of his work during the 50s.


By comparison, Parker circa 1959, (when flying was totally glamorous).




As a counterpoint, and as a set up for discussing key drawings (also a prior topic, most significantly here) we also looked at a stack of Harry Beckhoff tear sheets from the Charles Craver collection. (I have yet to wade into the Beckhoff file from the Walt Reed collection, but I am greatly looking forward to it!) 











I simply love this stuff, both formally and dramatically.







I am posting these examples with relatively little commentary, for reasons of efficiency. The people in these stories are often in formal wear. 









A toreador with a drum. 









A story told through posture. 















Lots of two-fisted types and colorful dames.










An Art Deco tableau.









Some hat!










A sailor pulled in two directions, one more attractive than the other. 


Al Parker, Restaurant fight breaking out in front of jungle wallpaper, watercolor(?) and gouache with additions in dry media, date and citation unavailable, circa 1940.

Parker, Be-robed man with plumed knight’s helmet speaking with woman, watercolor(?) and gouache with additions in dry media, date and citation unavailable, circa 1940. 

Parker, An emblem as famous as the people it serves, two-page spread advertisement for American Airlines, circa 1959. 

Harry Beckhoff, “Excuse me sir, but it’s the truth!” Collier's Weekly, April 5, 1941 [all of these Beckhoff images are fiction illustrations published in Collier's]. 

Beckhoff, “Calfs are seldom house broke,” June 12, 1941. 

Beckhoff, Miss Wilson gasped at Peter March, June 1, 1939.

Beckhoff, He held is beloved drum aside, March 4, 1939.  

Beckhoff, We did a bit of firsting stuff together, April 9, 1938.

Beckhoff, "Boys, Boys!" March 1, 1941. 

Beckhoff, “I smell Nassau in May,” June 17, 1939. 

Beckhoff, “Mr. Lethbridge,” cried Sally, “meet my fiancé!”, January 8, 1938.

Beckhoff, A Sailor pulled in Two Directions, January 16, 1937.

Welcome to the Neighborhood: Race, Rockwell, and New Hampshire

Added on by Doug Dowd.

I am reposting this entry today, March 1, 2016, just over eight years after it first ran on Graphic Tales. I'm doing so on Super Tuesday, as Donald Trump looks poised to sweep most of the South in this year's Republican primary. There is much to be said on the subject, and a great deal of it is being said–some of it quite ugly–all over the Internet. I decline to engage Trumpism for now; instead, I prefer to reconsider, as I did eight years ago during President Obama's run for the Democratic nomination, a rare-for-the-period illustrated contribution to American race relations: New Kids in the Neighborhood (1964), by none other than Norman Rockwell, eagerly breaking free of editorial strictures imposed by the Saturday Evening Post in the pages of Look. --DBD.

January 8, 2008
On this, the day of the New Hampshire Primary, the likely second installment of the ascendance of Barack Obama, I am pleased to report—somewhat counter-intuitively, I will concede--on the publication of American Chronicles: the Art of Norman Rockwell, the new book by Linda Szekely Pero issued by our friends at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. Uncle Norman (as my colleague Jeff Pike calls him) has been the beneficiary of a number of picture books, including the elephantine Norman Rockwell: Artist and Illustrator by Thomas Buechner (published in 1971 with Rockwell’s extensive cooperation), and Pictures of the American People, edited by Maureen Hart Hennessey and Anne Knutson and published at the opening of the High Museum- and NRM-organized retrospective in 1999, and others. This new book serves to document the considerable collection of the Rockwell Museum, and does a good job of it.

A notable chunk of the NRM collection includes the work Rockwell did for Look in the 1960’s when the periodical market for illustration was declining precipitously but prior editorial strictures had been lifted. During this time Rockwell, a man of left-liberal politics, was free to address the pressing topics of the day, especially the civil rights movement. His work of this period includes The Problem We All Live With (1964) and a rare treatment of incipient white flight, New Kids in the Neighborhood, (1967; at the top of this post). 

If it is true, as many hope, that Obama may simultaneously become the first African-American president and the first post-racial figure in American political history, it is also--simultaneously--a long time coming and an astonishment. I have resolved to keep politics off this blog, insofar as I was raised in a legal/political family and things could easily devolve into the sort of political speculation that is everywhere on the web, especially now; my contributions will be more focused on visual culture topics. But I will acknowledge that like many I am drawn to Obama, and think him a potentially historic figure.

It also doesn’t hurt that Obama has by far the best graphic design in the campaign. Of course, as an illustrator, I would tend to think so—-the mark is plainly type-as-image. But it’s smartly done. The Obama mark was designed by Sol Sender, a Chicago graphic designer. Not to pile on, but how could it be that the Clintons would be using crappy graphic design work? What is with all the Ready business? 

But what of race and art and politics? As a historical matter, Gustave Courbet set up his easel near, but before, the fork in the road between the political and artistic avant-gardes in the 1860s. After that, les artistes would (typically) subscribe to leftish politics, but their work would not address social conditions or political realities, busy as they were with exploring new visual ideas and languages. On the whole, good for them: European visual modernism was a terrific gift to the world. But the split between the political and artistic led to some striking results. Among them: American Art in the 1950’s and 60’s--a period of slow, then wrenching change in the racial politics of the country—failed to address the subject of race. Postwar American art was occupied with Abstract Expressionism and its inward psychological adventurism (sort of like a Freudian Fantastic Voyage) on the one hand, and cheeky secondhand Brillo boxes on the other. So it came to be that sentimental old Norman Rockwell painted some of the very few visual images to directly address a topic of enormous import to the nation. To the question where were you during the civil rights movement? Uncle Norman offers an admirable retort, professionally speaking.

After The Problem We All Live With ran in Look Magazine, writes Pero, Norman Rockwell received many letters criticizing his choice of subject, but irate opinions did not stop him from pursuing his course. In the 1967 painting Murder in Mississippi, he illustrated the Philadelphia slaying of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney. 

So begins Pero’s illuminating chapter, “The Artist’s Process: Anatomy of Murder in Mississippi.” Pero sifts through all the NRM materials pertaining to this project, a protest painting at its core. She plucks out the reference image which Rockwell used for the major figurative grouping, a 1962 Pulitzer-winning photograph by Hector Rondon, Aid from the Padre.

Rockwell restaged the scene using his son Jarvis as Schwerner and Oliver McCary as Chaney. Pero follows the process from sketches and notes through to completion, a five-week enterprise during which Rockwell, breaking from habit, did not work on anything else. He developed an atmospheric color study which included the victims on the left, and the advancing attackers on the right. Later he omitted the attackers in the final painting, choosing a vertical composition over the double-page spread. Ultimately, after he had sent in the final painting, he was told thatLook had opted to print the more atmospheric study. They were right to do so.

Pero reports that Rockwell admitted years later that by the time he’d finished the painting, “all the anger that was in the sketch had gone out of it.”

I’ll return to this subject presently with some thoughts about why, despite the nobility of his effort, Rockwell was poorly equipped to make protest images. In the meantime, congratulations to Pero and NRM on a book that contributes to Rockwell scholarship. 

In the meantime, as they say in the great state of New Hampshire: Live Free or Die.

Norman Rockwell, New Kids in the Neighborhood, illustration for “Negro in the Suburbs,” by Jack Star, Look, May 16, 1967

Rita Marshall, (detail of) cover design for American Chronicles: the Art of Norman Rockwell, 2007

(Left) Sol Sender graphic design, Obama logotype, 2007; (Right) Charlie Neibergall, AP photograph on the evening of the Iowa caucuses, January 3, 2008.

Gustave Courbet, The Stonebreakers, 1849 (destroyed in WW2)

Rockwell, The Problem We All Live With, Look, June 14, 1964; the image shows Ruby Bridges between four Marshals on her way into her first day at an all-white school in New Orleans in 1960 (today, Ruby Bridges sits on the NRM board)

Hector Rondon, news photograph, Aid from the Padre, taken June 2, 1962, at Puerto Cabello Naval Base, Caracas during a revolt against the Venezuelan government

Norman Rockwell, double-page tearsheet for “Southern Justice,” Look, June 29, 1965

Figurative Abstraction and Description: Art Deco

Added on by Doug Dowd.

I am working with seniors in illustration as they craft senior projects. Typically I work with them in the fall, in a course focused on visual development. During that time, I confess, I am often relentless about the realization of form: the difference between the almost-there thing, and the one that takes our breath away. Having been gone in the fall, now I am playing a little bit of catch up, especially with those students who integrate design and image-making, bringing an abstract sensibility to representation. This is territory I adore, both as a practitioner and a critic. I have written about it often. 

I have a group of students whose work tends to a "designed picture" sensibility. I was talking with one of them, Monika, who is working on a contemporary bestiary based on Greek mythology. In our discussion I reached for examples to convey the refinement that her very spirited sketch concepts could achieve. As it happened, without thinking about it I suggested she look at two sources from the 1910s and 20s: the illustrator and type designer Eric Gill, and the illustrator Coles Phillips–he of the "fadeaway girl."  

Monika emailed later to say that Phillips seemed relevant to her; Gill maybe not so much. I realize now that I suggested Gill in response to the whiff of art deco running through her sketches. Phillips' work is grounded in precise observation; what became known as art deco (primarily after the fact) often relies on significant amounts of abstraction. 

Here, for reference, an ensemble of works which make use of stylization (to greater and lesser degrees) in the representation of the figure as means to an end: a designed picture.







I can understand Monika's reticence about Eric Gill. His refinement sometimes comes at a cost, when he tumbles into his own mannerisme moderne. But the rigor of his radical two-dimensionality, and the integration of illustration and letterform, remains exemplary. His The Four Gospels imbues those books with visual grandeur to match the King James translation in which they are delivered. 








 The sculptor Paul Manship, a Minnesotan by birth, assimilated ancient sculpture and repurposed archaic forms in a modern idiom. The formality of gesture and focus on positive/negative visual profile remain arresting. 

Manship came to be associated with art deco. In some senses the "movement" might better be thought of as a grab bag of modern-ish formal responses with roots in Art Nouveau and a friendly sort of cubism. Sometimes, as in Manship's Acteon #1, (below right) one rues certain narrative histrionics and gestural performance.






An intimate form of emphatic two-dimensionality may be found in the works of the Reeses, Emily Shaw and Walter O., whom I have lately enjoyed researching. Flatness has rarely come with a lighter touch, which I attribute to Emily's watercolor work (speculation on my part, but not unfounded).

Note, Fall 2016: I have written a longer piece on the Reeses, available here (on the Illo History section of this site). 












Some well-managed linework from an ad selling corsets, "guaranteed not to rust, break or tear."








Back to scultpure. Alongside Acteon, I recall that Paul Manship's most famous work is Prometheus, the gold fellow who presides over iceskating at Rockefeller Center (1934). The art deco visual programme at "The Rock" is a landmark in American variations on a French style. 





Next, two bas-reliefs from the decorative program at Rockefeller Center. 


Lee Lawrie, working in the 1930s, embraces an increasingly stylized, muscular interpretation of figurative form. Taken as a set, Manship's Acteon and Lawrie's Wisdom and Progress grow hortatory, like art over a loudspeaker.


Nonetheless, in their recently restored form, the two Lawries are handsome things. And they provide additional case studies in negotiating the competing agendas of description and abstraction in representing the human figure. 

Coles Phillips, The Magic Hour, illustration for Oneida Community Plate advertisement, I924. 

Coles Phillips, Magazine advertisement for Holeproof Hosiery, 1923. 

Eric Gill, Illustrated Initial Capital, Matthew 7:28, from The Four Gospels, published by Cockerel Press, 1931. (Note: I have long admired this book. As I was preparing this post, I took a peek to see what a copy of the original 600 copy run would cost, if I were to save my nickels to acquire one. Answer: a gigantic pile of nickels. $22,000 will get you a copy. I think I'll satisfy myself with looking at the one in our rare books collection!

Paul Manship, Dancer and Gazelles, 1916. At the Smithsonian Institution. A three-dimensional ensemble, with a very strong 2-dimensional profile. 

The Reeses (Emily Shaw and Walter O.), Detail, Williams Talc Advertisement, Ladies Home Journal, May 1919. From the Walt Reed Illustration Archive, Modern Graphic History Library, Washington University in St. Louis. 

The Reeses (Emily Shaw and Walter O.), Detail, Warner Corsets Advertisement, Ladies Home Journal, October 1922. From the Walt Reed Archive, MGHL. 

Paul Manship, Acteon #1, 1925. Also at the Smithsonian. 

Lee Lawrie, Wisdom, 1933. Bas Relief Panel on adjoining planes, with text. Entrance to main building to Rockefeller Center. I can't find a precise address, but it's tucked back in the complex, off 5th, south of 50th street. 

Lee Lawrie, Progress, 1937. Bas-Relief Panel, 49th Street Entrance to Rockefeller Center, Midtown Manhattan. 

Thickets, Screens, Scrims

Added on by Doug Dowd.

Proposition: things are located in places, but places are not made of things.

To students working onsite, it is often useful to think a little less about looking at things than trying to see through them. At heart this advice gets at questions of place. Places reveal themselves in layers.

Here are two sets of illustrations, the first of which are all from Cosmopolitan, that create interest through a use of layers.

First, a Robert Weaver depicting a man fleeing through a city park at dusk. (1962.) A row of orange buildings suggests the sunset which must have recently passed. The rising moon is untouched by color, a wink at a third moment in time. The trees in the foreground dominate the picture, even as we look immediately through/past them to gather the information we need to decipher the image. Take the trees out, and the image loses much of its force. 






At right, a second Weaver (1958). Here he uses a reflection on a storefront window to provide information about what's across the street, even as a shadowy scene takes place behind it at left. The monochrome color provides tonal levels and atmosphere.








Next a Bob Peak image (also 1958) describing a stakeout of some sort. The sense of inside and outside are strongly established through the use of color and value to create transparent scrims.

Valuable examples. Enjoy. (Curated from Leif Peng's amazing Flickr set of mid-20th century illustrators and illustrations.)





Next, a companion set of images from Miroslav Sasek's This is ______ (fill in the blank) series of books for young people, originally published in the late 1950s and early 1960s, recently reissued. Sasek has a tremendous eye for the telling view, and a sense for what made each of the cities he described particularly themselves. Of particular interest to me is the way he combines reportage with an abstract sensibility. Wonderment. 

Robert Weaver, Man fleeing at dusk, Cosmopolitan, 1962.

Robert Weaver, Advocate, Cosmopolitan, 1958. 

Bob Peak, Stakeout, Cosmopolitan, 1958. 

Miroslav Sasek, This is New York

Miroslav Sasek, This is New York

Miroslav Sasek, This is San Fransisco

Miroslav Sasek, This is London

Of Billikens and Plaid-Patterned Elephants

Added on by Doug Dowd.

A while back I got a note from William Powell at St. Louis Magazine, asking me for comment on the new redrawn Saint Louis University Billiken, its oddball mascot. I'd editorialized on mascots for the magazine a few years back, so I guess I popped up on the electronic rolodex, so to speak. I'd forgotten about it until somebody said something to me today, having seen the February issue of the mag. The feature-lette bears the headline "Saint Louis University's New Billiken Logo Falls Short: An art professor reviews the recent redesign." As it happens, my lack of enthusiasm has more to do with contemporary tools and approaches to such problems than this particular mark, which is utterly of its time.

Below is the expanded version of my thoughts, which is what I sent to the magazine. Mr. Powell edited for space, understandably lopping off some of the content. Since I had it in the draft I sent to him, I thought I would save it here.







The Billiken is a creation of modern consumer culture, having been dreamed up for commercial purposes by a Kansas City illustrator named Florence Pretz. She secured a design patent for an elfin figure with giant feet, a tuft of hair and vaguely Asian affect in 1908. Advertising personalities and ersatz totemic characters were part of the emerging mass culture landscape at the time, and the Billiken had a short, lucrative run as a national fad. Briefly, Billkens were everywhere. (Grace Drayton’s variations on her “Campbell’s Kids” and Rose O’Neill’s Kewpie dolls are comparable examples, although both had a bit more staying power than Ms. Pretz’s Billiken. But it can be argued that only the Billiken–thanks to SLU–remains standing.) 

At some point–-there are competing versions-–the Billiken became attached to SLU athletics. He received variously formal visual treatments as the character solidified. In the 1980s he had a hand-drawn Seussian quality, later codified in the 1995 version, badly.

The newest Billiken–redesigned by the Minneapolis brand shop Olson–has been standardized into an emblem. He has rotated into a full frontal view. His formerly lumpy cheeks and pronounced chin–which made him look like a clove of garlic endowed with ears–have been pumped up by geometry, like mid-2000s Cadillacs. Once elfin, the Billiken has gone gremlinesque. 






As with many contemporary sports logotypes, the “drawing” of the character seems to have been been produced by a laser cutter. This is the legacy of Adobe Illustrator, the 21st century tool of choice for hard-edged representations.

The new guy is impressive enough, I suppose, but the image lacks all touch—it looks decreed, not drawn.







The calligraphic origins of all such drawings are lost in latter-day translations. The best mid-20th century advertising characters were made with ink and brush, and you could tell. For anyone with a geek’s interest in such things, check out Meet Mr. Product, by Warren Dotz and Masud Husain, 2003. 















A last point. Olson’s Billiken is a two-color treatment: blue and gray. But there’s no logical reason for the second color. The gray passage on the right side of the Billiken’s face is intended to convey shadow. The light, such as it is, suggested by the form reads left to right. The gray could just as easily be a screened-back version of the blue, printable as halftone. (Translated from printer’s language, that means it could just look like light blue with a darker blue.) I would have skipped the second color or given it something else to do. 

The new Saint Louis University Billikens mark, designed by Olson, a brand shop in Minneapolis. 2015.  

The last iteration of the Billiken, here given three-dimensional form as a courtside costume. Photography credit unavailable (SLU Athletics, 2012). I wrote in 2010: Look at that meandering mouth, the blank yet slightly cross-eyed gaze. Doesn't he look like he's trying to pass a sobriety test? Does he have any hope of intimidating an opponent? Of course not–he's trying to touch his nose! On the positive side, he's got enviable sneakers, and his italicized SLU seems slightly aggressive.

The last iteration of the Billiken, here given three-dimensional form as a courtside costume. Photography credit unavailable (SLU Athletics, 2012). I wrote in 2010: Look at that meandering mouth, the blank yet slightly cross-eyed gaze. Doesn't he look like he's trying to pass a sobriety test? Does he have any hope of intimidating an opponent? Of course not–he's trying to touch his nose! On the positive side, he's got enviable sneakers, and his italicized SLU seems slightly aggressive.

Florence Pretz' patent application drawing for her Billiken, 1908. 

Grace Drayton, Dolly Dingle Paper Dolls with Outfits. 1930.

Grace Drayton, Dolly Dingle Paper Dolls with Outfits. 1930.

The new Saint Louis University Billiken, designed by Olson. 

The new Saint Louis University Billiken, designed by Olson. 

Designer Unknown, Toppie, the Top Value Stamps elephant mascot, circa 1957. In Meet Mr. Product, Dotz and Husain, 2003. Toppie was drawn by a person, not a machine. 

Toppie on a lunchbox. From an appreciation of Top Value ads, here

Repeating this, for juxtaposition with text at left. Note role of the gray. 


Revised Saint Louis University wordmark by Olson, a brand shop in Minneapolis. 2015. 

Fancy Type & Imagey Letterforms

Added on by Doug Dowd.


It's a new year, and classes are whirring to life. In Word and Image 1, we are launching our first project. 


In point of fact, I am sitting in my office, having ducked in for 5 minutes to repost this entry for today's students, whose work is hanging in Lower Walker as I type. This italicized type is being written in the present tense. 





We labored for several years to find the right equation for the kickoff project, and I think this one works pretty well for now.

The Consonant Project asks the student to produce/collect a stack of (at least) 50 (non-Googled) type specimens and images that communicate, Sesame Street-style, the letter in question. Which has been pulled out of a fishbowl at the very start of the festivities. We work our way down to a satisfying set of contrasting examples, after which other activities commence on a TBA basis.







A few years ago, Brielle (Killip; then my teaching partner, a graphic designer) and I presented the revised project. At the time, after we did so I got to thinking that I might have stressed the image piece a bit heavily, and failed to emphasize the typography and lettering dimension of the problem.





The other problem, which Amy and Penina (my partners in crime) have observed, is that 90% of the type on the walls today looks post 1980, How about before 1500??? I have added a few examples just now. 





So at this juncture I turned to our students to make the point: in addition to everything we had talked about in the first class, don't forget to look in old type specimen books or ancient Sears catalogs for examples of individual letterforms that might broaden your set beyond typing your letter ad infinitum and switching out typefaces on your computer.







The idea of creative research–to review–is to collide with items, images, whatnot you wouldn't otherwise encounter. It's more like browsing, even trolling, than other forms of research.











Top right, a specimen from Doug Clouse and Angela Voulangas' Handy Book of Artistic Printing, a compendium of charming, occasionally oddball letterpress specimens published by Princeton Architectural Press last year. It's a hoot; if you're a graphicophile, I recommend it.

Immediate right, an array of individual letterforms and words.





And a second set, from pages 42-43.











Sprinkled throughout this post, a variety of hand lettered sources, from comic strip title panels to logotypes. My selections are heavy on the image side, as would be expected from an illustrator.


Stark Brothers, Clerical Taylors, printed by John Baxter & Son, Artistic Printers, Edinburgh, Scotland; letterpress-printed advertisement 1882, reprinted in The Handy Book of Artistic Printing by Doug Clouse and Angela Voulangas, Princeton Architectural Press, 2009

Seymour Chwast, Bestial Bold, from "Push Pin Graphic No. 83" issued 1980, reproduced in the Chronicle Books compilation, The Push Pin Graphic, published in 2004, written by Chwast and edited by Steve Heller and Martin Venezky.

David Hockney, "The Letter N" from Hockney's Alphabet, published in 1991 by Random House in association with the American Friends of the Aids Crisis Trust

From the Ship of Fools, 1494. Sebastian Brandt. Annotated citation to come.  

From the Ship of Fools, 1494. Sebastian Brandt. Annotated citation to come.  

A late medieval/early modern calendar. Citation to come. 

A late medieval/early modern calendar. Citation to come. 

Morton Goldsholl and John Weber of Goldsholl Associates, Holiday Delight Baking Company Logotype, 1965, reproduced in American Trademark Designs by Barbara Baer Capitman, published by Dover Books, 1976

 Fancy Typefaces, 1878-1895, Artistic Printing

 Fancy Typefaces, 1878-1895, Artistic Printing

Revolutionary Era Question and Answer Cards, French, reproduced in Antique Playing Cards; A Pictorial Treasury, by Henry Rene D'Allemange, first published in 1906 and reissued by Dover in 1996

Mark Todd, Bad Asses book cover design, Blue Q, 2007

Milt Caniff, wordmark for Terry and the Pirates, the comic strip that ran from 1934 to 1973 (although Caniff left the strip at the end of 1946 to create Steve Canyon).  From a Sunday strip, 1944. 

Clocking In

Added on by Doug Dowd.

After six months of sabbatical, I am settling back into the academic trenches. As I wrapped up my research leave, John Hendrix began his own richly deserved one. I have been reminded of the Sam Sheepdog/Ralph Wolf cartoons directed by Chuck Jones for Warner Brothers. Lunch pails in hand, the sheepdogs clock in and out at the beginning of each shift. I'm back on duty with the "sheep," and John is fully clocked out. Good for him. 

I was plenty busy, but have not had the time to make an accounting of things, in part because much is almost (but quite) complete. Working on that. 

Coming and going. Animation still from "Don't Give Up the Sheep," Warner Brothers Studios, 1953. Directed by Chuck Jones. 

On Designing a Project: Looking Ahead

Added on by Doug Dowd.

This is intended for my senior students-to-be. I'm on sabbatical and slated to return in January. In the meantime, they are working under the steady-eddie guidance of John Hendrix. But John and are working a switcheroo-at-the-door: as I return he will exit the scene for a much deserved sabbatical of his own. Our senior charges are already anticipating the shift. They are starting to prepare proposals for their spring capstone projects. Since below I offer advice on designing a project, I am providing a few visuals to accompany this post to report on the projects I am pursuing on my sabbatical. 

To review, a course description: Senior Illustration Capstone: Nonfiction Illustrated for Page and ScreenThis course will combine nonfiction writing and image-making in a project designed for printed or digital formats. Each student will identify personally compelling subject matter, craft a coherent story, write a text, and create appropriate images–though not necessarily in that order. Formats may include books, zines and comics, or screen-based experiences like animatics, films and interactive games. Content may include science and history; biography and memoir; journalistic reportage in contemporary settings; or educational/ informational material (e.g., explaining photosynthesis, a guide to field hockey, famous moustaches). The content must be factually grounded, but subject matter is open. Editorial “takes” and visual styles will vary widely. Viable project texts will range from 100 to 1500 words. Course learning will encompass all aspects of the project design and execution. 

Group: for ease of access, given the backward to forward formatting of blog posts, I am providing links to all five posts that precede this one. My initial post, which introduces categories, also provides examples and thoughts about the first one, Social History. The second explores Curated Collections, which might under other circumstances get filed under informational illustration, gets its own biling here. The third introduces Perspectival Reportage, a category with a journalistic pedigree;  No. 4 introduces Education and Information. And the fifth overview post explores Memoir and Biography. Please read them all, then return to this wrap-up material. (They should all open in their own windows to spare you a bunch of forward and backward clicking.)

Rule No. 1: Build on Strength. If at all possible, you should design your project to build on what you have achieved this fall. Medium, visual approach, your emerging overall sense of who you are (or might be) creatively: they all deserve to be honored. Stated more succinctly: add to your strengths. 

Rule No. 2: Avoid Weaknesses. The converse of No. 1: Don't use this as a time to shore up your weaknesses. If you have never worked on an interactive project except under duress as a first semester junior, this is not the time to start coding. Likewise, if you've worked in watercolor all fall, don't suddenly decide to make screen prints. We will help keep you focused on this; your proposals will need to include a pdf of recent work, since I will not have seen any of it. 

Rule No. 3: Own Your Mojo. This reinforces Rules 1 and 2. It is a universal fact: we all tend to undervalue what we naturally do well, and overvalue the things that other people are good at. The answer to your creative problem is always staring you in the face, in the form of the things you already do but don't think "count." No need to tromp fields far and wide looking for the exotic discovery: it's probably sitting right next to you. 

Rule No. 4: Relax, Focus & Learn. This is just one project! It will not determine the course of your biography from here. If it has value to you five years from now, it will be as a template. You will learn how you specifically conceive, manage, and execute a complicated project. But you know this! We've challenged you to be observant of your own methodological patterns since you started in the program. This is just a little bigger version of projects you did in Word and Image 1, two years ago. 

Rule No. 5: Write Well. People who write and speak well are categorically more valuable than those who do not. If you are wondering why you are being required to write your senior project, a) you are a university student after all, and b) you would not be at this particular university if you were not academically capable. You don't know it yet, but this will turn out to be your secret weapon: you think well and flexibly, and you write persuasively. If you were being trained for a narrow field or prepped for very particular job, you might be able to argue to the contrary–but then your parents would also have overpaid for your education. You could have just apprenticed somewhere. I really cannot stress this enough: a supple education is a timed-release capsule. You know how to do some stuff now, but not that much. Your value will have to do with what you can learn, and how you will be able to think in fresh ways about problems new and recycled. That will be true no matter what you end up doing, solo or with others. 

Rule No. 6: Nail the Dismount. Once you are underway and invested in the project, follow it through. Execute right to the end of it. As you know, it isn't that hard to get something 85 percent there. The last 15 percent, and especially the last five, is a true theater of achievement.

Rule No. 7: Desire trumps Talent. Never forget this. Driven people often surpass more complacent talented ones. 

Rule No. 8: Be a Good Doobie. Honor the field; support your mates; wave the flag; work together. 

D.B. Dowd, working scan from Massillon v. St.Vincent-St.Mary's (unfinished); illustration for Spartan Holiday No. 3 (upcoming). This project, a collaboration with Scott Gericke, ably assisted by intern Sara Wong, occupied may September and awaits completion in December. 

D.B. Dowd, detail, Baroque Self-Portrait, from Spartan Holiday No. 3. Yup: Professor Red in a powdered wig. Can't wait to get this project out. I think it's the best Spartan so far. Set in Paris. 

D.B. Dowd, Japanese Banana, Jardin des Plantes, Paris. 2013.I spent October holed up in an underground bunker (on a TVA lake in Alabama) finishing a book I've been pondering for a dozen years, began writing in 2009, and substantially completed during my Parisian interlude, summer 2013. The last step was to expand, resolve and button up the project. Stick Figures: Symbolic Drawing in the Digital Age will see print in the next year or so: details to come. This drawing figures in Chapter 6. 

Austin Briggs, Sketch for New York Railroads Advertisement, circa 1955. Reproduced in Stick Figures

Clara Elsene Peck, Frontispiece illustration, A Lady of King Arthur's Court, by Sara Hawks Sterling, G.W. Jacobs & Co. 1907. Since last spring, working with Eden Lewis, above mentioned Sara Wong and now Abhi Alwar, I have been working on a curatorial project focusing on women in American illustration, drawing on the Walt Reed Collection at the Modern Graphic History Library, also pulling selectively from my own collection. This project is burbling along; I think Abhi and I will have it ready to go live online in the next six weeks. Stay tuned. 

Nonfiction Illustrated 2016 5

Added on by Doug Dowd.

A final installment in consideration of categories. I'm wrapping this up before hitting the hay, but will be back in the morning with a few thoughts about how to think about developing a project. What makes for a good one? Stay tuned...

Category 5: Biography and Memoir

Autobiography is handy since you always have yourself nearby, but things which have occurred in the past have to be represented credibly–which can be harder than it sounds. Observation/ documentation is required to support it. That is, if you want to include a flashback scene to your elementary school, you should go draw or photograph it over holiday break. Things which can be documented, ought to be. But there are issues of salience, too. If you are telling a story which happened in your own life, why? Are you the protagonist, or the foil to some other character? Do not assume that heartwarming tales of Uncle Fuzzy will make good copy. Odds are they won't. 

Historical biography poses its own problems. Chief among them are research about your subject and period details. I don't want to discourage you from this category–at least not necessarily–but I think if you were to attempt a biographical subject it should be someone with whom you are already quite familiar. 

Two memoirs of note (among hundreds):
It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken, A Picture Novella by Seth. Drawn & Quarterly, 1996. (Originally issued as Palookaville Nos. 4 through 9, 1993-96. Palookaville is Seth's serially-issued comic.) 

Seth's tale is fictional, but mock-autobiographical: a story of a quest to track down an obscure, forgotten cartoonist in gray Southern Ontario. Seth makes very good use of silent panels to move the action, as if in a film. 

At A Crossroads: Between a Rock and My Parents' Place. Written and Illustrated by Kate Williamson. A Graphic Memoir, Princeton Architectural Press, 2008. 

Kate Williamson wrote this book about the experience of moving back in with her parents after a year spent in Japan, post-college graduation. She expected it to brief, but it lasted almost two years. Her narrative and images capture an in-between place very effectively. It's "graphic novel" -ish, but painted in watercolor, without a lot of panels. There is charm in her informality, but it's deceptive, too.  

Plus two biography (as it happens, both 19th century American ones)

Looking at Lincoln, written and illustrated by Maira Kalman. Nancy Paulson Books, an imprint of Penguin. 2012.

This is a splendidly informal, yet substantial book about Lincoln for young people, charmingly presented. I'm just giving you the cover, because it's late I'm bleary-eyed and I'm on my 5th post about this stuff. I have a copy; I'll bring it in. In the meantime, check it out. 

John Brown: His Fight For Freedom, written and illustrated by John Hendrix. (Perhaps you have heard of him?) Abrams, 2009. 

A terribly challenging subject, managed with surprising directness by M. Hendrix. More word-image adventures from our great colleague. 

Seth, cover design, It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken. 1996. 

Maira Kalman, cover illustration, Looking at Lincoln. 2012. Lincoln has never gotten the bubble-gum treatment, til now, til that pink.  

Maira Kalman, cover illustration, Looking at Lincoln. 2012. Lincoln has never gotten the bubble-gum treatment, til now, til that pink.  

Seth, interior page, It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken. 1996. 

Seth, interior page, It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken. 1996.

Seth, interior page, It's a Good Life if You Don't Weaken. 1996.

John Hendrix. John Brown: His Fight for Freedom. Abrams, 2009. 

Kate Williamson, At a Crossroads: Between a Rock and my Parents' Place. Princeton Architectural Press, 2008. 

Williamson, Crossroads. 

Willamson, Crossroads. 

Nonfiction Illustrated 2016 4

Added on by Doug Dowd.

Category 4: Education and Information.

These works are often the most straightforward of all illustrated subjects, but not the simplest. The seeds of modernity were carried in illustrated botanicals and technological manuals, which provided access to knowledge of manifestly concrete, non-verbal subjects. This is an overlooked and grossly underestimated realm of achievement. The secondary versions tend to be composed for educational settings and audiences. Informational picture books for small children comprise another set of such works, which offer the child a chance to pause over things and environments that might otherwise go by too fast to absorb. 

As before, several examples. 

Instructional Science Cards for General Education
. James Reynolds, Publisher; John Emslie, designer, illustrator, engraver. London, 1850s..

I bought this 1846 meteorological greatest hits plate along with a handful of other such instructional cards from an antique print dealer in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. It bears the notation James Reynolds & Sons, 174 Strand, London. 

The Science and Society site in the UK provides this bibliographical data, which includes an illustrator/engraver credit to John Emslie:

One of a selection of 44 scientific teaching diagrams, drawn and engraved by John Emslie on geology, geography, astronomy and natural philosophy. This hand-coloured engraved plate is taken from a series published and probably written by James Reynolds of 174 Strand in London in 1850-1860 in response to the popular demand for information on developments taking place in science and engineering as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Superbly illustrated images with a related text were presented loose in a portfolio so that they could be passed around a class or lecture room or used as posters.

Splendid things. 

Cars and Trucks
. A Little Golden Book, Illustrated by Richard Scarry. Golden Press, New York. 1951. Golden Books were jointly produced by Simon & Shuster, New York, and Western Publishing Company, Inc., Racine Wisconsin. 

Richard Scarry’s straightforward book for children presents plenty of visual data about vehicles. For our purposes we might want a little more information, but perhaps not a great deal more. Gentle, pleasant and witty, for very young children. The best Golden Books put out by Western in the 1950s and 60s are much admired by graphic connoisseurs. The visual strategies involved in these pictures are quite sophisticated, but so easy to overlook! For example, who is on the bus? How do I know?

(In case you're wondering, I am the man getting on the bus. That's my wife Lori in the snazzy A-line yellow coat, suddenly taller. We have two boys, a great deal bigger than that now. Danny, teaching Chinese + ESL and coaching deep in the wilds of Pennsylvania; Andrew, moving-image maven in Manhattan [working] and Brooklyn [living.] As for me: mighty sharp green hat, izzn't it?)

Toot Whistle Plunk & Boom, directed by C. August Nichols and Ward Kimball. Walt Disney Studios, 1953. Included as bonus material on the DVD edition of Fantasia 2000. 

The Disney studios produced a variety of informational shorts, including notably this one and Our Friend the Atom (1956). Toot Whistle won the Academy Award for best animated short in 1953, and deservedly so. The film provides a concise history of music by using cavemen as sonic explorers. The explication of the four basic groups of instruments is direct, clear, funny and accurate. (The film is marred by some racial stereotyping–particularly the visual tropes of blackface minstrelsy–risible now, unobjectionable to [majority] tastes in the 1950s.) 


Keep scrolling down for animation stills. 

John Emslie, designer. The Longitude. Instructional card, for classroom sharing. Published by Reynolds & Sons. London, circa 1850. 

Opening title sequence shot (Cinemascope proportions), Toot Whistle Plunk & Boom, animated short Walt Disney Studios, directed by Ward Kimball and Charles A. Nichols, 1953. 

John Emslie, illustrator/engraver. Diagram of Meteorology: Displaying the Various Phenomena of the Atmosphere. (Extensive textual content on reverse of card. London, 1846. 

Richard Scarry, Title Page, Cars and Trucks, 1951. 

Snazzy hat + jacket, no? Lovely coat as well. 

Scarry, Boarding the Bus, Cars and Trucks, 1951. 

Scarry, Ladies at the Grocery Store, Cars and Trucks. In the heyday of postwar affluence. Enjoy while it lasts, people. 

Richard Scarry, Dumping Coal to Subterranean Coal Rooms and Furnaces, Cars and Trucks. Not that long ago, folks. I remember a coal chute in my grandparents' house. 

John Emslie, Transparent Solar System. 

John Emslie, detail, Transparent Solar System. Note that the colored sun and planets or conveyed trough translucent colored papers. When you hold card up to the light, the planets glow. 

Toot Whistle, classroom shot with Professor Owl. 

Toot Whistle, cavemen discover musical instrument categories. 

Toot Whistle, Jazz club interior. 

Toot Whistle, Blackface minstrelsy quotation, (regrettable).