Long before I dove into "fine art" I was busy drawing cartoons. I'm not sure where the attraction began. Maybe Mad magazine and all those crazy Don Martin cartoons?
In my teenage years I discovered editorial cartoons and was hooked. I wasn't into politics but loved the sketchy crosshatching and elaborate detail found in many political cartoons.
Pulitzer prize winning cartoonists like Jeff MacNelly and Pat Oliphant delighted me with their superb drawings. Before long, I was doing political cartoons for my high school and college newspapers. Early in my law enforcement career, I moonlighted as a staff editorial cartoonist for the city and county newspapers.
Cartooning is a unique art form in that it requires the ability to simplify images and apply visual contortions. Where a portrait painter relies on paint hues and values to capture a likeness, the cartoonist uses only a few lines.
While some modern artists try to create a stir with shocking art and political statement pieces, political cartoonists seem to attract more attention and reaction to their work. After all, it was the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo in France that terrorists targeted, not any contemporary fine artists.
"All of us would agree that Rembrandt is a fine artist and not a cartoonist. We also would concur that Gary Larsen is probably a cartoonist and not a fine artist. But what label do we pin on Honore Daumier, Charles Bragg, Francisco Goya, David Levine, and the other image makers considered here? They are artists who either cross easily back and forth over the fine line between fine art and cartoon, or whose work contains elements of both. Fine art is popularly thought to be "fine" and cartoon art to be "coarse," but the fact is that cartoonists can be superior draftsmen to fine artists. It is equally true that some fine artists are extraordinary cartoonists."
What every artist should know about cartoonists is this: Cartoonists are artists, too. I'd even argue that some cartoonists are fine artists. Jeff MacNelly could draw like a dream. Pat Oliphant not only has amazing drawing ability, he produces impressive sculptures.
Jeff MacNelly used to create large cartoon paintings that sold in a fine art gallery. Pat Oliphant's cartoons and sculptures were part of one man shows in a New York gallery.
Too often we suffer from the tyranny of labels. Creators are pigeonholed into a niche or title. "Bob's an abstract expressionist," or "Carol is a representational tonalist."
Yes, it helps to identify their style and genre, but labels can be limiting. They exclude the many other dimensions people have.
I used to think I had to separate my cartooning from my fine art painting. I was concerned that serious art collectors would frown on cartoons. Yes, there are artists like Roy Lichtenstein who created millions in sales with his fine art take on comic book images. But generally, comics and fine art are viewed separately.
Lately I've been illustrating many of my articles and blog posts with my cartoons. The reader response has been quite positive. Rediscovering my love for cartooning has helped my painting, refined my drawing and sense of color. Also, it's been a lot of fun.
When I'm not landscape painting or writing, I've been spending more time cartooning. In the evenings I'm having fun doodling cartoons in my sketchbooks. The cartoons have no rhyme or reason, but help me refine my skills. Here's a random example:
I've added a cartoon gallery to the artwork section of my website. I used to sell original cartoons years ago and decided it was time to bring them back. The cartoons up right now are from various blog posts, but I plan to do more art related cartoons.
I have some other cartoon projects in the works as well, which I'll share once they get off the ground. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy the revived cartoon art on my website and in my articles.
And remember, cartoonists are artists too!
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