Archive for the ‘zim’ Category

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

E-Book: Zim’s Correspondence School of Cartooning and Caricature Volume 3

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September-October 2015

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Zim Cartooning Course Vol 3

Eugene "Zim" Zimmerman
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Zim’s Correspondence School of Cartooning, Comic Art & Caricature Volume 3: Books 11 to 15 (1914/1920)

Animation Resources is proud to present our third volume from the Zim course as a downloadable high resolution e-book. This PDF e-book is optimized for display on the iPad or printing two up with a cover on 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper.

REFPACK006: Zim Cartooning Course Vol. 3
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Zim's Cartooning Course Advertisement
Advertisement for Zim’s Cartooning Course (ca. 1920)

From Stephen Worth’s introduction to Zim’s Cartooning Course Vol. 3

When Eugene Zimmerman left the Alsatian region of France in 1869 at the age of seven to emigrate to America, he didn’t know exactly what the future might hold for him. Like many immigrants who made the voyage from the old world to the new, he left with little more than the clothes on his back.

Eugene’s mother died in childbirth when he was only two, and his father and older brother Adolph left France three years later to take a job in a bakery in Patterson, New Jersey. Eugene and his younger sister Amelie were left in the care of their aunt and uncle in the French town of Thann, near the Swiss border. But the Franco-Prussian war was looming on the horizon, and his guardians thought it best for little Eugene to join his father and brother in America. So he said goodbye to his younger sister, never to set eyes on her again, and booked passage in steerage on the Paraguay, an old fashioned steamer.

Twenty-one days later, he disembarked in New York City. Young Zimmerman crowded into the Battery in Castle Garden along with countless other immigrants. He was disinfected and his bedding from the voyage was cast into the sea. An aunt and uncle living in New York’s East side took him in for a while, but Eugene was eager to reunite with his father. He packed up and moved to New Jersey, where he was surprised to find that his father didn’t even know he had left France. Soon, Eugene was working alongside his father and brother in the bakery, greasing pans and delivering bread.

For a short time, his father sent him to a French tutor, but Eugene had little interest in the culture of his birthplace. Financial limitations finally forced him to attend public school, where his accent earned him the nickname, “Frenchy“. However, he didn’t identify himself as French. His overriding goal was to become an American through and through. He later wrote, “I soon learned to cuss and swear as perfectly as my American associates.“

Zim Cartooning Course Vol 3

Zimmerman took a number of odd jobs as a child to pay for his room and board- chore boy on a farm, fish peddler, assistant to a wine and beer merchant and newsboy. But his career really began in earnest when a traveling sign painter named William Brassington took him on as an apprentice. Brassington would take in orders from local businesses for advertising show cards and Eugene would letter and paint them. He learned to create huge display banners and flags, and letter in gold leaf in a variety of styles. Zimmerman decorated the interior of their sign shop with murals of landscapes, and Brassington started to offer Zimmerman’s illustrated advertisements as well as plain lettering to his clients.

Eugene’s work was noticed by a rival sign painter in the area, J.C. Pope, who hired him away from Brassington for $9 a week to head up the pictorial department in his workshop in Horseheads, New York. Zimmerman began to seriously study sketching, filling notebooks with doodles and cartoons copied from the pages of magazines like Harper’s Weekly and Puck.

Pope’s business eventually folded, and Eugene went to work for a large sign firm headed up by Joe Densmore in Elmira, New York. On a trip to New York City to visit his family, his uncle borrowed one of his sketchbooks and arranged for it to be delivered to the famous cartoonist, Joseph Keppler at Puck. The work was good enough to land Eugene an interview at the magazine; but unfortunately, Eugene had returned to Elmira by that time. Stranded without train fare, unable to take advantage of the opportunity of a lifetime, Zimmerman’s excitement dimmed. But Densmore took pity on the young artist’s situation, and lent him $10 for transportation to New York City to meet with Keppler.

Eugene Zimmerman in 1896
Eugene Zimmerman in 1896

In his autobiography (ZIM: The Autobiography of Eugene Zimmerman
Walter M. Brasch- Editor, Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University Press, 1988), Zimmerman described his arrival at the offices of Puck…

Outside the structure was gloomy and depressing; within, I found a cheerful bustle of clerks at desks. Somewhat relieved, I breathed my name and business into a receptive ear. The message wafted through a speaking tube to the great Keppler, three floors above, whereupon that high and mighty personage came down and met me.

Heaven’s gates opened up to me when I discovered that Mr. Keppler was merely a human being, albeit a bit pompous. He was a typical artist of the old school- a commanding figure with iron grey hair, mustache and a goatee of the Louis Napoleon type… After some discussion, a contract was drawn up in pen-and-ink and we all signed it. I was hired for a period of three years at five dollars a week the first year, ten dollars the second, and fifteen the third.

Before I was presented to Keppler, my imagination pictured his studio as a gorgeous showplace like an Arabian Nights dream. I expected to find the master cartoonist surrounded by medieval armor and tapestries, Chinese jade and incense burners. It never occurred to me that such a museum would be unsatisfactory as a workshop.

Keppler occupied a small clean enclosure in the Puck art department. A similar adjoining one was used by his lieutenant, Bernhard Gillam. The studios of those artists was about as imposing as the stalls of fine racehorses, yet in such unpretentious compartments were created the most wonderful cartoons that made political history during the big presidential campaigns of the 1870s and 1880s.

Zim Cartooning Course Vol 3

Puck was one of the first publications to take advantage of the development of four-color stone lithography and zinc plate printing. Prior to this, illustrations were laboriously engraved in blocks of wood. But at Puck, Keppler drew directly upon lithographic stones with grease pencil. When complete, the drawings were etched with acid to create the printing plates. Working as Keppler’s assistant, Zimmerman’s job was to help prepare the “tone stones“, the blocks of stone which created the subtle blends of color for which Puck was famous.

Cartoon by Joseph Keppler
Center spread cartoon by Joseph Keppler from the December 21, 1881 issue of Puck

Keppler was a classically trained artist, and his cartoons exhibited the refined compositions and vivid colors of European oil paintings. He had gotten his start working for Frank Leslie’s Weekly. During an argument with the publisher over a $5 a week raise, he threatened to jump ship and launch a magazine of his own. Leslie assured him he would do everything in his power to drive him out of business if he tried it, but that didn’t deter Keppler. He hired the foreman of Leslie’s printing plant and began producing Puck as a German language publication loosely based on the British magazine Punch. It was so successful that in 1877, he launched an English edition.

Zim Cartooning Course Vol 3

Puck was not just a humor magazine- it was primarily concerned with political satire. Thomas Nast had established the precedent at Harper’s Weekly with his relentless attacks on Boss Tweed and the corruption rife within Tammany Hall. Tweed was eventually driven from power and fled to Spain under an assumed name. But anonymity eluded him- He was recognized on the basis of Nast’s published caricatures and the hounding continued. As Nast entered retirement, the popularity of Harper’s Weekly declined, and Puck rose to fame for its no-holds-barred attacks on corrupt American political figures, as well as its opinionated views of European politics. Puck also took aim at the Catholic and Jewish faiths, for which it generated considerable criticism. A Jewish organization threatened a boycott of Puck, but the publishers assured them that their purpose was not to offend but to entertain. Puck’s editor promised to be more careful in the future to avoid material that might be misinterpreted as anti-Semitic. The group was satisfied and called off the boycott, and as time went by, the objects of satire became more political in nature. The orientation was decidedly in favor of the Democrats, with Republicans the principle targets for mockery and derision.

Competing head-to-head with Puck were Judge magazine, Police Gazette and Life. Judge stepped into the opposing political camp from Puck, favoring Republican candidates and skewering the Democrats. The Police Gazette’s stated mission was to provide information of interest to law enforcement officers, but it was just an excuse to print lurid stories of murder and outlaws from the Wild West, along with risque woodcuts of beautiful women. Life magazine took the high road, with “appropriate“ material appealing to the elite, in stark contrast to the rough-and-tumble content of its competitors. Zimmerman later reflected, “Puck had been vicious in its attacks on the Catholics and Jews. Life sidestepped religious prejudice, thus gaining the respect of all denominations…“

Cartoon by Bernhard Gillam
A center spread by Bernhard Gillam from the June 13, 1891 issue of Judge

Zimmerman was surrounded at Puck by some of the greatest names in cartooning- chief among whom was the English born Bernhard Gillam. A strong forceful line and meticulous and precise style was the hallmark of Gillam’s work. He was most famous for a cartoon he created during the presidential campaign of 1884. Gillam depicted the Republican candidate, James G. Blaine as a tattooed man in a freak show, his skin covered with slogans referring to the various scandals that peppered his career. The April 16, 1884 issue of Puck that featured the cartoon quickly sold out and additional printings were hastily arranged. Circulation doubled, and ultimately, over 300,000 copies of the issue were sold.

The Tatooed Man by Bernhard Gillam
The Tattooed Man by Bernhard Gillam from the April 16, 1884 issue of Puck

The “tattooed man“ comic created a firestorm of controversy, throwing the spotlight on Puck. Gillam fed the flames with a series of variations on the same theme. Keppler and another Puck artist, Frederick Opper joined the fray to create a few “tattooed man“ gags of their own. The cartoons reached such a high level of public awareness that Pear’s Soap advertisements parodied them. (“Hurray! Soap to remove tattoos!“) The final election tallies between Blaine and his Democratic rival, Grover Cleveland were very close, and many attributed Blaine’s loss to Gillam’s cartoon. The irony of the situation was that Gillam himself was a Republican and voted for Blaine. Several years later, he was hired by the Republican magazine, Judge where Gillam attacked Cleveland with the same sort of enthusiasm that he had supported him during the “tattooed man“ days at Puck.

Another great cartoonist working for Puck during Zimmerman’s years there was Frederick Opper. Opper worked for Scribners on St. Nicholas Magazine before joining the staff of Frank Leslie’s Weekly. When Leslie died in 1880, Opper was engaged by Keppler on Puck, where he produced illustrations for the next 18 years. Opper later accepted an offer from William Randolph Hearst to create a comic strip for the New York Journal. Titled “Happy Hooligan“, the pioneering strip ran until failing eyesight forced Opper to retire in 1932.

Zimmerman doesn’t say much about Opper in his autobiography, but he describes him as “the recognized comic artist on Puck“ who generally had first pick of the material submitted for cartoon ideas by the editorial staff. Opper was very prolific, producing more art than any other artist on staff. Zimmerman wrote, “There were more Puck artists than there was white space to fill, so that often one man would have to give ‘way to make room for another’s work. This was a serious obstacle to my artistic advancement.“ It seemed clear that there wasn’t room at Puck for both Opper and Zimmerman.

Cartoon by Frederick Opper
Cover illustration by Frederick Opper from the June 27, 1894 issue of Puck

Around this time, Eugene Zimmerman made a change that would forever brand his art in the public’s mind…

Early in life, my long name became a burden, so I threw two-thirds of it overboard,
thus saving time space and India ink, and providing a merman for any sea nymph who
cared to salvage it. A friend, a very successful businessman noticed that my signature, “Zim“ had a downward slant. Said he, “Never sign your name downhill, always uphill. It looks more prosperous.“ From that moment, I have always signed my drawings uphill, for I believe there is truth in this assertation.

Fortune was soon to smile upon the newly named, “Zim“ with a change of scene, a change of lifestyle, and most of all, a change in employment.

Dissent was brewing on the Puck staff. Keppler and his partner Adolph Schwarzmann had made a deal with the editor, Henry Bunner that should Puck’s circulation increase significantly, Brunner would receive a $1,000 bonus. Word filtered back to Gillam that Bunner had collected on the deal. Since his “tattooed man“ cartoons were largely responsible for the jump in circulation, Gillam demanded a raise in salary from $100 to $125 a week. Keppler and Schwarzmann firmly refused, and Gillam began quietly investigating new avenues of employment.

Meanwhile, Judge magazine was experiencing hard times. Competition with Puck was fierce, and although Puck’s circulation had risen dramatically, Judge’s subscription base was hanging fire at a fraction of the size of its biggest competitor. Due to the combined efforts of Frank Beard and Grant Hamilton, Judge had begun to dig itself out of debt. But when a new buyer for the publication, entrepeneur William Arkell took over, Beard was out and Hamilton was put in charge. Investors who had a particular interest in backing a Republican rival for Puck flocked to the venture. Hamilton was given a fat bankroll earmarked for hiring the best talent available.

Zim Cartooning Course Vol 3

Bernhard Gillam was first on his list. Money wasn’t the only reason Gillam was interested in joining the staff of the newly reconstituted Judge- Gillam was a Republican himself, and his position creating editorial cartoons at Puck was in essence a job as a “hired gun“. Gillam confided about the opportunity at Judge with the only other Republican on the Puck staff- Zim. At Puck, Zim was just another artist competing for space
with older, more established artists. Hamilton promised him that Zim could submit as many cartoons as he wanted to Judge with complete freedom in regards to theme. Gillam and Zimmerman resolved to resign Puck together, and join Arkell and Hamilton at Judge.

The parting with Puck was not friendly. Gillam and Zimmerman’s output was important enough to Puck to force Keppler and Schwarzmann to hire five artists to replace the two departing ones. The men in charge of Puck were certain that Judge would fold and Gillam and Zim would return in defeat. But it wasn’t Judge that would suffer a decline. With the departure of Gillam and Zimmerman, Puck began a long slide in quality and circulation from which it would never recover. At Judge, Gillam and Hamilton went to work revitalizing the publication’s antiquated editorial policy, inadequate printing facilities and second-rate staff. The first issue of the new Judge hit the stands at the beginning of 1886. It was a resounding success.

Bernhard Gillam and Grant Hamilton in 1889
Bernhard Gillam and Grant Hamilton in 1889

Freed from the restraints placed upon him at Puck, Zim set to work at a white heat. He began exploring the possibilities of humorous situations arising from the lives of people like himself- the immigrant classes. While cartoonists at other magazines depicted distinguished aristocrats and political celebrities in fancy sitting rooms, Zim favored subjects from the streets, reveling in ethnic humor. He made fun of all groups equally- ignorant farmers, tradesmen, Blacks, Irish, Italians, Jews, Germans, cowboys, Indians, cops, crooks, street urchins, mangy cats and old hound dogs- Zim took inspiration in the diversity of unique personalities that made up the melting pot of America.

Privately, Gillam was not happy with Zim’s choice of subjects. He felt that Zim’s caricatures were grotesque and coarse and would have preferred to pattern Judge on Puck at the peak of its success. But Hamilton and Arkell believed that Judge would never succeed solely as a vehicle for political cartoons. Their vision for the magazine was to feature more humor and less politics. Zim’s cartoons poking fun at both rural and urban life fit perfectly within the scope of their plans.

Zim made many changes in his life all at the same time. In addition to joining the staff of Judge in 1886, he married Mabel Alice Beard and set up housekeeping in Brooklyn. To add to the upheaval, a short time later his father became ill and passed away. Zim worked very hard, both on his duties for Judge and freelance projects, burning the candle at both ends. Eventually, the stress drove him to nervous collapse. He sold his stock in Judge and took five months off, recuperating in Florida. When he returned, he set up residence in Horseheads, New York, commuting to the city to work for two weeks of every month. Zim and his father-in-law began work on building a home for the family, which by this time included a daughter, Laura, and an adopted son, Adolph.

For Judge, Zim generated a flurry of brilliant political cartoons, as well as caricatures based on his experiences vacationing in the deep South, life among the poorer classes of New York and the rural characters that populated his new home of Horseheads. Along with Bernhard Gillam, his brother Frank Victor Gillam and Grant Hamilton, Zim helped to build Judge up into a publishing empire.

Eugene Zimmerman in Horseheads
Zim at his drawing board in his home in Horseheads, (mid 1890s)

In 1896, Zim’s friend and associate, Bernhard Gillam died of typhoid fever. By this point, the artists of Judge had scattered themselves across the country, sending in their artwork by post. Arkell called the remaining art staff back to New York and divided Gillam’s salary and percentage of sales equally among them. The art department pulled together as a team, spending more time at the Judge offices in the city. Hamilton was appointed Art Director, and with Gillam gone, the magazine veered even further away from current events to more humorous subjects. During this time, Zim forged a close friendship with Grant Hamilton, spending countless hours with him roaming the streets and slums of New York in search of interesting character studies. As time passed, Hamilton’s artwork loosened up and acquired more specific aspects of caricature. It was clear that as an artist, he benefited from his close friendship with Zim.

The mid-1890s was the time when Zim’s artistry was at its very peak, and he wasn’t alone. The art staff of Judge consisted of a virtual “who’s who“ of cartooning. In addition to Hamilton and Zim, the roster of cartoonists included Hy Mayor, Richard Outcault, A. S. Daggy, Emil Flohri, Frank Livingston Fithian, George R. Brill, C. T. Anderson, Peter Newell, J. H. Smith, Sydney B. Griffin, F. Victor Gillam, T. S. Sullivant, Michael Angelo Woolf, Gus Dirks, and an up-and-coming youngster named James Montgomery Flagg.

Eugene Zimmerman in 1886
Zim dressed for a trip to the city in 1886

In 1901, William J. Arkell resigned (or was forced out of) the management of Judge. He was replaced by an attorney named Austin Fletcher. Fletcher was disliked by just about the entire artistic staff of the magazine. Hamilton resigned to form a new publication, Just Fun, which only survived a few issues. Zim distanced himself more and more from the management at Judge. Eventually Fletcher was forced out by John A. Sleicher, the former editor of Leslie’s Weekly. Hamilton returned to his post as Art Director and things went back to the way they had been for a time. But Sleicher was unsure about which direction the magazine should take. He waffled back and forth, giving contradictory instructions to the staff. The publication drifted and gradually lost its edge. Too much work, combined with the recent loss of his beloved adopted son Adolph to tuberculosis, and his disenchantment with Sleicher’s mismanagement threw Zim into a period of depression. He eventually quit full time employment with Judge in 1912 to work freelance from his home in Horseheads.

In 1905, in response to requests from his readers, Zim authored a small “how to“ book titled This And That About Caricature. Written in an anecdotal, chatty style, the book didn’t attempt to be an art instructional text as much as a statement of the philosophy of a cartoonist. It sold well enough to attract the attention of a mail order school, The Correspondence Institute of America. Zim revised the book and licensed it to the company for use in their course, but soon discovered that the organization was a fly-by-night fraud, bilking thousands of students. Even so, the company raked in a considerable amount of money on the basis of Zim’s name. So Zim resolved himself to create a real course to do what the C. I. of A.’s course had done dishonestly.

Eugene Zimmerman in 1905
Zim at work in the offices of Judge around 1905

Zim’s Correspondence School of Cartooning, Comic Art and Caricature consisted of twenty 32-page books packed with artwork, practical advice, homespun philosophy and plain old horse sense. Every month a new book would arrive in the mail, and the student would be responsible for arranging to ship their completed assignments to Horseheads where Zim would review and critique them for a small fee. Along with the income he generated doing freelance illustration work from home, Zim was able to bring in a steady income from the course without having to commute to New York City.

Zim Cartooning Course Vol 3

During this time, Zim undertook to publish several small books marketed directly to the communities of Horseheads and Elmira, New York. Zim’s Foolish History of Elmira (1912) contained amusing drawings and stories regarding the town’s past, caricatures of prominent citizens, and a few pages of advertisements for local merchants. It sold for a nominal fee on the countertops of shops and newsstands in the area, and led to three separate editions of Zim’s Foolish History of Horseheads in 1914, 1927 and 1929.

Paul T. Gilbert, the editor of Cartoons Magazine, an anthology of political and humor cartoons from around the world, came across one of Zim’s “foolish histories“ and hired him to write a column for the magazine titled, “Homespun Phoolosophy by Zim“. In 1926, Gilbert established the first trade organization for cartoonists, The American Association of Cartoonists and Caricaturists. Zim was elected president, and the other officers included Rube Goldberg and Bud Fisher. But Cartoons Magazine folded in 1927 and the AACC dispersed soon afterwards.

Watercolor sketch by Eugene Zimmerman
Watercolor sketch by Zim for Judge (1913)

Zim dabbled in sequential comic strips, but his metier was magazine cartoons, not newspaper comics. In his later years, he freelanced with several magazines and wrote a daily newspaper column. But most of all, he wrapped himself in the comfortable surroundings of Horseheads, serving with the volunteer fire department, sponsoring a local brass band and participating in local politics. The citizens of Horseheads were largely unaware of how famous their resident cartoonist had been in his day. His work at Puck and Judge faded into the past, partly due to the passage of time, but also because Zim’s brand of ethnic humor had gone out of style. By the time he died of a heart attack at age seventy-three in 1935, he had largely faded from public memory. The community of Horseheads mourned his loss most of all.

As the decades have rolled on since Zim’s passing, he has come to be routinely omitted from accounts of the history of cartooning. Although Thomas Nast, T. S. Sullivant, Frederick Burr Opper, Richard Outcault and James Montgomery Flagg are frequently mentioned in histories of cartooning and illustration, Zim’s name is conspicuous by its absence. When he is mentioned at all by historians, it is in reference to the “political incorrectness“ of his humor. But Zim’s legacy is more important than history gives him credit for. His contribution to American culture is both historical and artistic.

During the last decades of the 19th century, America was a land being built by poor, hard-working immigrants. Zim was one of them. He took caricature out of the drawing room and into the streets. When Zim entered the business, cartooning existed to glorify (or more often, defame) famous American political leaders. Zim took caricature further, poking fun at the real Americans of the day- the people he saw in the streets of the Italian, Jewish, Black and Irish districts of New York City.

Self caricature by Eugene Zimmerman
Self Caricature of Zim

When they mention his work at all, historians frequently describe Zim cartoons as typical examples of “ugly racial stereotyping“, but nothing could be further from the truth. Zim didn’t deal in stereotypes. His comedic sensibilities may have mirrored the ethnic humor of the day- the same sorts of gags found in knockabout comedy routines in Vaudeville shows, humorous dialect monologues on phonograph records, or even in the jokes and stories told by the common people he was depicting. But Zim’s true genius isn’t contained in the gags themselves. The value of Zim as an artist lies in the way he presented the characters and situations.

Eugene Zimmerman didn’t invent his racial imagery from whole cloth, and he wasn’t just repeating a formulaic stereotype. Zim reflected his world through the art of caricature. Every element of a scene was carefully observed and artfully exaggerated to create an image that was beyond real- a distillation of the larger reality. In his cartooning course, Zim charts the progress of a man’s boot, from new and shiny to beaten down and decrepit. He analyzes what sort of shoes might be worn by a particular type of man- be he hobo or aristocrat. This level of observational detail extended to all aspects of his sketches, from the likeness of the facial features to the character’s clothing, to the furniture and room that surrounds him.

Zim Cartooning Course Vol 3

These precious drawings are a priceless window into the past. More than a hundred years later, we are fortunate to be able to see the world of the 1890s through Zim’s observant eyes. Zim’s fondness for the common man is apparent in every line that flowed from his pen. He didn’t just achieve his boyhood goal of becoming American through and through; utilizing the art of caricature, he vividly documented the day-to-day reality of millions of others Americans just like him.

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Monday, May 18th, 2015

Exhibit: The Zim Course in Cartooning, Comic Art and Caricature Vol 2

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

Animation Resources is proud to present exclusively to our membership the first of four volumes of Eugene Zimmerman’s landmark correspondence course in cartooning as a 200 page high resolution e-book. Members, to download a copy, login to the Members Only Download Page. This download will only be available during the months of May and June 2015 and might never be available again.

If you have not joined Animation Resources yet, see the Membership Signup Page. Over the next year, Animation Resources members will be receiving the entire Zim course, consisting of four volumes and nearly 1000 pages packed with incredible drawings and creative advice!

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

A couple of years ago ago, I stumbled across a "how to" book on cartooning by Eugene “Zim” Zimmerman. It was titled Zim’s Cartoons & Caricatures, Or Making The World Laugh. I happened to be speaking on the phone to Ralph Bakshi, and I mentioned the book. "Ooooohh! So you’ve discovered ZIM now! He’s one of my secrets…"

In 1967, right after he had resigned as the head of the Paramount cartoon studio, Ralph and his wife Liz were walking through Brooklyn when they saw a sign on an old house advertising an estate sale. They went inside, but it was late in the day and there wasn’t much left. Ralph glanced up at a tall bookcase and saw a pile of pamphlets stacked up on a high shelf. It was too high to reach, so he didn’t bother to look at them. As they were walking out the door, he got the feeling that he needed to go back and look at the pamphlets. It was a good hunch. The stack contained a nearly complete set of Zim’s correspondence course in cartooning. He asked the estate agent how much they cost, and was told $50. That was more than he and his wife had in their pockets, so Liz volunteered to run home and get the money. The Zim books were on his desk every day throughout the production of Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic and especially Coonskin. This set is Ralph’s most prized possession, and now he is sharing them with Animation Resources.

The Zim Book on Cartooning

Zim’s correspondence course was the most highly regarded cartooning course of its day. Spanning 20 volumes, it covered a wide range of subjects, from practical homespun advice to lofty philosophy. Here are some examples of Zim’s genius from the pages of the four volumes we completed digitizing today…

The course was published in two different editions… 1914 and 1920. We have been able to find an earlier edition of the course to supplement and complete Ralph Bakshi’s set. There are no chapters or specific assignments. The books consist of page after page of individual nuggets of wisdom. Each book and each page stands on its own.

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course
The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

Ralph also helped Animation Resources obtain vintage copies of the magazine Judge’s Library containing dozens of full page color examples of Zim’s work. These have been included in our exclusive online e-books.

Zim’s course is much more than just a "how to draw" course. In short anecdotal paragraphs, Zim succeeds in conveying what it means to be a cartoonist… the history behind the artform… how to deal with everyday problems and setbacks… and how to live the life of an artist.

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

Zim was the founder of the "grotesque" school of caricature, which formed the basis of what we now call "cartoony drawing". He provides lots of examples of caricatures drawn from life, with photos of his subjects alongside his caricature of the person.

There’s plenty of traditional drawing lessons too. Zim’s masterful expressive line fills every page with perfect examples of the principles he is discussing.

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course
The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

The book is full of amusing observation. Just look at the shoes and the way the clothing hangs on these bums. Zim is able to pack personality into every detail of the character.

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

If you aren’t convinced yet that Zim is a drop dead genius, just click on this image!

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

The most impressive illustrations in the course are the examples of Zim’s rough sketches. He had an uncanny knack for being able to express every nuance of his subject with a free flowing and loose pencil technique.

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

He was capable of extreme exaggeration that captured the essence of the unique qualities of the personalities he chose to caricature.

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

But the most amazing thing about Zim’s artistry was his ability to draw the viewer into his world and make them feel the way the characters in the drawings feel. Wouldn’t you love to live in a cartoony world like this? You can, and Zim can teach you to THINK like a cartoonist.


Visit the Members Only Page to access the download link for this e-book.


Every two months, Animation Resources provides a downloadable Reference Pack for its membership. The Reference Packs consist of a PDF e-book set up to be viewed in high resolution on computers and mobile devices, or printed out in hard copy on a laser printer. Also included are two animated films in full DVD quality. The material in these bi-monthly Reference Packs have been selected and curated by the Advisory Board and Officers of Animation Resources. The RefPacks are available for a limited time only, and may never be made available again.

If you are interested in joining Animation Resources and receiving this as a high resolution PDF e-book, please see our Membership Sign Up Page for all of the details.

Stephen Worth
Animation Resources

Eugene Zim ZimmermanEugene Zim Zimmerman

This posting is part of a series of articles comprising an online exhibit devoted to Eugene “Zim” Zimmerman.

Friday, January 9th, 2015

MEMBERS ONLY: Zim’s Correspondence Course in Cartooning and Caricature Volume 1

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BUY This Downloadable E-Book

Animation Resources is proud to present for sale for the first time in nearly a century, the first volume of Eugene Zimmerman’s landmark correspondence course in cartooning as a 200 page high resolution e-book. To order and download a copy, please visit the ANIMATION RESOURCES ONLINE STORE.

If you have not joined Animation Resources yet, see the Membership Signup Page. Over the next year, Animation Resources members will be receiving the remaining volumes of the Zim course, consisting of nearly 1000 pages packed with incredible drawings and creative advice!

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FOREWORD By Ralph Bakshi

I grew up in a time, in the middle of the 20th century, when most drawings in cartooning- magazine gag panels, comic strips and animation– were all formula. The same funny character shapes were repeated over and over again. This was called "having a great style".

I didn’t realize that a great part of the history of cartooning had been lost until my wife Elisabeth and I stumbled across this complete set of Eugene Zimmerman’s cartoon course at an estate sale. Subsequently, and with great enthusiasm, I ran around from one book store to another looking for old copies of Judge and Life, the magazines that Zim had drawn for fifty years earlier.

The thing that made Zim so great was that like all great artists, he had no formula for drawing. He thought about each drawing as it related to life and situation, then caricatured it. He didn’t have a simple cartoon formula to explain everything. He searched for the individual truth of the moment. At all times, his cartoons are hilariously funny and ring true. We recognize the event, the person, his age, social standing and ethnic type immediately. This is what makes his cartooning great.

Zim caricatured all of the people that we know so well. They were just like the people I grew up with in Brooklyn. His characters make me roar with laughter and appreciate all of our individual humanity. Zim’s drawing of objects– a shoe, a can, a pot, a chicken, a chair– come alive in his drawings. Each object has its own unique personality, just like his characters. To Zim, everything is funny and real at the same time.

So here is Zim’s cartooning course. How lucky can you get?

Ralph Bakshi March, 2009

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INTRODUCTION by Stephen Worth

A century has passed since he hit his artistic peak, and perhaps because of that wide gulf, it is impossible to discuss the work of Eugene “Zim” Zimmerman without discussing the issue of race. The result of this is that Zim’s pioneering body of work has been largely misunderstood, or worse yet, completely erased from the history of cartooning.

In his introduction to ZIM: The Autobiography of Eugene Zimmerman (1988), Walter M. Brasch quotes Dr. Charles Press, professor of political science at Michigan State University. Press, the author of a book titled, The Political Cartoon, describes Zim’s work as…

…the kind of comic art where the last panel shows someone’s feet up in the air with the big word “plop!” It is at its most typical, characteristic of “correspondence school art.” The artist simplifies by offering clichés– “here is the way you draw a shoe, here is the way you draw an ear.” The clichés extend beyond the characters as well. Not only are the Jew and the Black drawn as stereotypes, but so are the English gentleman, etc. They all look like figures out of an unimaginative central casting.

Brasch attempts to explain why Zim has been forgotten…

By holding minorities up to ridicule, Zim had held all Americans up to ridicule– the minorities for the comic humor, the others for having allowed it. In an effort to cleanse a nation’s history, perhaps America deliberately tried to bury its past– and that included all art by all writers who used the stereotypes, even if much of their work was nonracist.

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It’s obvious why critics and historians have swept Zim under the rug— they see only the ethnic gags on the surface of Zim’s cartoons. They don’t see the keen observation, artful exaggeration and underlying humanity that makes a Zim cartoon so much more than just a simple joke based on racial differences. This is understandable for a historian whose principle focus is on social issues. But the surprising thing is that most artists and cartoonists have forgotten about Zim as well.

Overviews of the history of cartooning routinely begin with Wilhelm Busch and Thomas Nast in the 1860s, then jump forward to the introduction of newspaper comics with Outcault’s “The Yellow Kid” thirty years later. The decades between yawn like a black hole in the timeline. One might be led to believe that nothing much of importance took place in the interim. But the truth of the matter is, there were many great cartoonists and illustrators who lived and worked during that forgotten time— Joseph Keppler, A. B. Frost, Frederick Opper, Bernhard Gillam, James Montgomery Flagg, T. S. Sullivant and Eugene Zimmerman. These artists laid the foundation for everything that followed.

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I first encountered Zim’s art in a bound volume of Judge magazines dating from shortly before the United States entered World War I. By this time, Zim had already left the Judge staff to work freelance from his home in Horseheads, NY and his contribution to the magazine was minimal. His cartoons consisted of tiny characters slipped into the margins of the columns, much like Sergio Aragones’ doodles in Mad magazine many decades later. But even tiny and simplified, the vitality of his characters leapt off the page at me. It was clear that here was an artist worth investigating.

I began combing the online resources and used bookstores, but it was difficult to find information. However, when I mentioned Zim to my friend, Ralph Bakshi, his voice boomed through the telephone— “ZIM! Ha! Ha! You found Zim! I was keeping him as my secret!” Ralph explained that he had stumbled across a copy of Zim’s cartooning course in the late 1960s, and kept it close at hand as he created his first few animated features— Fritz the Cat (1972), Heavy Traffic (1973), and most importantly, Coonskin (1975). Ralph had kept his interest in Zim to himself all those years, but now he enthusiastically shared his thoughts with me, and allowed me to digitize rare material from his library. The puzzle pieces began to come together to reveal the true genius of this overlooked master of the art of caricature.

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Caricature consists of equal parts observation and exaggeration. Zim was adept at both. In his autobiography, Zim tells a story about one of his outings to find subjects to caricature…

When the instantaneous camera was invented, the Judge Company bought one as an experiment, or perhaps took it in exchange for advertising. It was in the form of a stiff false vest front covered with suiting, at the time fancy vests were in vogue. The camera was a flat, nickel-plated circular affair with a revolving plate capable of holding eight pictures and which operated automatically when the shutter closed. It was intended as a detective camera. You could approach a person and, with one hand in your trousers pocket, pull a string which led into the pocket, operating the shutter.

Hamilton and I were slumming for character studies one day and experimenting with the new little plaything. The first human to strike our fancy was an aged woman scavenger whose upper part was buried in a barrel of rubbish, with the rear elevation conspicuously aimed at us. After taking a couple of preliminary shots, we desired a study of the face as well, so Hamilton told me to get ready, and let out a tremendous yell. The woman jumped clear of the barrel. I pulled the string, got her face and quickly left the neighborhood, followed by a whole paragraph of the most exquisite profanity that ever warbled from the throat of a filthy bird.

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The level of specificity of detail in the clothing, architecture and attitudes of the characters in Zim’s cartoons reveal that he wasn’t just recycling clichés or stereotypes, he was drawing upon keen observation of the world he saw around him. Then, as now, the most exaggerated and interesting characters resided in the poorer neighborhoods, and in the 1890s, New York City contained a particularly wide palette of character types to study.

Before Zim entered the scene, caricature was reserved for the powerful and well-to-do. The cartoons in Life magazine featured men in tuxedos and top hats and women seated on sofas in palatial sitting rooms. All of the humor was contained in the caption, and the formulaic artwork was based more on an abstract concept of “good taste” than it was on anything remotely real. Puck magazine generally focused on politicians and public figures, taking a hard-hitting approach to current events. But Zim looked to the common man for inspiration. His work reflected the dynamic nature of the American melting pot better than any other artist of his day.

Zim exaggerated the ethnic differences he saw in the Irish, Black, Jewish and other immigrant neighborhoods of New York, but he didn’t just apply a stereotypical formula to his caricatures. Looking at Zim’s detailed images of everyday life among the various ethnic groups, one is struck by the amount of individuality among the characters. Each person is a unique personality, exaggerated to enhance his own peculiar characteristics.

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There is an important distinction to be made between clichéd stereoptyping of ethnic groups and the sort of observational caricature that Zim excelled at— the difference is honesty. Although the gags and dialogue occasionally strayed into routine formulas, Zim’s drawings never did. In his cartooning course, Zim spoke about the constraints sometimes placed upon him by the editorial staff…

An artist is not always the father of the joke attached to his drawing. Very often, an art editor accepts an idea or suggestion which is without a picture; thus the artist is requested to make a drawing to correspond with the idea. Now it may happen that the art editor and the artist differ in their conception of humor and inasmuch as the art editor’s opinion predominates in this case, the artist proceeds to illustrate the joke as directed.

The general public, while not aware of these facts, lays all the blame on the artist, and the artist must cheerfully accept the public’s condemnation. It has been my custom in such cases to insert a lot of interesting detail to make the drawing as catchy as possible, in order to hide the inferior quality of the joke.

A likely example of this sort of thing is a cartoon from the January 1896 issue of Judge’s Library. A black couple out for a night on the town are shown “under the gaslight” on 27th street…

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Armand (who has just proposed)— “Pore liddle honey,
yo’ looks blue! I’s ‘fraid yo’s cold.”
Pauline— “Dat ain’t cold, Gawge. Dat’s blushes!”

Zim makes no attempt to literally illustrate the gag— there is no blue cast to the blush on the girl’s cheeks. Instead, he pours all of his powers into capturing a moment. The boy, a dandy, has a cane tucked casually in his pocket and a hat perched on his head at a jaunty angle. His body is posed in such a way that we can discern the proud way he walks. The girl looks up to him shyly with an admiring glance out of the corner of her eye. The wind blows through her skirt, and the boy’s hand wraps around the girl’s waist holding her close.

But the most interesting detail isn’t obvious on first glance… the boy’s trousers are decorated with an American flag. Cartoonists at this time didn’t treat the flag lightly— its use served a specific purpose. Zim is depicting this Black couple as a typical American boy and girl out on a date. When you consider that Blacks had been slaves just few decades before, this simple image takes on a wider significance. Zim’s cartoon documents how Blacks at the time were making their first entry into mainstream American society. The silly gag sits below the frame in the dialogue, completely irrelevant to Zim’s eloquent image.

Zim didn’t ridicule his subjects; he caricatured them. The point of caricature is to use humor and exaggeration to illuminate truth. The fact that he made fun of so many types of people reveals that he held no special animosity against any particular group. He poked fun at everyone equally. And although he exaggerated the surface differences between people, he always kept his focus on portraying the essential truth at the core of his caricature.

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In his last “how to” cartooning book, How To Draw Funny Pictures (1928), Zim sums up his philosophy of caricature like this…

When you see a haughty person, do not be deceived into believing that it is some great man or famous woman out for a walk. More likely it is some fickle waitress or a pool hall loafer who won $3.00 in a crap game or inherited $47.60 from a dead aunt. Or possibly it may be some haughty clerk out showing off the latest dollar-down-and-dollar-a-week clothing. The really great are never haughty. My work and travels have brought me into contact with the great and near-great in all lines of endeavor— presidents and movie actors, authors and artists, Buffalo Bill and Bryan, Edison and Lindbergh— they were all hearty and unassuming.

Greatness makes one tolerant. Great men are not ashamed to stop on the street and talk to the man in overalls. They recognize the bond of friendship between the common people and themselves. The social sheik who feels above talking to a mere laborer is fooling only himself.

Take this little sermon to heart and treat every man as your equal; it will help you to get ahead. How truly the Bible says, “The greatest among you shall be the servant of all.”

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In our “politically correct” times, it is easy to look at the surface details of Zim’s cartoons and miss the humanity that courses through them just under the surface. Zim’s Correspondence School of Cartooning, Comic Art & Caricature is more than just lessons in how to draw. It’s a philosophy of what it means to be a cartoonist.

My purpose for compiling this book is to serve two purposes… First, I want to shine a spotlight on a forgotten artist whose work helped to lay the foundation for the whole history of cartooning. Secondly, I want to encourage current artists to consider Zim’s philosophy and apply his keenly observed honesty to their own work.

I would like to thank Ralph Bakshi, the Horseheads Historical Society, and the dedicated crew of volunteers at the Animation Resources for their invaluable assistance. I hope you find this book to be useful.

Stephen Worth
Director, Animation Resources
March, 2009

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