Archive for the ‘cartooning’ Category

Monday, February 17th, 2014

Editorial Cartoons: Len Norris, Master of Just About Everything

Len Norris

After the holidays, my pal Jo-Jo Baptista showed me a paperback book of political cartoons he picked up in a junk store when he was visiting his family. It was by a cartoonist I had never heard of before… Len Norris. The second I opened the book, I started to get excited. This guy had everything- great compositions, stylish design, solidly constructed characters, flawless perspective, funny drawings, great fabric folds, expressive hand poses, wild looking kids and animals- and he seemed to be able to draw anything from any angle. He caricatured automobiles and trains as well as the insides of gothic cathedrals and department stores, and depicted fabulous mansions as easily as he drew middle class living rooms. What a talent!

Len NorrisLen NorrisI did a little Googling and discovered that Norris worked as Art Director for Macleans magazines for a few years after WWII, then began a 27 year run as editorial cartoonist for the Vancouver Sun. Norris would lampoon stories from the paper, which he would refer to in a tiny box at the top or on the headline of a paper in a character’s hand. Today, without an understanding of the topical context, some of the gags are pretty puzzling. But it doesn’t matter- Norris’ drawings are spectacular.

It’s clear that Norris was inspired by the work of Ronald Searle, as are many current day animators. But Norris takes Searle’s ornamental line and wraps it around completely solid forms. This is exactly the sort of translation that a character designer would need to do if he wanted to adapt Searle’s style to an animatable model. But Norris isn’t just a Searle imitator. His characters are keenly observed and capture the spirit of Canadian culture in the 1950s. Look at these fantastic editorial cartoons and see if you don’t agree with Walt Kelly who was quoted as saying that Len Norris was “the best in the business”.

Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris
Len Norris

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resource

Editorial CartoonsEditorial Cartoons

This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Editorial Cartoons.

Friday, January 17th, 2014

Comics: Rowland Emett- Cartoonist & Tinkerer

Rowland Emett

I’m discovering that during the late 1940s and through the 50s and 60s, there was a group of British cartoonists who paralleled the style of Ronald Searle. I’ve already profiled Trog and the Canadian cartoonist Len Norris. Today, I’m going to introduce you to another interesting artist… one who had the mechanical skills to build his own cartoon world.

Rowland EmettRowland Emett was born in London in 1906. His father was an amateur inventor and his grandfather was a prominent engraver. He showed aptitude in both engineering and art at a young age. He studied at the Birmingham School of Arts and Crafts, and was drafted into the military during World War II. Beginning in 1939, he joined the staff of Punch magazine, where he was free to create cartoons on whatever subject he wanted… Usually, that subject was trains.

The cartoons at the bottom of this post come from Punch in 1947. At this time, Punch was at the peak of its circulation- 175,000 copies a week. After the war, there was a determined effort to brush away the cobwebs from the preceding century and update the graphic look of the magazine. More modern cartoonists began to replace the old guard, and subject matter became more centered around the everyday life of the average Brit, rather than the political struggles of the upper classes. Rowland Emett’s mechanical whimsey fit perfectly within this new framework.

Rowland Emett

But Emett wasn’t content to limit himself to pen and ink. His urge to tinker took over in 1951 when he created the Far Tottering and Oyster Creek Branch Railway at Battersea Park for the Festival of Britain. Intended to lift the spirits of the British public, the Festival of Britain received mixed reviews. Sir Thomas Beecham described it as “a monumental piece of imbecility”. But at least it was entertaining imbecility thanks to Rowland Emett.

Rowland Emett

Built of mahogany and copper over the top of a 15 inch gauge diesel electric engine that Emett obtained from a war surplus supplier, the cartoony railway was a huge hit with the public and repaid the cost of designing and building it in just three weeks.

Rowland Emett

The main locomotive was named “Nellie” after the engine in his Punch cartoons. In the five months the festival operated, around 8 1/2 million people visited the park. A lot of the design ideas for kinetic sculptures at the Festival of Britain influenced Disneyland’s “imagineers”, in particular, with the design of the “Small World” attraction and the Casey Jones ride in Fantasyland.

Thanks to our reader, Matt Jones here are a few links to videos of newsreels about Emett and his creations… These videos are mind-blowing!

Rowland Emett

Emett went on to design “The Featherstone-Kite Openwork Basketweave Mark Two Gentleman’s Flying Machine”, two copies of which still exist. He designed a “Forget-Me-Not Computer” for Honeywell and acted as a production designer for the 1968 film, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. His last great kinetic work was the “Aqua Horological Tintinnabulator”, a water powered musical clock which still operates at the Victoria Center in Nottingham. Rowland Emett was awarded the Order of the British Empire in 1978 and passed away in 1990 at the age of 84.

During December of 2012, the Ontario Science Centre hosted an exhibit of Emett’s machines. Here is an amazing video of them in action by David Sweeney.

Enjoy these fantastic cartoons by one of Britain’s most interesting creators…

Rowland Emett
Rowland Emett
Rowland Emett
Rowland Emett
Rowland Emett
Rowland Emett
Rowland Emett
Rowland Emett
Rowland Emett
Rowland Emett
Rowland Emett
Rowland Emett
Rowland Emett
Rowland Emett
Rowland Emett
Rowland Emett
Rowland Emett

Stephen Worth
Director
Animation Resources

Magazine CartoonsMagazine Cartoons

This posting is part of the online Encyclopedia of Cartooning under the subject heading, Magazine Cartoons.

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

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

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

A few months 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 Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

The course originally ran in 20 volumes. We have been able to find an earlier edition of the course to supplement and complete Ralph Bakshi’s set. There aren’t 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

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

There’s plenty of 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

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.

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

Zim’s technical skill was unmatched. Just look at the amazing precision and expressiveness of this drawing as he takes it from rough sketch to ink to watercolor.

The Zim Cartooning and Caricature Correspondence Course

The book is full of amusing contrasts. A tip on not thinning your ink too much leads into a speculation on what Rembrandt would be doing if he lived in modern times.

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. Look at these sketches of dogs… They make you feel like a flea bitten hound!

If you would like to see more from the Zim course, let me know in the comments.

Stephen Worth
Director
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.