Fine Cartoon Art

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Archive for the ‘is it Art?’ Category

Yes, Norman Rockwell Was TOO a Fine Artist.

Posted by jtebeau on March 1, 2010

"The Texan" by Norman Rockwell

I remember shortly after Norman Rockwell died, our art teacher Mr. Stewart prophesied (correctly) that Rockwell would shake the label of “illustrator” and one day be considered a fine artist. By Jove, Mr. Stewart was right. The same is happening for cartoon artists. Witness the reputations of the late Al Hirschfeld and Charles Shulz, not to mention that of the living Robert Crumb.

So what if he worked as an illustrator? So did Toulouse-Lautrec. Rockwell was a skilled artist who told stories in his work. He communicated ideas and a distinct point-of-view. Yes, he was paid by an organization to do this. So was Michelangelo. It was called the Church.

In Tyler Green’s excellent Modern Art Notes, Elizabeth Broun of the Smithsonian American Art Museum had this to say:

“Norman Rockwell for the most part was ignored by serious museums and art historians until recently. He’s still kind of unexplored territory and we think he’s still is not taken fully as seriously because that ‘illustrator’ label is attached to him.”

Mr. Green’s interview with Ms. Broun illustrates some of the ideas I’m talking about in this young blog. Where are the lines between cartoons, illustration and art? Why are the defined boundaries drawn as they are, and who defines them? When does illustration transcend the genre and become Art? I’ll submit this: a hack illustrator puts nothing of himself in his work. An artist like Rockwell does. Mr. Green’s post (and in fact his entire blog) is a good place to graze on subjects like this.

What do you think? Is Norman Rockwell not worthy of being called an Artist? Why?


Posted in Illustration, is it Art?, Painting | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

What is “Fine Cartoon Art”?

Posted by jtebeau on February 17, 2010

When Picasso drew, that was considered art.

"Igor Stravinsky" by Pablo Picasso

When Vonnegut wrote, so was that.

Now, I ask you: why, when you combine the two (illustrated images plus text), why does it get such a bad rap? Why is drawing + art disparaged, out of hand, as junk? As not worthy of the moniker “art?” I’ll tell you why. Bad PR. Massive misunderstanding. An out-dated negative image perpetuated by not only detractors of the medium, but also by its so-called proponents. Think Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons.

Worst Frontman Ever. Matt Groening's "Comic Book Guy"

Now, I’m not saying that all comics (and cartoons and other cousins and kin) are fine art. Maybe some aren’t even “art” (whatever that is). I’m just saying that, when done properly and with something to actually say by the artist and/or writer, comics are most certainly art. Sometimes damn fine art. Why wouldn’t they be? If a drawing is skillfully rendered and/or imbued with personal significance by the artist, and the text is likewise meaningful, striving to communicate something (story, feeling, POV, etc.), then of course it’s art. How “fine” it is is up to the reader/viewer to decide. But that’s always been the case, whether with books, paintings, music or movies.

Movies. There’s something we now consider art that at one time were dismissed as silly, frivolous, artless diversions. Some are bad art, some are great. But if the makers of a movie are trying to say something and to even the slightest degree succeeding, then it’s art. Maybe when Edison first filmed a guy sneezing that wasn’t (though Duchamp would probably say it was), but the medium grew up. Movies grew into their big-boy pants over the years and indisputably became art. Sounds about right. And comics have done the same, so let’s just accept that and move on. Comic, cartoons and all their ilk are art.

Now why the hell don’t most American museums (and most Americans, for that matter) feel that way? This is one of our art forms, like jazz, blues, rock and movies. Europe and Japan are getting it. It’s high time we Americans, all the way to the highest levels of the Art World (gag… it kills me that it’s called that, like it’s separate from the Rest of the World, us peons) get this. We should embrace comics and cartoons as real Art. Because it is. And if you disagree, you’re way behind the curve on this, like people who said genre painting (like that no-talent Vermeer) was junk, photography was malarkey, movies were a joke and that jungle music, “Jazz” was just noisy, heathen voodoo.

Comics are art. More on this later.


Posted in is it Art? | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »