Double-Holiday (Or Maybe Triple)
Today is another of my artist holidays … well … actually it’s TWO of my artist holidays all rolled into one square on the calendar. June 21st is both Al Hirschfeld’s and Berke Breathed’s birthdays.
Al Hirshfeld is one of the great caricaturists of the 20th-century, indeed (in my opinion) of all time. I became a fan of his work long before I knew how brilliant it was. Growing up, my family always had a subscription to the NY Times and on Sunday mornings, while dad read the sports, mom read the travel section, and my brother and sister squabbled over the comics (from Newsday … the Times doesn’t HAVE a comics section), I would stare fascinated at page 1 of the Arts & Leisure section at a massive Hirschfeld depicting some new Broadway show or movie blockbuster. I was lost in the wild loops and swirls and hypnotized by the human forms they made … and I still am to this day. Anyone who has seen my attempts at caricature can not doubt that Hirschfeld was a major influence on me … I only hope that it is occasionally also true in my other drawings as I try to capture a burst of motion (or emotion) in just a few simple lines.
Berke Breathed, on the other hand, is one of my greatest influences in terms of learning the art of the four-panel comic strip. Bloom County premiered in our local papers right about the time I was starting to realize that my interest in cartooning was more than just an idle fancy. It was THE comic strip of its day … the one that everyone opened up the paper to read … the one that we talked about in the cafeteria the next day. Look at any of the comic strips I did in high school and college, and you’ll see the Breathed influence. And I hope that you can hear the echo of his timing, irreverence, and sense of the absurd in the comics I’m still doing today.
I’ve been in the deadline cave pretty much constantly for the past few weeks, which means that I missed commenting on a few moments of significance … not least among them, another of my artist holidays — the birthday of M.C. Escher.
Although I’m sure I saw some of his drawings earlier in my life, the first time I REMEMBER being introduced to Escher was my first week at university. An enterprising art dealer was having a sale of prints, mattes, and frames on SUNY B Peace Quad, and one of my dorm neighbors was specifically looking for Reptiles … and he found it, too! Another neighbor bought Waterfall. But while I was fascinated by his reality-bending pieces, I had my eye on Hand With Reflecting Globe — still one of the most startling self-portraits I’ve ever seen. But over the years, the Escher piece that has most captivated me is Drawing Hands … it just speaks volumes to me about the sense of various levels of “reality” that can co-exist in a drawing.