Thursday, August 14, 2008

Chalk Talkin'

This is a picture-minded age. Science tells us that the eye registers impressions 22 times faster than the ear. When the eye and the ear are simultaneously and harmoniously engaged, the mind gives undivided attention to what is presented.

This accounts for the instantaneous success of the "talkies". The same principle applies to cartoons and the comic strips- forerunners of the talking motion pictures of today.

Sometimes I start off a class with this quote.

It comes from a postcard that was lodged in my 1920 First Edition of E. G. Lutz' Animated Cartoons.

The postcard is a response mailer for Duane Roberts from Buffalo. There's no date, but given the 2 cent postcard postage, that would date it from between 1952 and 1958. Pretty late in the game to be touring the vaudeville circuit.

From his photo, you'd think Mr. Roberts was running the Boston-Syracuse route in the 1920s with his double round collar and tie pin (the double round went out of fashion in the Depression). Its no surprise that a man with sartorial leanings towards the antique would choose to spend his life in a calling that time forgot.

Even without a trace of knowledge on Mr. Roberts or skill as a talker and draughtsman, I'd confidently guess that his shows -even if they weren't popular, packing the house -were loved by everyone who attended.

There's a magic to watching someone draw. You see images form out of void and grow into fully realized objects. It's the grandeur of creation produced before your eyes.

This is the great appeal of our Naked Campaign series -to see that the magic of illustration has a hand behind it makes it, somehow, even more mystifying.

R. Sikoryak did a "splatter paint" talk at a show a couple years back, telling a complex story that ultimate resolved on a pop art Bushmiller Nancy. I can't recall the story, but the rapture of the moment, the feeling of excitement that something was being born has stayed with me.

How many people were similarly transfixed by Mr. Roberts Sunday afternoon sessions? How many other lone men traveled town to town with a board and an easel drumming up meager paychecks with a quaint and forgotten art?

(above and upside down) "ONE PICTURE is worth ten thousand words". Is that what the Chinese writing says? Did Mr. Roberts create this logo? Did the artist resort clip art? Why a Chinaman? Did he pre-sage the Beijing Olympics? Or were his lonely nights dining under neon "Chow Mein" signs in strange towns imprint themselves so deeply on his soul that his most free and private work couldn't shake the image of Fu Manchu and his long finger jabbing into his heart?

1 comment:

Oscar Grillo said...

The celluloid collar of Mr. Robert's shirt in the photo looks more late tens or twenties than fifties.