Monday, May 18, 2009

Frank Godwin, Illustrator (2)

Why I (heart) Frank
I'm due for a return visit to the library tomorrow for some more Godwin scans. In the meantime I offer a couple of fine samples I found on the Internet. I want to share them both because they're great reproductions and because they show off the many sides of this versatile illustrator. First up is an original Godwin painting from Illustration House. It came without source information.
While a little slicker in finish than many of Godwin's paintings, this presentation of an immigrant family demonstrates that Frank painted as well as he penned. I get a late 1920s vibe from the costuming, though the smooth painting style foreshadows late-1930s and early-1940s illustrations. The husband's face captivates me. His expression tells volumes about his thoughts, his experiences, his personality. A beautiful piece!

Also from Illustration House came this penanink rendition of Christ giving the money-changers what for:I believe this is part of a series Godwin illustrated for Collier's in the late 20s. This is Frank at his black-and-white best. Though Jesus' pose is a bit stiff, it's offset by everything else in the picture. The play of light against dark, the posing of the money-changers, the swirling drapery sculpted by seemingly hasty but actually carefully-drawn pen strokes, the handling of the high- contrast lighting on the men's faces...who could ask for more? This man was born to draw!

There's a lot of Rusty Riley to be found online, of which this is just one.It's a shame the scripts on Rusty Riley were so mundane...Godwin poured all of his skill and experience into the strip . Some of his Rusty drawings are as good as anything he ever did. This particular daily doesn't fall into that category. Technique-wise it's more of a "B/B plus" sort of original. I chose it because of the way it hearkens back to Godwin's Judge days, with the flamboyant caricatures of the painter and the mustachioed art buyer, and their exaggerated poses. I also like the "time lapse" effect of the last two panels. It's a rarity for Godwin. Like most cartoonists of his day he treated panels as a series of tableaux. The trick is really effective here. It's almost like looking at a flip book. Speaking of posing, the two crooks by the window are as lively as the foreground figures.

I saved this one for last...a real find. And a frustrating one! The site I took this from offered scans of a number of obscure early comic strips, mostly Sundays. Many seem to have come from Canadian papers. But there was no info on the pieces and no way to contact the owner. Here is the link to the main page. I recommend following all the sub-links. This magnificent page is surely one of Godwin's early syndicate jobs. In old newspapers there were countless examples of these "montage" pages in which the cartoonist suggested variations on a theme with a series of vignettes. Often these pages seemed like an excuse for the artist to draw his favorite stuff! They certainly brought out the best in many cartoonists--like this one did in Godwin. I'm guessing this was from the late teens or early twenties, as William
S. Hart's star had faded by the mid-1920s.

From the scribbled background lines and the sketchy treatment of the lion it's clear Frank knocked this out in a hurry. The fact that this knocked-out montage is still a knock-out technically demonstrates how great a command Godwin had of his medium and his drawing skills. Little marvels appear everywhere you look. The turbulent drapery on the "nice little spinster" (some spinster!) and her royal suitor...the Kley-like vigor of the thunderstruck Monte Carlo gamblers...everything about that lion!! And check out the hands. As one who's had trouble all his life drawing hands, I'm mesmerized by the way Godwin indicates them with the merest of gestures, yet they burst with convincing life.

Oh, geeze...I'm gushing again. Forgive me my purple prose, I just cain't get enough o' Frank!


john adcock said...

Hi Ron,
It was March 7, 1925 from the Winnipeg Free Press, posted on an early website I put up before taking up blogging. It was published in the magazine section. I agree -- great cartoonist -- mundane scripts.

Michael Wm Kaluta said...

Dang! I was looking for Walter Jardine art, found the BVD drawing you discovered and then spotted Frank Godwin's name. (Godwin's been a fave of mine since college days, along with Johnny Gruelle and John R Neill) then I saw your Subject List on the right... well: I'll now not get any sleep!



Emphyrio said...

Hey, that's pretty cool. Mike Kaluta!

Yes, Godwin was incredible. Sadly, the site you link to is defunct.

Thank you!