Monday, March 26, 2012

Comedians by Norman Rockwell

Bob Hope

Jack Benny

the printed cover

Rockwell Painting Benny
Jerry Lewis, Ed Wynn

Rockwell & Lewis
Johnny Carson

Three created for the "Stagecoach" film poster:

Bob Cummings

Red Buttons

Slim Pickens

thanks to Ben Fentington

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Caricature Art of John Johns

Sid Caesar by John Johns

The late illustrator/caricaturist John A. Johns, (1921-2005), might 
very well be the textbook example of a "big fish in a small pond", the
 small pond being Pittsburgh, (not to disparage Pittsburgh). Johns
 was born in Pittsburgh and worked and remained there his entire
 life. Aside from perhaps Andy Warhol, Johns was the most
 renowned artist ever born in that city, although unlike Warhol, 
outside of Pittsburgh he was virtually unknown.

In 1952, Johns became an in-house "staff artist" at the Pittsburgh
Press, drawing caricatures, spot drawings, even maps, all on
 demand. Beginning around 1960, towards the end of each week,
finally came the big perk for him: creating a full color cover
image-- usually a current TV star,  for their Sunday TV
GRAPHIC magazine. Johns usually had little time to render
these covers, perhaps several hours from start to finish, and in
some cases less than an hour, yet for the next decade, he somehow
managed to turn out over 500 beautiful covers, vivid, lush and
funny images, some far more weirdly distorted than others. In fact
he was a master of distortion. It became a ritual for many in Pittsburgh
 to look forward to the John Johns TV caricature every Sunday.

Johns ended his tenure with the Pittsburgh Press in 1970, which
was also the year he made his single contribution to MAD magazine,
illustrating a 3 page piece written by Larry Siegel,
(scroll down below). MAD would often test potential contributers
 (including me) with an initial assignment and then decide whether
 the artist was worthy to join the ranks of "the usual gang of idiots".
 Similar to his fellow illustrators Sanford Kossin, (who wound up
doing a total of 2 assignments for MAD), and Bruce Stark,
(who would do 3), Johns would only appear in MAD once.
I'm not up on the facts, but speculate that his finished art for
the piece was perhaps a bit too similar to Mort Drucker's in style,
and MAD didn't need another Mort Drucker.

No matter, John Johns went on to be an, (and according to many, a
much loved), art instructor at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh
for the next 30 years, even becoming it's president for a decade. 
The renowned caricaturist Zach Trenholm is a walking
encyclopedia on caricature and it's history and recently
introduced me to the amazing work of John Johns who I had
never heard of, (although I did vividly recall his lone MAD piece
from 1970, especially his Sammy Davis, Jr. faces!). Many of
these John Johns images come from Zach's collection. Check out
his caricaturist site to see more great examples of current
 and forgotten caricaturists:

Howard Bender's great post on Johns' Pittsburgh
Comic Book Club Caricatures:

Sid Caesar, the printed cover

Imogene Coca
Bob Hope
Danny Kaye

Milton Berle
Fred Astaire

Joey Bishop

Burl Ives

Barbara Stanwick
Bing Crosby

Chuck Connors
Ernest Borgnine

Art Carney & Harvey

Mike Douglas

Ozzie & Harriet

Shirley Booth

Jonathan Winters

Vince Edwards as Ben Casey
Carol Burnett

Jack Benny

Ernie Ford
Fred MacMurray
Raymond Massey & Richard Chamberlain: "Dr. Kildare"
Dean Martin

Jimmy Dean
Jackie Gleason
James Arness: "Gunsmoke"

Ed Sullivan
Don Knotts & Andy Griffith
Raymond Burr
George Burns

Bill Cullen

Frank Sutton, Jim Nabors
Lloyd Bridges
Henry Fonda
Mike Wallace

Red Skelton
Alfred Hitchcock
Lucille Ball
Richard Boone
Jack Webb
Dennis Weaver, Rickey Der: "Kentucky Jones"
Johnny Carson
Barbra Striesand
Charles Bickford: "The Virginian"
Bill Cosby, Robert Culp: "I Spy"

Joan Blondell: "Here Comes the Brides"
Mitch Miller

Dick York
Sid Caesar & Imogene Coca
Hugh Downs: "The Today Show"
Jonathan Harris, Robot, Billy Mumy: "Lost in Space"
Merv Griffin
Lee J. Cobb

the cast of "Mission Impossible"

Eddie Albert

Rowan & Martin

Raymond Burr/Ironside

A 1972 Cartoonist Profiles article on Johns

(thanks to Stephen Kroninger for sending)

article about Johns from the Pittsburgh Press:

a montage of Johns images created for the National Cartoonist Society,
 including Tennessee Ernie Ford,
top right

A recent display of Johns original art

1968 Pittsburgh Press interior cartoon by Johns
Pg's one and two of John Johns' only piece for MAD magazine, from 1970, issue #133 (click to enlarge)
montage of various friends of John Johns, including Johns himself
 (on lower right with bow tie) and "Famous Monsters"
editor Forrest J. Ackerman
directly above him.

John's handwritten bio from the 1980 National Cartoonist Society Album
A nice blog post on John Johns...
Special thanks to Zach Trenholm, John Wendler, Howard Bender, Don Rogers, Stephen Kroninger and Richard Greene