Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Pen-And Ink Passport to a Different World

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Pen-And Ink Passport to a Different World

Article excerpt

Is the day-to-day grind getting you down? Take a trip to Selby Gallery at Ringling College of Art and Design and check out its current art show. A trip to "Little Nemo: The Exhibition" is a trip to another world.

Cartoonist Winsor McCay is your conductor on this mystery tour. McCay was the visionary mind behind "Little Nemo in Slumberland," which ran from 1905 to 1913 in the New York Herald and New York American. The otherworldly Sunday comic strip (actually, an entire comic page) was surreal before the label had been invented. (Salvador Dali was in diapers as the time.) McCay was the strip's creator.

As a onetime professional cartoonist, I can tell you this exhibit fills me with awe, admiration and 100-proof jealousy. Like Mort Drucker and a handful of other cartoonists, McCay did his pen-and- ink line art freehand -- without any pencil underlay. (Though a cartoonist friend of mind swears he detects faint, blue pencil outlines here and there.)

McCay's art -- full page as it was -- had a strong resemblance to comic book panel design. (Or what we now call "graphic novels," now that comic books have grown up and become respectable.) McCay's art flowed brilliantly from panel to panel -- with a strong use of black and dynamic composition to make your eye go exactly where he wanted it to. So, brilliant layout, in the sense of static design. McKay was also brilliant at suggesting motion -- a polar bear giving chase, a horse galloping, Little Nemo walking on giant stilts, you name it.

He combined that brilliant depiction of action with brilliant figure design. When he inked his characters, McCay seemed to start with a strong black outline, then filled in the lighter line weights inside. …

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