Monday, November 29, 2010

BILLY IRELAND: MENTOR


Last time I blogged about Ireland of the Dispatch, the current exhibit by the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at OSU's Thompson Library Gallery. One aspect of the exhibit I left out were three display cases dedicated to artists for whom Ireland was a friend and mentor. The first, and most famous, is Milton Caniff. Caniff went to Ireland and applied for a job at the Columbus Dispatch his first day of classes as a freshman at 18, and hired the next day. These were the days before photojournalism became economical, so papers and magazines had artists depict the news. Caniff was hired on full time after college, but let go in 1932 due to the Depression. Caniff got his attitude about his work from Ireland, who considered himself first and foremost a newspaperman who drew, not an artist who worked at a newspaper. Selling papers, which carried his features, was always part of what drove Caniff. Decades later in dedicating a drawing to Ireland he signed it, "still his pupil."

There are examples of Caniff's art on display, including his "tryout" piece for Ireland. The strip they have is an original 'Terry'. I've included this original early 'Steve Canyon' just as an example.


Noel "Bud" Sickles never worked for Ireland, but knew him well. Both were from Chillicothe, and Sickles caddied for Ireland as a youth. Sickles would travel to Columbus to visit Ireland and seek advice and critique on his art. He would take the train or hitchhike from Chillicothe, showing up dishevelled and barefoot. Sickles eventually found work in newspapers, such as a stint at the Columbus Citizen. Of Ireland, Sickles said,"...he was gifted with great dignity, which complemented his always jolly nature."

The above sketch by Sickles is part of the exhibit. Two of his paintings are also on display.



Caniff and Sickles met in the offices of the Dispatch and formed a mutual admiration society. They were fast friends, setting up a studio together when both worked in New York, even living together for a time. Their friendship is keenly felt in the exhibit examples above - Caniff's tribute strip for the death of Sickles, Sickles' caricature of Caniff on a napkin.

The big surprise of the exhibit was a third case devoted to Ireland mentee Art Poinier. I had never heard Poinier's name before the exhibit. Poinier worked as a sports cartoonist at the Columbus Dispatch from 1929-1931, so he was there at the same time as Caniff. I don't know if he and Caniff had much interaction. Poinier's name is not mentioned in R.C. Harvey's Caniff biography. From 1940 to 1976, he an editorial cartoonist in Detroit. Poinier also had his own comic strip in the late '30s. It was a pantomime strip about a mischievous called "Jitter". He left the strip when he was called up by Uncle Sam and did not return to it. An original "Jitter" strip is part of the exhibit, and some other examples can be found here. The above picture is a 1959 portait of American poet Edgar Guest.


"Ireland of the Dispatch" runs until January 2, 2011. It is a free exhibit in the Thompson Library Gallery on the OSU campus. The library does have weekend hours, but times may vary over the December break. Check with the library for hours at (614) 292-OSUL.


Sources:
Caswell, Lucy Shelton, 'Billy Ireland', 2007, Ohio State University Libraries, Columbus, Ohio.

Harvey, Robert C., Meanwhile, 2007, Fantagraphics, Seattle.

Ireland of the Dispatch, an Exhibition at the Ohio State University, 2010.

1 comment:

Randy Reynaldo said...

One of these days I hope to visit that museum!!