By: Cornelius - On: 02/05/2008 12:43:46 - Comments: 7
We got sent some cartoons today by an older American cartoonist. I won’t reveal his name, but his work appeared in all the major cartoon publications in the 70s and 80s notably The New Yorker and Playboy.
Personally I think the cartoons are brilliant. His style of drawing and humour are part of the reason I liked humour cartoons in the first place. In a few simple lines and a handful of words he can make me laugh.
My concern is, how well will they sell? I’m sure they will do reasonably well, as good quality material will always find a home, and we are very good at finding a market for material. But something in my bones tells me that they will not sell as well as I think they deserve. Fashions in artwork have altered over the years, and the gentle humour of many of the images will pass younger readers by. It’s not that younger readers wont enjoy them, and admire the talent that has gone into them. It’s just that they won’t have the excitement of something from their own generation. It doesn’t matter that newer material may not be as good (though often it is) it will just be that the younger material will speak more directly to its younger audience in terms of cultural references, humour styles and the general feel of the artwork. As the younger audience are now the commissioning editors, art buyers, picture researchers and general consumers this does mean that some of the more experienced cartoonists aren’t selling as well as their talent should merit.
How do more experienced artists combat this problem? They have huge talent, they have experience, but they are beaten to the work by younger hungrier artists. The only solution is to stay relevant. Artists don’t have to change who they are, but they must bend a little to reflect the world around them. I was reading a biography of Laurence Olivier recently. He was the greatest actor of his generation respected both on stage and on film from the 30s onwards. However the length of his career and power of his fame wasn’t just down to his talent. While other classical actors such as Richardson and Geilgud were more restricted in the parts they were offered as fashions changed, Olivier moved with the times. So that as theatrical plays moved from the drawing room satires of Coward in the 1930s to the kitchen sink dramas of Osbourne in the 1950s Olivier was part of that change, and when films changed from Samuel Goldwyn's melodramatic Wuthering Heights in 1939 to Marathon Man with method actor Dustin Hoffman in 1976 Olivier had changed too. He was still Olivier, but with a much broader approach to his art. I think all creators can learn a lot from this approach. It doesn’t mean bending with every whim of fashion, but it does mean reflecting the world around you, which is surely what all good art should be about.