Everyone enjoys weird pictures that disrupt our conventional ways of thinking (as long as those disruptions don't require us to get up out of our armchair or sacrifice our allowance).
Walter Schnackenberg (1880 - 1961) did some mighty peculiar drawings. He was the Kafka of illustrators.
Schnackenberg trained in Munich and worked for for the magazines Jugend and Simplizissimus.
Yet, Schnackenberg was not a slave to his weirdness. He also did standard commercial work-- magazine covers, posters and theater illustrations. His conventional work demonstrated great control-- it was beautifully designed and colored, with strong draftsmanship.
Artists who try to fake their weirdness are usually not nearly as satisfying. For example, much of R. Crumb's power to disturb us comes from the fact that we can tell he is a genuinely demented personality. His funny, unsettling pictures give us a ringside seat to a life that, fortunately, we don't have to live ourselves. After we're done savoring his strangeness, we can close the comic book and return to normalcy.
But being weird is not enough. Crumb, like Schnackenberg, really knew how to draw. We see plenty of popular artists today trying to simulate strangeness in superficial ways. Some try to be strange by discarding artistic convention and making drawings that are a big, undisciplined mess. Others try to be strange by packaging bizarre or explicit content in child like or mechanical drawing (so the strangeness comes more from the contrast between form and content than from the image itself).
I think that often the best weirdness, the most unsettling drawings, comes from artists who do not relinquish control, but rather use it well.
George Martin, the producer for the Beatles, died this week. Before he passed away he discussed how the Sergeant Pepper album succeeded in shattering convention with psychedelic drug images and surrealistic references: "There's no doubt that that if I too had been on dope, Pepper would never have been the album it was. Perhaps it was the combination of dope and no dope that worked."