Wednesday, May 13, 2020


In an era plagued with viruses, squabbling politicians and fake news, the honest drawings of Noel Sickles make a great disinfectant.

Here you'll find no cheating, no gimmicks, no subterfuge.  Even in this tiny spot illustration, notice how Sickles captured the sagging of the stagecoach and the foreshortening of the road.

Even a small truth is not to be discounted in this day and age.

Sickles didn't draw the surface of things; he understood their underlying structure and that gave his line speed and courage.  His drawings don't hide or obscure-- to the contrary, they share Sickles' x-ray vision with us.

Sickles might be better known today if he'd had a more flamboyant style.  But so many artists use "style" to conceal weaknesses in draftsmanship.  Sickles' only style seemed to come from his sincere love of drawing.  For example, on the following cover there are no sharp cinematic techniques, no wide angle shots or close ups of faces.  Sickles doesn't experiment with inventive media or stylistic exaggerations.  This is just a straight-on drawing of the backs of 25 people from a distance:

Yet, Sickles shows us that if you're good enough, a long distance drawing of 25 backs can make a strong picture.

Sickles can't even bring himself to paint that great big backdrop of a sky with a wash, he draws it with the same churning strokes than he applied to the overcoats in the crowd, only amplified to the scale of the sky:

I don't manufacture Purell sanitizer so perhaps the best substitute I can offer is a few days of Noel Sickles' honest drawings, which I'll start tomorrow.


Tom said...

Looking forward to it David and this post is a good start. The drawings makes one realize how important the geometry of art is. Scale proportion and orientation is so well established that a only the barest amount of detail is needed to bring the pictures to life.

It is interesting out the same compositional device can be used to create pictures with different meanings. The similarity between the Roosevelt picture and the hang man is uncanny. The crowds are similar and both protagonists are framed by a decisive rectangles.

Rick said...

Thank you for posting. It's always refreshing to see real talent on display in this age of mediocrity.

MORAN said...

Sickles is awesome. He and Milton Caniff were best friends.

kev ferrara said...

That Truman whistlestop Sickles is classic Sickles. Reminds me of Pyle saying that he spent more time trying to make a picture look 'not composed' than he spent actually composing it.

The other inked spot drawings are very fresh, but feel more descriptive than evocative.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, David! I am really enjoying this set of posts. I love the idea that a drawing can be honest and true.