Sunday, July 31, 2022

PAUL COKER JR. (1929 -2022)

This week the great Paul Coker Jr. passed away at age 93.  Over a long career working for diverse clients such as Rankin/Bass, Hallmark cards and MAD magazine, Coker created handsome, well designed drawings of quiet quality while his peers were screaming for attention. 

Coker never drew naked barbarian chicks or musclebound heroes in spandex, but if you want to see what genuine strength looks like, study his work.

Coker's monsters for MAD's "horrifying cliche" series were better drawn than thousands of "serious" monsters drawn by other artists for comics and monster magazines.

I've previously written about how I admire Coker's linework:

In an era of micron pens, Coker reminded us what ink is for.


For his long career of quality and integrity-- scarce commodities today-- Paul Coker Jr. deserves our recognition and respect.   

Thank you, Mr.Coker.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022


Many of the most famous fine artists of the 20th century aspired to be commercial artists.  Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Willem deKooning, Roy Lichtenstein, Ad Reinhardt and yes, Claes Oldenburg (who passed away yesterday at the age of 93) all tried to make it as commercial artists but many lacked the skill or talent.  

Unlike several of his famous peers, Oldenburg really knew how to draw.

Ironing board monument for the lower east side of New York

His drawings are what I'd like to celebrate with you today.  

As a young boy in Chicago, Oldenburg was thrilled by his mother's clipping of images from American magazines.  After studying art at Yale, he found work drawing boll weevils for pesticide ads.  He eventually moved from illustration to pop art, and then became internationally famous for his monumental sculptures and proposed public works.  He proposed giant sculptures of unlikely subjects such as ironing boards, smoke, lipstick, and slices of pie.  But I agree with art professor David Pagel who observed that "More often than not, [Oldenburg's] preposterous proposals were primarily great excuses to make great drawings." 

For example, I love this drawing of immense dancers around a pile of other dancers:

Despite their bulk, the dancers are light on their feet.  They remind me of the prancing hippos in Fantasia:

I salute any artist who can draw landscapes this well from the shoulder:

At another time, Oldenburg did a series of drawings where he identified little snatches of design and brought them to our attention by isolating them within wide margins. 

Man carrying a large parcel


His drawings were bold, creative, smart and funny.  In the late '50s he experimented with healthy doses of  whimsy and irrationality:

moon bop

ya bla with car

Even with these child-like drawings he never lost his great sense of design. 

I have mixed feelings about some of Oldenburg's later works and sculptures but his excellent drawings are a fine legacy.