“If I’m drawing a certain type of character, I try to get into the spirit of the thing – and my wife complains about the faces I make while I’m working. All cartoonists, I guess, are actors in a way.”
— George Price to Jud Hurd, Cartoonist Profiles, March 1975
If you can find it, Jud Hurd’s Price interview is worth seeking out. Price (pictured above) who died in 1995 at the age of 93, is best remembered for his unparalleled mathematical drawing style, characterized by the split pen line created by his crow quill.
Let us pause briefly and consider the idea of Mrs. Price watching Mr. Price draw. I wonder how many spouses or partners make a habit of watching their cartoonist mate draw.
I could never work with an audience. From time-to-time while drawing I’ll realize I’m mimicking the face I’m working on. My only audience at those moments would be our Jack Russell Terrier, Bernie, who sometimes plants himself under my desk, at my feet. If there is such a thing as an audience of one, Bernie qualifies. Once I realize he’s staring at me, I can’t work. I cap my pen, leave my desk and do my best to resolve his issue (after all, he’s not there to be entertained — he wants something, such as the cat’s bowl of milk).
But I digress. Heading back to the Price interview, it was “All cartoonists …are actors…” that really caught my attention. I’ve long thought of cartoonists as spies, sponges, stage directors, costume designers, lighting experts, set designers, script writers (script doctors!), hair stylists, haberdashers – well, you get the idea. But until I read this Price interview it never occurred to me that we were (possibly) actors as well.
This explains the number of cartoonists who have sought and seek the stage. Otto Soglow was famous for his love of the stage, and Thurber appeared in his own Thurber Carnival on Broadway, winning a special Tony for the adapted script. Peter Arno performed in summer stock, as well as investing his talents on Broadway as a producer and playwright (he also did time in Hollywood making a brief appearance in a 1937 film, Artists and Models). Frank Modell appeared in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories. In more recent times, Victoria Roberts has won acclaim for her stage appearances as Nona Appleby. And then there are the numerous cartoonists currently involved in stand-up comedy.
So are all cartoonists actors? I suppose you could say (super-duper groan alert!) some are drawn to it.