Friday, July 31, 2020

R.O. Blechman

When I was in college (Portland State University) long ago, my buddy and mentor David Harriman turned me on to all the great New York illustrators: Seymour Chwast, Milton Glazer, Saul Steinberg, Tomi Ungerer, and a guy by the name of R.O. Blechman.  Later, I found a book titled "Illustration: Aspects and Directions" in an old, dusty Portland book store, and in it I found a marvelous sequential cartoon by Mr. Blechman - I was thunderstruck!  The drawings were so delicate and shaky, yet the idea and concept was so powerful.

Then I saw one of his animated ads on TV - the famous Alka-Seltzer spot where a guy was talking to his stomach.  In fact, his art had such an impact on me that when I started to create animation, I used a derivative of his style.  Now I tell young artists to never copy other people's work, but I think that it's inevitable that we're all infuenced by the other work we see.  In fact, I've borrowed from so many people I've admired that my work is essentially a hybrid that appears to be unique to me.

I didn't meet Mr. Blechman until I moved to New York in the early 1970's.  I believe we probably met at some gallery opening or some similar cultural gathering, and I found him to be very friendly.  I remember later using his hole-punch machine to make my animation paper, and I showed him my new film, "Your Face".  Since then, we've become good friends and we even planned on a couple of big projects that, sadly, never got funded.

I bring up Mr. Blechman because I recently visited him and his lovely wife at their estate in upstate New York.  I felt privileged to enter his studios and check out his library - I always love examining another artist's library.  He had some wonderful obscure art books that I was fascinated with.

Later we had a nice lunch and walked around his very large estate.  Then I took a lovely swim in his pond and felt very refreshed. 

If you're not familiar with Mr. Blechman, please check out his masterful work, and especially his animation, including "The Soldier's Tale".

Here's my cartoon for this week - it's very relevant for these hot beach days.

--Bill P.

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