Monday, July 03, 2006

Noel Sickles (1910-1982)

Beginning his career as a political cartoonist in the late 1920's, Noel Sickles moved (around 1933) into newspaper comic strip cartooning, drawing Scorchy Smith for the Associated Press. But by 1936, with the syndicate enjoying tremendous success from the sales of the strip, Sickles quit when his request for a raise was rebuffed.

He then began his career in commercial art, bringing to his work the inking technique he described as “chiaroscuro.” The heightened realism of Sickles' drawing and inking style had powerfully influenced his friend, Milton Caniff, creator of the newspaper stip Terry and the Pirates and without a doubt, Sickles was now having an influence on other illustrators of mainstream magazines.

Like Robert Fawcett, though Sickles was never the winner of any popularity contests with the readers, he was highly regarded by art directors and his fellow artists.

His influence, even to this day, should not be underestimated. He was "an artist's artist."

You can find this plus many other pieces by Sickles at full size in my Noel Sickles Flickr set.


  1. I love Sickles' work. A real underrated pioneer.

  2. I think you got Sickles exactly right, Leif. He didn't use a lot of frills or a flashy style to excite the attention of the public, but every artist recognized and deeply respected the quiet power and honesty of his astonishing drawings. I love his work and I am really looking forward to this week's Sickles installments on TI.

    Because there has never been a coffee table compilation of his work, it is often hard to find. Sickles did a fabulous set of drawings for Look Magazine in the 1960s about the Vietnam war, and another great series for Holiday Magazine in the 1950s about the Civil War battle of Shiloh. I didn't see them in your Flickr set but if you or one of your readers happen to have any of these images, it would be great to see them again.

  3. Thanks guys! Unfortunately I don't have the illustrations you mentioned, David. Hopefully someone who does will read this and help us out.

  4. Wow, the great Noel Sickles. I've been searching for reproductions of his work for years now. Simply beautiful.

    He was also a huge influence on the recently departed Alex Toth.

    Thank you for posting this.