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Celebrating Illustration, Design, Cartoon and Comic Art of the Mid-20th Century

"Rowland Wilson (the cartoonist's cartoonist)" - Bill Peckmann

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Last week's look at Rowland B. Wilson's Playboy cartoons certainly prompted a lot of enthusiastic commentary, including this nice note from Bill Peckmann:

"Dear Leif; All of us die hard Rowland Wilson fans can't thank you enough for posting 3 days of Rowland's (the cartoonist's cartoonist) art! Any chance of posting more?"

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Knowing that RBW had done work for Esquire magazine, I dug out a bunch from my old magazine collection and found some wonderful pieces from 1959/'60...

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It seems that no matter what generation you're from, Rowland Wilson has probably touched your life. During the '50s and '60s he did gag cartoons for the Saturday Evening Post, Esquire, Playboy, and many others. Here's a two-page spread Wilson both wrote and drew for Esquire in 1967.

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Also during the '60s, Wilson created a newspaper comic strip called "Noon."

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I found one daily strip original at the Heritage Auctions website.

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Until Bill mentioned it, I had no idea I was exposed to Rowland B. Wilson's work when I was a kid in the '70s watching Schoolhouse Rock on Saturday mornings on ABC. Bill wrote, "the two titles that Rowland designed were "Lucky Seven Sampson" and "Twelve Toes". (Side note- "Conjunction Junction" was designed by Tom Yohe and myself)."

For those of you too young (or too old?) to remember Schoolhouse Rock, here's Wilson's "Lucky Seven Sampson," found on YouTube...



Bill wrote, "Row's life's work includes so many pieces of great art done for many different venues. New England Life campaign, editorial art, TV Guide (inside & covers), other magazines and print ads, animated TV commercials, on staff at animation studios: Richard Williams studios in London where he won awards, Don Bluth studios in Dublin working on feature films, Disney Studios in LA, working on feature films. I'm sure I've left some stuff out."

While doing my online research, I found many examples of Rowland Wilson's magazine and TV commercial artwork - especially pencil sketches! - at a site called The Deep Archives, which sells original animation artwork.

Also, Michael Sporn has posted many wonderful photos of Rowland Wilson and many more examples of his work on his blog. If you click on Wilson's name in the sidebar of Michael's "Splog" you'll see tons and tons of RBW artwork from every period of his career.

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One last note from Bill, who wrote, "The good news there was that we found out Suzanne Wilson (RBW's wife) is in the process of putting together a "How To" book using Row's art and notes. I've seen some of those and they are unbelievable. There are also completed and unpublished graphic novels that Suzanne has that Row did before his untimely death."

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Bill concluded, "Suzanne and all of us fans still hope that some visionary publisher would still do a bio/collection of RBW and his art. It would certainly rank up there with the recent Sickles, Fawcett and Toth books."

* Many thanks to Heritage Auctions for allowing me to use the scans of the RBW "Noon" daily comic strip and the final image in this post, which is a watercolour original of a Playboy gag cartoon by Wilson, both from the image archives at ha.com

8 comments

  1. Randy Mohr11:57 AM

    Thanks so much for the splash of color from these posts of Wilson's work! I had no idea I was being exposed to so much fantastic art when I was a kid (except for the Playboy cartoons)! I even remember the Schoolhouse Rock bit!

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  2. Why thank you Bill!
    I must make full diclosure here and confess that WORKED with Rowland both at Bluth and Disney, so we hung out a fair bit and he did tell us alot of things about his life,his past,etc.... but i can't remember any of it now!
    he was all the things everyone has said so far.. great guy, loved to talk art, food, travel,art. we had a lot of great discussions, and shared a few drinks.
    Ok, one thing he would say: "Well, ( many comments prefaced with this word, ) it's easy to criticize... (pause) but it's hard not to!" (deep throated laugh)

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  3. Great stuff: the jokes, medieval, jungle, Frankenstein et al and great execution of them jokes.
    What an artist!

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  4. It's wonderful to see Rowland's great work, what a treasure & pleasure !
    Harry

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  5. Cyndi B3:56 PM

    Hell, I went to elementary school in the 90s and Schoolhouse Rock was a staple of my classroom. It never occurred to me to wonder about the animator, though, so this is fascinating!

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  6. What a wonderful commentary on Rowland's life and work, both in the great writing and visuals. I always think I have seen the entire oeuvre--but there are always a few new surprises!
    You will have to change your title to This Week's--or maybe even This Year's--Inspiration!
    Thank you!

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  7. Excellent, excellent, excellent! Thanks to these posts, I've become obsessed with finding more of Wilson's work. It's uncanny how modern his watercolors from the 70s seem as there are many young comics artists using that style today.

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  8. Adrian; thanks for that observation - you've just confirmed for me why I put this blog together in the first place. I'm delighted you're finding inspiration in the work of these talented - but sadly, mostly forgotten - masters of the graphic arts. That's really great to hear! When I went to art college twenty five years ago, we learned nothing about the era or the artists who had preceded us. I was working professionally for more than a decade before I even began to learn a few names like Al Parker and Robert Fawcett. I still learn something new and amazing ( like this latest series about RBW) every day! :^)

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