Thursday, June 05, 2008

Dick Stone, Collier's... and Sickles

Dick Stone told me that he especially enjoyed working for Collier's... that some of his favourite pieces (which he hung onto) are the ones he did for that magazine.

I asked him which artists he admired at the time and he listed 'the usual suspects': Al Parker, Austin Briggs, Robert Fawcett... then he mentioned a name you don't hear often enough when discussing great mid-century illustrators... Noel Sickles.

That confirmed for me something I'd thought about Stone's work since I first saw it. This piece below, one of my favourite Dick Stone illustrations, really has a Noel Sickles feel to it. So much of Stone's work does.

Recently I'd been discussing Sickles with Charlie Allen, whose line art was our topic just a couple of weeks ago, and Charlie put it so succinctly:

"[Sickles]... was one of the greats of my time," writes Charlie, "and I was, and still am, in awe of his amazing work. He demonstrates the juggling act that I've mentioned....drawing, composition, and value dominate....color is secondary."

"If you notice, each figure he draws, even in a loose line sketch, is a different person....a real individual. And they're not from model shots. I've never seen such a fluid, relaxed, but disciplined draftsman, composer, with such dramatic control of values."

I think you can see many of those same qualities in Dick Stone's work.

Stone told me that he had the greatest admiration for Sickles, and that he thought "the illustration work Noel Sickles was doing during W.W.II is some of the finest ever done by anyone."

My Dick Stone Flickr set.


  1. I think that Stone and Allen were both right-- Sickles was so good it was scary. Mostly, it is the talented artists who recognized it; Sickles didn't have a lot of flash or a style the public would recognize. When it came to drawing, he had a god-given gift.

  2. great stuff and info!

  3. David; if I remember correctly, didn't Sickles work with Milt Caniff and have a sort of tranformative effect on Caniff's art?

    Seems, like Fawcett, Sickles can be considered an 'illustrator's illustrator'.

    Drazen - thanks!

  4. Anonymous2:29 PM

    Yes! Real good stuff here again!

    Guess the fifties (and perhaps sixties)were not only a great time for illustrators, but also a great time for us magazine readers and consumers - still more so for all the readers and onlookers endowed with some kind of artistic sensibility.

    What's today's digital half-automated stuff in comparison...

    Very interesting also the Dick Stone website: an illustrator gone Jackson Pollock. I like his abstract work, it somehow carries all his past experience. May be one day he will do something figurative again, carrying on...

  5. Anonymous4:46 PM

    I'm pretty sure you're right about the effect Sickles had on Caniff - that was back when Sickles was still doing Scorchy Smith.

    Bill Angus

  6. rich; I am always impressed by the letters to the editor regarding any given issue's illustrations. Readers really were paying attention, artistic sensibility or not... its a shame that interaction no longer exists. Except perhaps in comics.

    Bill; yeah, I think I read (a long time ago in the Comics Journal?) that Sickles opened Caniff's eyes to the potential of black and white rendering... that you could take it way beyond pretty much everything being done on the comics page at that time.