Thursday, August 21, 2008

Alex Toth on Noel Sickles

"There are very few artists' artists left to get all hopped up about in our medium, but [Noel Sickles] still gets ovations from us all. He's got the talent and 'the touch'. "

"Okay, you all know what talent is: you know when you see it and when you don't. But what the hell is 'the touch'? you ask."

"Oftimes it's hard to verbalize... but let me try. I'll put it this way: It's just not enough to have 'talent'. How you apply that talent is what demonstrates touch. Noel's learnt to apply it very well from the start."

"[The touch is] a joyous thing to perceive in any work of art -- that elevates it far and above its contemporaries, and causes responses of wonder, respect, admiration, and professional envy. It is: "The Majesty of the Simple thing"! (Repeat after me -- 100 times -- "The Majesty of the Simple Thing.") "

"It is creating a piece of work by a subtractive process rather than an additive one! Once the necessary elements for a story telling picture have been selected and set down on paper in their most effective arrangement, the matter of delineating them remains."

"How one solves the problem, in the "finishing" stages, tells us either too much (more than we really need, or want to know) or not enough!"

"Ahh, but the artist with that "touch" -- he finds that magical, marvelous balance point between the two choices. His eye, intellect, taste, and hand find the razor's edge dividing them. The final assembly of lines tells us as much about the artist as it does his subject. In economy lies the truth."

"To add to the truth subtracts from it!" A beautiful quote. (Heard or read months ago. Sorry, can't recall the source.)"

"What I learned from Noel was... an appreciation for economy, clarity, line, mass, pattern, perspective, dramatic moment, subtlety, light source and drop shadow mechanics, negative and positive silhouette values, shapes and the overlapping of same, tension."

"How much of these studied observations and lessons learnt have actually found their way into my own doodles is a moot question... [But] with elegance, subtlety, and style honed with economy, and with that abundance of talent, Noel produced [artwork] that knocked 'em dead!"

Excerted from an article that originally appeared in The Buyer's Guide © 1977 Shel Dorf

* My thanks to Brian Postman for providing today's scans.

* The book Scorchy Smith and the Art of Noel Sickles is available from Amazon and all bookstores, comics shops, and online retailers. If your local bookstore doesn't have it in stock, they can order it for you: ISBN 978-1-60010-206-6. The text excerpted is © 2008 Bruce Canwell.

* My Noel Sickles Flickr set.


  1. Anonymous2:03 PM

    thanks for posting these,leif....i had a lot of fun locating this you know sickles did a ton of stuff for readers digest condensed,brian...

  2. Anonymous6:08 PM

    LEIF.....The guy was just phenominal! Thanks, Leif, for showing a bunch of Sickles stuff that I'd never seen.

  3. a great quote from grouchy, hard-to-please Alex Toth, too!

  4. Toth was indeed hard to please, which made his kind words for my first book, written in his inimitable way on postcard, so much more enduring. Can't think of a greater reward for ones work.

  5. Great work ,very realistic , it reminds me a little from joe kubert an other legend,I'll try to see if i can get some of his work if that's still possible. thanks for this page.