Looking at Frank Godwin’s inking . . .

One of the truly amazing things about Frank Godwin and his art is his ability to use inks effectively. In the course of his career, Godwin produced an enormous quantity of art. I would think that a reasonable estimate of the total number of portrayals of people in his drawings (one drawing could have a dozen or more) would easily be in the tens of thousands. This being the case, drawing a person must have been second nature to him.

And, of course, other physical objects  (houses, clouds, horses, dogs, snow, and a thousand other things) presented no difficulty for him.

Just where Godwin picked up his many inking techniques is not really known. One of his principal influences was James Montgomery Flagg, and sometimes it is difficult to tell a Flagg drawing from a Godwin drawing, and vice versa.

But I suspect that Godwin had entire arsenal of techniques that Flagg did not have. And overall, typical Flagg drawings seem looser than typical Godwin drawings. A lot of Godwin’s work on the Connie strip was pretty loose, but when Flagg was drawing loosely, the result was not always all that satisfactory. Sometime I may go into this in more detail, but Flagg’s work on the Book of the Month strips kind of comes to mind.

Godwin’s drawings, I am sure, were often produced almost as though he were sculpting.  If he needed to remove some metaphorical clay in order to create a certain shadow, he knew exactly what kinds of strokes to make that would achieve a shadow of a desired size and density (or of appropriate varying density).

The following image (from the original art for the December 28, 1955, Rusty Riley daily) demonstrates what I have been saying. This shows Tex’s friend Luke, with a blanket on his lap. In some ways this is very routine for Godwin. It is an excellent composition, but composition was one of the things Godwin was particularly skilled at, and you will rarely, if ever, see a Godwin drawing that is not beautifully composed.

Notable here is a fairly standard technique of showing the more important features in more detail than the less important. This more or less simulates our way of looking at things, since we are really only focus on one main thing at a time. (I think that too is pretty standard. Andrew Loomis teaches on this technique (without mentioning Godwin) in his main book on illustration.)

Of course, there are several “things” in this drawing, each of which is seen as a separate phenomenon. And in fact, I think there are about a dozen places where one’s eyes can come to rest when looking at this panel. Some people will just glance across the whole, then read the speech balloons. But if you want to, you can have your eyes linger on several details of Rusty’s appearance, and the only place you will be disappointed is when you look at his hat.

The table and lamp, and the picture on the wall, are all blocked-in roughly, but that’s okay, because we don’t want to know about them.

But the focus of this panel is plainly Luke. And, interestingly, the segments of the “Luke portion” that received the most loving care are Luke’s blanket and Luke’s chair.

(Continued below the image.)

snow rusty satu cropped 1 100

Now in the following image, we see a closer view of the chair and blanket. Here we begin to see better the skill that Godwin applied to this image. The image rages from areas of no detail at all (the lampshade, the opening of the doorway), to areas of high detail, found in the chair and blanket, yet the shadow under the arm of the chair to the right is handled very casually, because it is only needed to supply an impression — no one is looking closely at that (except us).

(Continued below the image.)

snow rusty satu sat some crop

In the following image, one can easily discern the fact that many different types of strokes (probably both pen and brush) were used to create the overall effect. I would say that there are 15 or 20 different strokes used, when you categorize them as to width, curvature, density, and pattern. We see zigzags, and curves, and parallel lines, and crosshatching. Godwin threw everything at this drawing.

snow rusty satu det 2One might justifiably wonder: why did Godwin put so much care and effort into this drawing?  Well, I will say this.  Daily newspaper comic strips, at their best, displayed an incredible amount of detail. So, it is not as though the detail would all go to waste. Secondly, although this work was somewhat laborious, for Godwin it was fairly straightforward — put in the time, and arrive at a great drawing. This is apart from his perfectionism and pride, which undoubtedly were the real reasons.

—Tom Sawyer

June 29, 2017

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Thirteen days . . .

Thirteen days till my exciting announcement.


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Revised post: More on Frank Godwin’s methods — the penciling and inking process . . .

Note: This is a revised version of a post that I originally posted in February 2014. Also, the image shown is much better than the earlier one.

By the way, I expect to have a certain exciting announcement (well, exciting to me, anyway) within the next two weeks or so.

—Tom Sawyer (6-29-15)

Two edifying images — which further supports the apparent relationship between the penciled drawings and inked drawings discussed in the an earlier post — is the following image, from the second panel of the unfinished September 21, 1959, strip.

The final syndicated Rusty Riley daily was the one for September 19, 1959. Since the strip under discussion was dated 9-21, which was the following Monday, the 9-21 strip would have been the first strip of the next story.

The panel shows an image of Rusty — partially inked. From the top of Rusty’s neck, downward (and a little bit upward, as well), the picture is un-inked pencil. A little pencil is visible in the inked area (not necessarily visible in this image). Here again, as in the penciled image of Patty Miles shown in the earlier post, it seems that the pencil drawing probably gives a very good idea of what the final inking would have looked like.

Indeed, in the drawing below, the pencil and ink are so consistent in style, that the pencil almost appears to be a part of the ink drawing — except for the fact that the penciling is gray, and not black.

pencils2714a 150

Here is a detail of a portion of the image, and you can see a mixture of inked and un-inked parts. It’s interesting to see the “textures” of the pencil lines. I suspect that Godwin intended to do further inking on Rusty’s head:

pencils2714a near

I believe that pencil preliminary drawings (what one might call underdrawings) such as the foregoing (and the one discussed in the earlier post) were the norm for Godwin. However, although I have not made a systematic study of the subject, it is my impression that in the Rusty Riley strips, there is seldom any obvious evidence of preliminary drawings. Presumably Godwin or the syndicate carefully erased almost all the remaining signs of pencil. (However, remnants of preliminary pencil-lettering and guidelines for lettering have occasionally been observed.)

One of the interesting things about the unfinished strips is that the inking did not proceed in a “chronological” fashion. In the September 21 strip, the first panel is not inked at all. The second panel is inked a little. The third panel (partially visible here) is fully inked. I have a later strip that appears to be fully inked, or nearly so (but without speech balloons and lettering).

And, interestingly, although the first panel (shown in the earlier post) is fully pencilled (or nearly so), the image of Patty in the panel shown here has barely been started.

—Tom Sawyer

February 9, 2014

Revised June 29, 2015

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A little-known aspect of Frank Godwin’s career, and talk about a particularly interesting cover-label . . .

One aspect of Frank Godwin’s career, which I believe few are aware of, are the cover-labels he illustrated for a number of books in David McKay’s series of books known as “McKay’s Young People’s Classics.” The cover-labels are the paper labels pasted to the fronts of many books back in the “olden days.” I believe that Godwin produced illustrations for seven or eight (or so) of the covers in that series (not to mention a large non-McKay books, principally Winston books).

The illustrations are interesting not only because there are beautifully done, but because they typify Godwin’s work and are easily identifiable as Godwin’s from a mile away. One other aspect of the drawings is that at least a couple of them are parallel to other work he produced.

Below is a section of the cover for The Arabian Nights (from that McKay series) which illustrates this well. The drawing shows Morgiana pouring oil into one of the jars containing the thieves. It is similar to another early illustration by Godwin often seen as the cover illustration to certain Winston versions of the The Arabian Nights. A portion of the latter is also shown (the one with more vivid covers and pure-white lettering.

arabian cropped 1

winst cropped

I have other versions of the lower illustration that were reproduced better — perhaps someday I will replace the second scan above.

In any event, I believe that the top illustration was drawn perhaps a decade later than the lower. That stands to reason, because even in the versions above, the top illustration appears more sophisticated and more nuanced (and more detailed, for that matter). The top illustration is also more dynamic, for we better see the oil pouring from the kettle, as it hits, and flows into, the jar, and Morgiana is in a more active pose–and we are looking down at the jar, rather than sideways or up–kind of drawing us into the jars. Yipes!

—Tom Sawyer

June 23, 2015

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Well, I do have the December 22, 1940, “Connie” Sunday strip from the “Boston Sunday Post” . . .

A few posts ago, I mentioned that I had missed out on a late 1940 Connie Sunday strip from the Boston Sunday Post.

I do, however, have a more recent strip from the same story, from the December 22, 1940, Boston Sunday Post. It was the final strip from that story, and that was the last Sunday Connie story that I am sure was complete.  The version I have is black and white. The Sunday strip did continue for at least two Sundays after that.

However, it is not clear what role, if any, Frank Godwin had in the Sunday strips for December 22, 1940, December 29, 1940, and January 5, 1941.

—Tom Sawyer

June 22, 2015

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Enlarged post: Maurice Horn says (in “The World Encyclopedia of Comics”): “Slowly romance blooms between the two young people . . .”

This is an enlarged version of a post from January 27, 2o14, dealing with the developing romance between Rusty Riley and Patty Miles in the Rusty Riley comic strip.

The quotation in the above title — which I have discussed elsewhere on this blog — comes from Maurice Horn, writing in The World Encyclopedia of Comics. As I have mentioned before, Horn is the only person I know of who has accurately described the relationship between Rusty Riley and Patty Miles. As Horn said, “Slowly romance blooms between the two young people, but this aspect of the strip was cut short by the sudden disappearance of Rusty Riley in the summer of 1959 [. . .].” (By the way, it was actually more like autumn when the strip disappeared, since the last daily was September 19, 1959. The Sunday continued till early November.)

I am usually mildly bothered when anyone refers to Patty as Rusty’s “girlfriend.” But, one might ask, if she was not his girlfriend, what was the nature of the relationship between Rusty and Patty?

Well, to begin with, Patty was the daughter of Rusty’s boss. At least in the early stages of the strip, Rusty was pretty much characterized as a stable boy, and Mr. Miles (Patty’s dad) would have been his ultimate boss, though Tex was his principal supervisor. I don’t think Rusty’s duties were very onerous, and it was clear that Rusty’s schooling continued throughout the whole saga.

Patty was not included on all of Rusty’s adventures, and in more than one place, Patty does something to more or less get Rusty’s goat, I think in part because of Rusty attempting to exclude her.

Patty seems to have been a more loyal supporter of Rusty than maybe anyone else in the strip — at least, that is my impression. At the other end of the spectrum, it seems that Patty’s dad often (wrongly) suspected Rusty of some sort of misbehavior.

Also, I have the impression that Patty is the character most concerned about Rusty’s well-being.

Now, of great importance is the final panel of the one of the episodes, very early in the story. Rusty, Tex, Jimmy, and Flip are departing for Kentucky (the Rusty Riley strip as a whole actually begins in another state). And in that final frame, Patty is watching wistfully, with tears on her cheeks. Here is part of that strip, as extracted from a newspaper (April 30, 1948, about three months into the daily strip):

wistful patty

Here is a close-up of Patty’s face, from the same strip. Note the tears:

patty face

So, it appears that even from the beginning of the Rusty Riley saga, Patty felt some kind of closeness to Rusty. Also, when Rusty is packing, before that departure, one of the items he packs is a photograph of Patty, inscribed to him by Patty. We don’t know the circumstances under which he received the portrait, but the fact that he is making a point of taking it seems significant. This is from the April 29, 1948, strip (from a newspaper):

patty portrait

Well, the stage was being set for some kind of close friendship between the two — I think based largely on their mutual love of horses.

However, even given the foregoing, from the strips I have read, it doesn’t appear that anything like a romance got off the ground, for ages. But a little romance is hinted at, or foreshadowed, by the things mentioned above, and indeed by Rusty’s and Patty’s propinquity throughout the strip.

However, although Patty seems to approach the whole situation as an intelligent girl, who perhaps occasionally attempts to foster a relationship, Rusty tends to remain a little aloof. In one story, Patty persists in getting Rusty to dance with her. An example from that story (from the December 31, 1957, strip) is shown here:


That image is from a newspaper. I haven’t seen that whole story, and it almost seems as though Rusty has a reason for preserving the glass (maybe it had someone’s fingerprints on it, from the way he is carrying it). Nonetheless, there Patty kind of felt like a second banana, which seems to indicate something about their relationship.

Though the process was slow, and perhaps even arduous, the two did, over the course of time, begin to demonstrate a certain amount of affection for each other beyond a typical concern of one friend for another — and by the time of Frank Godwin’s death the relationship had, I think, entered the romance stage.

In a 1957 strip is shown an entertaining exchange depicted in the next image — and of course Rusty is still on the “clueless” side of life, or maybe he is in denial. One of the main characters in the story says to Patty, somewhat seriously, “. . . and you might marry a handsome redhead!” Patty asks Rusty about it, and he is ill-equipped to make any reasoned, coherent response.

patty might marry redhead

The following looks like evidence of the beginning of a romance. It is from the Rusty Riley daily for May 15, 1958. The image is from the original art:

P R Horses C_0002 St 6 5 15 blog72

Of course, that is just an isolated example, and by itself it does not demonstrate too much.

It is interesting that, in what may be Patty’s final appearance in the Rusty Riley strip, her main role is in showing concern for Rusty. People were concerned about the theft of a certain prize horse, and it was up to Patty to stand up for Rusty. The following panels are from the top tier of the Sunday strip for October 11, 1959:

Final Patty 4 17 14_0005 stage3a50

Yes, those are tears running down Patty’s cheeks. They are more visible here:

image_1 Patty final up wm 4 17 14 aa cropped

As I said, the foregoing two images are from the October 11, 1959, Sunday strip. Only one Sunday Rusty Riley by Godwin appeared after that, namely the one for October 18, 1959. The final two Sunday strips are widely reported to have been created by Bob Lubbers, one of the legends of comic art.

Godwin passed away the preceding August, but in accord with normal comic-strip practice, he had needed to “work ahead” by a number of weeks. Strips by Godwin for both the daily Rusty Riley and the Sunday Rusty Riley thus appeared for a while after his passing.

I think this concludes my current post on the relationship between Patty Miles and Rusty Riley. (I realize that this post is based on a less-than-complete knowledge of the Rusty Riley comic strip.) If Frank Godwin had lived much longer, perhaps more time would have been spent on that aspect of the strip.

—Tom Sawyer

January 27, 2014

Revision: 5-6-15

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The “Top Posts” according to my WordPress statistics . . .

First, Happy Easter to all.

I am pretty certain this present post would not be here today if it were not for the fact that today is Easter.  I wanted to check to see what, if anything, I had said here about Easter in the past. While here, I decided to create a post!

These statistics cover the time since the inception of this blog.  You can be pretty sure that — for various reasons — these are not too accurate.  For one thing, the views of “Home page / Archives” are 6,232 — and I am pretty sure that those views are not reflected in the other statistics.  So f you visit the blog and look only at the most recent post, I don’t think that counts as a “view” of any particular post.

I find it interesting that the first post listed below has received so many more views than most of the others.  It could be that there are one or two people who are particularly interested in that topic, and they keep returning to it. Or maybe someone saved a “bookmark” to that post, and that is simply the way they arrive at the blog.

I am placing this paragraph in boldface, because I don’t want anyone to miss it. Don’t assume that the figures below are “typical.” In fact, my stats show MORE THAN TWENTY POSTS with ONLY ONE VIEW! I’m pretty sure they had more than that, for reasons hinted at above, but still! 

Here is a list of the top ten posts:

My own earliest “Connie” Sunday comic strip by Frank Godwin: May 12, 1929 (the third Sunday strip) . . .

[I took this post down a long time ago.] Comments on books illustrated by Frank Godwin for “The Children’s Bookshelf” series of the John C. Winston Company: A few introductory remarks . . .

Revisiting an earlier post: Frank Godwin’s Billy West pays a visit to my blog . . .

Frank Godwin’s “Connie” comic strip: Comments on dates relating to “The Wet Blanket” and “Wonder-Land” . . .

How comic strips were produced back in the 1920s — and this probably applies to “Vignettes of Life,” “Connie,” and “Roy Powers, Eagle Scout” . . .

[I didn’t check, but I gather the following may be a revised version of the post mentioned above with a similar or identical title.] Comments on books illustrated by Frank Godwin for “The Children’s Bookshelf” series of the John C. Winston Company: A few introductory remarks . . .

Early “Connie” Sunday strips . . .

Rethinking “Rusty Riley” . . .

Comments on Frank Godwin and the “Roy Powers, Eagle Scout” comic strip — with some thoughts on “Connie” and “Rusty Riley” . . .

Comments on the “Roy Powers, Eagle Scout” comic strip . . .

—Tom Sawyer

April 5, 2015

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