David Bruce: The Funniest People in Art — Work


• Bill Peet, author and illustrator of children’s picture-books, worked many years for Walt Disney. He started out as an in-betweener — an artist who created the in-between drawings that resulted in a cartoon Donald Duck getting from one position to another — for example, lifting his arm in the air. However, he wanted to move up in the organization, so when the Disney artists were asked to create fantastic monsters for Pinocchio, he figured here was his chance, and so he drew many fantastic monsters and handed them in. Unfortunately, soon afterward another batch of Donald Duck in-between drawings were needed, and he went berserk, shouting, “NO MORE DUCKS! NO MORE LOUSY DUCKS!” — then he stalked out of his office. Later, he realized that he had left his jacket in his office, and the next morning he returned to pick it up. On his drawing table, he found an envelope waiting for him. Of course, he thought that it was a pink slip firing him; however, he discovered instead that the Disney company had liked his monster drawings, given him a bonus, and wanted him to quit creating in-betweens and instead report to the Story Department for Pinocchio.

• As a young artist, Leonardo da Vinci painted a wooden shield for his father, Piero da Vinci. He went all out. After deciding to paint a fearsome creature on the shield, he dissected such animals as bats, crickets, insects, lizards, and snakes. He then used his knowledge of the parts of these animals to imaginatively create a monster that spit fire. Piero was impressed with the shield. He had intended to give it away as a gift, but after seeing it he gave his friend another, inexpensive shield — and he sold the shield that Leonardo had painted. As a young man, Leonardo had some notable skills. For example, he created stinkballs out of decomposing animal parts and fish guts. To entertain people, he used to create colorful flames by throwing red wine into a small container of boiling oil. Leonardo used his brain throughout his life and looked down on those who did not. He wrote, “How many people there are who could be described as mere channels for food.” He wrote that such people produce “nothing but full privies.”

• When he was still very young, Jerry Butler’s grandmother Artise (whom he called Grand Mo Lu) got him his first paying job as an artist. He had drawn a picture of Jesus, and she showed it to the people at the Baptist church they attended. They liked the drawing well enough to pay him to create a religious mural on the back of their baptismal pool. To pay for the mural, they took up a collection that netted him the seemingly astronomical sum of $140. Other religious people saw the mural, and they asked him to paint murals at their churches, too, paying him with what they took up in collections. In his 1998 book, A Drawing in the Sand: A Story of African American Art, Mr. Butler wrote that a couple of those murals still exist, but if he could, he would destroy them because his ability as an artist has grown so much since then.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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