Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Sam Cobean

Here's a quote from cartoonist Brian Savage on Sam Cobean:

I was living in San Francisco when I definitely made up my mind I was going to become a cartoonist. I was really at loose ends. I had gone to school, college, army, and I was in San Francisco just because a friend of mine was going to the University of California. We were sharing a place together, and he went on to get his Ph.D. I saw a book and it turned me on. It sounds dramatic, but this really happened. It's a book by Cobean. I fell in love with it. It just gave me an electric shock. It really was sort of like love. I said, This is what I want to do.

- Cartoonist Brian Savage in JUMPING UP AND DOWN ON THE ROOF AND THROWING BAGS OF WATER ON PEOPLE, CARTOONS & INTERVIEWS FROM SIX OF AMERICA'S FAVORITE CARTOONISTS, Introduction and Interviews by Mark Jacobs, copyright 1980 Mark Jacobs.

Below are just a few samples of Sam Cobean's work, all from the comprehensive Sam Cobean site.

Sam Cobean (1913-1951) was attending the University of Oklahoma when he entered a contest sponsored by Walt Disney. After winning the contest, Sam quit school and moved to Hollywood to work as an in-betweener on Disney's SNOW WHITE for $16 a week.

In 1942, he participated in the Screen Cartoonists Guild strike against Disney, and left the studio soon after that. He married fellow U of O student Anne McCool that same year.

Above: an illustration by Cobean. Just look at the motion in those lines.

Cobean applied for the Army & the Navy, but was classified 4F on account of his flat feet. He was, the following year, drafted into the army. There, Cobean worked on Army training films in New York City alongside fellow soldier Charles Addams. Addams introduced Cobean to New Yorker magazine cartoon editor James Geraghty. Cobean began to sell to the magazine.

While still in the Army, Cobean shared a New Yorker office with fellow cartoonist contributor Addams.

Above: another cartoon from the site. That touch of grey on the ski instructor's sweater effortlessly gives us our point of interest in the cartoon. I like the details here: the bear skin rug, the beams, the luggage, the skis leaning against a wooden pillar, the circles that Cobean's drawn to denote a big stone fireplace. It all tells us we're in a lodge.

In 1946, he was discharged and he and Anne bought a summer home in Watkins Glen, NY. Sam would be involved in the Watkins Glen Gand Prix races there. Cobean began doing a lot of work for advertising, in addition to his cartooning.

In 1950, COBEAN'S NAKED EYE, the first collection of Cobean cartoons (titled by Anne) was published.

Above: a concept sketch for the cover.

Here's the next entry from the Sam Cobean chronology page:

1951 On Monday, July 2, Sam drove his shiny red Jaguar into Watkins Glen to mail some cartoons to The New Yorker for the regular art meeting the following day. While there, he met a friend, Cameron Argetsinger, who was having car trouble. He offered him a ride home. On the return trip they were involved in an automobile accident. Cobean swerved to avoid hitting another car, lost control and hit a tree. Cobean was killed instantly. His friend survived the crash.

Sam Cobean would be a major name -- as well known as Addams -- if his career wasn't cut short by that accident. I'm glad that there's a Web site full of his work to remind us what a wonderful cartoonist he was.


Paul Giambarba said...

He influenced me and most of the cartoonists I knew at the time working in Boston and Cambridge with the exception of Gluyas Williams, of course.

Mike Lynch said...

Cobean comes off as so contemporary looking today. I love his loose, joyful line. He reminds me of Syverson a bit.

Dawn Koons Gill said...

I have to say that Sam Cobean is somehow related to my dad...and well, I guess me too! His Aunt married my great-grandfather, Robert Koons. http://www.samcobean.com/biography/biodata/fullbiography.html
I have an AWESOME drawing he did of my grandfather who was one of the first PA State Highway patrolmen! It's a hysterical characature of him in uniform. My dad always spoke very highly of Sam as well. He was evidently a pretty facsinating man.