Art Cumings, my friend from the Berndt Toast Gang, best known as an illustrator and cartoonist of children's books (for Dr. Seuss and other books), and creator of "Balloonheads" and "The Artist" for Bob Guccione's Penthouse and Omni magazines, died on August 25, 2012. He was 90 years old.
He leaves his wife Alda, whom he met in art school, and their sons, Brian, Peter and his wife Laura, and Steven and his wife Danielle, and four grandchildren. I extend my deepest sympathies to Alda and the entire family.
His Newsday obituary is here.
Above: a 1953 magazine illustration by Art Cumings. More here.
Berndt Toast Gang (the Long Island chapter of the National Cartoonists Society) chairman Adrian Sinnott called Art "a quiet genius," and he was.
My take: he was an illustrator's illustrator and a cartoonist's cartoonist. He always asked me more questions about myself and art and drawing than I ever asked him. And I have scant knowledge of where he was born (I think it was Vermont), where he studied, or anything important about him!
Here's Sandy Kossin, his friend and colleague:
Art Cumings, HUMORIST, knew me from the days that we were MAGAZINE ILLUSTRATORS.
Except, he wasn't happy with the work he was doing, and in his confusion, he found my work to have the artistic merit he was looking for, especially since I was doing magazine spreads and HUMOROUS work for magazines and advertising. So when we met (don't remember where), he immediately wanted to discuss art and humor and writing. I told him everything I know (took me about five minutes) and I finally had a fan! And a good friend!
He had begun doing series of simple humorous drawings and when I saw them I told him how much I was overwhelmed by the concepts and simplicity! They were amazing, and I knew he was onto something great, and he felt he'd found his niche. Both as a humorist and writer. And he was so hungry for esthetic information that we would spend hours on the phone just talking and asking questions. He couldn't get enough.
Even as we aged, and we're retired, he'd still phone me "just to talk art"....and, typically, it turned out I was
doing the learning!
Arthur, I will miss those sessions and miss you most of all. You were a great COMMUNICATOR!
There are some "Legacy dot com guest book" entries remembering Art here. Sometimes these sites go away, so here are some of the comments from that site as of August 30th:
August 30, 2012
To the Cumings Family, Our prayer are with you all. Don't know where to begin. My, our, times during the summers @ Cedar Hill Terrace. That he was always about with a great big smile, on the porch, on the beach path w/ his beach chair, the the large striped towel drapped over his shoulder, and on the beach. Alway around with a wonderfil greeting. Always made you feel special. He even extended himself to my son, on a visit from Kansas to Cedar Hill, my son Johnny had mentioned how he liked to draw, and Art took him to his upstairs Studio. Gave him the tour, spent some time showing him some drawing techniques. My son was walking on air as we left. He still speaks of those days visiting Miller Place. What a great man, God bless you Art Cumings. You'll always be in our prays, Johnny and Melissa MunzAugust 30, 2012
What a wonderful man. I grew up next door to "Mr. Cumings" who was a kind and quiet presence. He happily endured we kids often invading his studio. In later years, I had long and wonderful conversations with Art that would always go off in unexpected directions. One of my fondest memories is of Art and I strolling the halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I assumed he would critique the paintings. Instead, he would stop in front of a painting and discuss how what was going on in the artist's life and times affected their work. I've never looked at a painting the same way since that day.
My deepest sympathies to Alda, Peter, Steven, Brian and their families.
Offer it up!August 30, 2012
To the Cumings Family, we are so sorry to hear about Art's passing. Our prayers are with all of you. Lauren and Bill Plage
Chuck Landry's memory is typical Art! He was so full of knowledge and love for not only the result but the process. He will be sorely missed by his friends.
Below is a selection of his Balloonheads feature from some 1970s Penthouse magazines, copyright the respective copyright holders. My thanks to Leif Peng for these scans: