"You have a funny line."
That was, I think, one of the best compliments I had ever received.
This was Art Cumings telling me this, and then asking, "Do you know what I mean?" And he explained that he meant it literally: some people who drew had a fantastically energetic line, and others had a dead, lifeless line. I was in the former group.
Art died last month at the age of 90. He was a children's book illustrator, as well as a frequent contributor to PENTHOUSE and OMNI Magazines with his Balloonheads and The Artist full page cartoons. He was a friend and a fellow Berndt Toast Gang member.
Art was not only professionally inclined when it came to illustration and cartoon art, he was an intellectual powerhouse about it as well.
My friend, the cartoonist and fellow Berndt Toast Gang member Don Orehek agrees. He sent me a note to share:
"Art was an interesting guy and always good to talk to about cartooning. His birthday was the same as my wife Suzy's, so it was easy to remember. I would call him on his day and say, 'Happy Birthday.' He would ask, 'How did you know?' every time. Then we'd get a big laugh out of that.
A few memories from last month's blog entry about Art have stuck in my mind:
The Cumings' next door neighbor Chuck Landrey talked about Art on the "Legacy dot com guest book." I have been thinking about this story, and it is pure Art:
"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."Illustrator and fellow Berndt Toast Gang member Sandy Kossin:
"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."
I wish the best to the Cumings family. Art will be dearly missed.
Don Orehek and Art Cumings at a Berndt Toast Gang lunch, February 22, 2007.