Saturday, March 24, 2012

Al Ross 1911-2012

Above: a self-portrait from 1944 from BEST CARTOONS OF 1944.

New Yorker cartoonist Al Ross died on March 23, 2012 in the Bronx. Mr. Ross was 100 years old.

Lee Lorenz, the New Yorker art editor and cartoon editor from the 1973 to 1993, quoted in the New York Times obit for Mr. Ross:

“He was a very talented draftsman who seldom made a preliminary sketch; he’d sit down with a pen and just do it. He valued that spontaneity, which was very much in his character. And he had very good ideas.” 

Michael Maslin's Ink Spill blog.has a personal remembrance.


Al Ross was a particular favorite cartoonist of mine. Below are a few past blog entries of my own about the man and his style:

From June 21, 2006, here's a look at the evolution of Al Ross and His Cartoon Style:

I was sick last week, but I did get some fun cartoon books in the mail. One of them was Cartooning Fundamentals by Al Ross (Stravon Educational Press, New York, NY, 1977). Ross was one of the four Roth brothers. Yeah, Ross was a Roth. Each brother's work appeared under a different pen name: Irving Roir, Ben Roth, Salo, and Al Ross. Al Ross studied at the Art Students League. It's still there, just across from Carnegie Hall. His first cartoons appeared in the 1930s.

A brave thing he does in the book is show his cartoons through the years. If he was anything like me, he cringes at his old cartoons! But his goal in Cartooning Fundamentals is to show us how his style changed through the years. Above is a sample of an early Al Ross sale.

Below are Mr. Ross' styles from the 1940s. You can see that he is all ready making some more interesting choices in composition.

His illustrative brushwork, combined with wash, was very energetic. Even an inanimate object like the car or a chair were now shown at an angle.

Fast forwarding 20 years, in the 1960s he abandoned the brush for the pen.

His characters still have verve. No one ever stands, or sits, perfectly straight.

By the end of the 1960s, a speedy pen line was all that he was using for his finishes. He had left the brush, the wash -- and sacrificed none of the character of the drawings. Even though he no longer would delineate every fold and flutter in the curtains, the lines still do the job.

From a June 7. 2006 blog entry: some later work from Cartoonist Al Ross:

I like Al Ross's sketchy, loose, plate of spaghetti style.

Al is one of the "four famous cartoonist Roth brothers:" Al, Irving Roir, Ben and Salo. They all used different surnames.

Look at that chair on the right. Just a well-placed scramble of lines.

These sagging, just-waking-up postures of the characters are lovely to look at.

Al Ross sold his first cartoon to The New Yorker in 1937. He is still cartooning so far as I know.

Again, it's just some squiggles on the vague shape of a cake. But that's enough. It works.

Well, there we have some wonderful, loopy cartoons by Al Ross. Another cartoonist I admire.


The NY Times has a correction:

An obituary on Saturday about Al Ross, a cartoonist whose work appeared in The New Yorker for more than 60 years, misstated the years Lee Lorenz, who discussed Mr. Ross’s working method, was the art editor there. He held that position from 1973 to 1993, not “from the 1950s into the ’70s.”


Dan Reynolds said...

God bless him! That's a good, long life.
I pencil and erase as I go. When I do quickly draw a sketch to recall an idea for later, my drawing look a lot like Ross's. I envy that type of looseness. I could do it if I was so anal retentive with my drawing...and it would be EASIER for me and less time! Why don't I do it??? At the risk of being anal retentative, I'll tell you again...I'm too anal retentive.

Neil Robertson said...

I just wrote about Al Ross last month on my own blog. I reviewed his short series, "Buggsy's Bar" that appeared in 1946 in Pack O' Fun. We lost another 100-year-old cartoonist, Martin Filchock quite recently. We really must do more to raise awareness of our forgotten gag cartoonists.

Roy Delgado said...

I grew up looking, enjoying and admiring all the Roth Bros. work. I especially loved and envied Al Ross' loose quick confident penwork . . God bless him and Martin Filchock . . . Somewhere in my brain there are remnants I think of their work that influenced me somewhat !

Unknown said...

nice mike, thanks for posting.