Herriman’s Trees (ink 2011 A5)
The great George Herriman died 71 years ago today. Remembered now as the creator of the Krazy Kat comics, Herriman is not only considered the greatest American cartoonist of the twentieth century but also, by some critics at least, the greatest American artist of the twentieth century. Whether or not you agree with that assessment, the beauty of his line and his limitless imagination must surely make him a contender. His influence was always greater than his popularity: Art Spiegelman, Richard Thompson and Robert Crumb are just some of the artists who would acknowledge him as such. The strange adventures of Krazy Kat, Ignatz, and Offisa Pupp still charm and amaze today, seeming both contemporary and timeless. But look behind the main characters in his strips and you’ll see backgrounds that repay careful study. Shifting vistas inspired by Monument Valley and the Enchanted Mesa come and go, a rocky outcrop in one frame replaced by a shack with a crooked chimney in another. I was always fascinated by his trees, however, which twist and zigzag in ways that few do in nature. I was so captivated by them that I filled this sketchbook page with a few examples. Unusually for me, I copied them line for line – after all, who could improve on Herriman?