Tuesday, August 25, 2009

2009.08.25 Sergeant Cauthorn’s War


Welcome to Deft's second most popular post. Photo courtesy Flickr

Jess Cauthorn ran the Burnley School of Professional Art in Seattle. It was an unaccredited feeder school for the local advertising community, founded by “Old Man Burnley” after World War Two to train veterans courtesy of their GI Bill tuition benefits. When I studied there in the early Seventies, it was a node of photographically realistic illustrators that later become the Seattle branch of the Kansas City Art Institute.

Jess and another faculty member, Jim Peck, had been combat artists in the Pacific during World War Two. Most of the students were fresh from Nam, and other instructors free-lanced for the military.

It was not until Mr. Cauthorn toted in his famous wartime portfolio on a day when he was subbing that I was able to appreciate his impatience with hippies, self-indulgent behavior, and irresponsibility. (See the movie Art School Confidential and Chip Kidd’s novel Cheese Monkeys.)

Jess laid out row after row of pen and ink renderings that looked just like documentary footage of island warfare-except he had drawn the work on the spot, when people were shooting at him. I gained a new appreciation of the term deadline and a new understanding of skill. And perhaps, finally, now, an appreciation of the power of a brush line to communicate feeling.

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