Sunday, April 29, 2007

Ease Down My Goal B

Winsor McCay (September 26, 1867(?) – July 26, 1934) was a prolific artist and pioneer in the art of comic strips and animation. His comic strip work has influenced generations of artists, including creators such as Moebius, Chris Ware, William Joyce, and Maurice Sendak. His early animated films far outshone the work of his contemporaries, and set the model to be followed by Walt Disney and others. His two best-known creations are the newspaper comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland, which ran from 1905 to 1914, and the animated cartoon Gertie the Dinosaur, which he created in 1914.

Little Sammy Sneeze
McCay was the son of Robert McKay (later changed to McCay) and Janet Murray McKay; Robert at various times worked as a teamster, a grocer, and a real estate agent. Winsor's exact place and year of birth are uncertain — he claimed to have been born in Spring Lake, Michigan in 1871, but his gravestone says 1869, and census reports state that he was born in Canada in 1867. He was originally named Zenas Winsor McKay, in honor of his father's employer, Zenas G. Winsor. He later dropped the name Zenas.
In 1886, McCay's parents sent him to Cleary's Business College in Ypsilanti, Michigan to learn to be a businessman. While in Ypsilanti, he also received his only formal art training, from John Goodison of Michigan State Normal College (now known as Eastern Michigan University). Goodison taught him the strict application of the fundamentals of perspective, which he put to significant use later in his career. Goodison, formerly a glass stainer, also influenced McCay's bold use of color.
In 1889, McCay moved to Chicago, intending to study at the Art Institute of Chicago, but due to lack of money had to find employment instead. He worked for the National Printing and Engraving Company, producing woodcuts for circus and theatrical posters. Two years later, he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio and went to work as an artist for Kohl and Middleton's Vine Street Dime Museum. While in Cincinnati he eloped with the 14 year old Maude Leonore Dufour[citation needed].

Little Nemo in Slumberland
McCay's first major comic strip series was Tales of the Jungle Imps by Felix Fiddle. Forty-three installments were published from January to November of 1903, in the Cincinnati Enquirer. The strip was based on poems by George Randolph Chester, then a reporter and editor at the Enquirer. The stories concerned jungle creatures and the ways that they adapted to a hostile world, with individual titles such as How the Elephant Got His Trunk and How the Ostrich Got So Tall.
His strips Little Nemo and Dreams of a Rarebit Fiend were both set in the dreams of their characters and featured fantasy art that attempted to capture the look and feel of dreams. McCay's cartoons were never overwhelmingly popular, but always had a strong following because of his expressive graphic style. Newspaper pages were physically much larger in that time and McCay usually had a half a page to work with. For fantasy art in comics, his only rival was Lyonel Feininger, who went on to have a career in the fine arts after his comics days were over.
McCay also created a number of animated short films, in which every single frame of each cartoon (with each film requiring thousands of frames) was hand-drawn by McCay himself. McCay went on vaudeville tours with his films. He presented lectures and did drawings; then he interacted with his animated films, performing such tricks as holding his hand out to "pet" his animated creations.


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