I always liked to draw, and in grade school I was often chosen to make posters or displays, and to illustrate the school mimeographed newspaper and magazine. My grandfather and parents encouraged me, buying me art supplies and so forth. In high school I took art as an elective all four years, and it was usually my favorite class. Though I can't recall anything much I was taught there, it was a time when experimentation was the rage in art, and I had a good time doing that. Entering my senior year with a need to come up with a plan for a career, it suddenly dawned on me that I might like to pursue one in art, and I put together a portfolio and applied to several art schools. I was accepted at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, and went there for a year and a half, from Sept. 1969 to Dec. 1970. Some examples from this time are in the sidebar topics EARLY WORK.
SVA was a very different environment for me, coming from small town New Jersey (where I continued to live at home while at school there), and in my first year I enjoyed my classes, including Art History with comics legend Burne Hogarth, and the usual selection of life drawing, graphics and painting classes along with English and other things. For my second year at SVA I signed up for an experimental class where about 50 students shared the whole floor of an open loft with 6 instructors, with lots of art supplies and equipment, but no learning plan. While fun, this became daily play time, and wasn't very satisfying to me creatively, it felt like being back in Kindergarten. I had friends in Kansas City, MO, and that fall applied to the Kansas City Art Institute and was accepted there for the spring semester in 1971. I moved out, roomed with a friend, and again took a variety of classes, including stone lithography, painting, drawing, etc. It was more challenging, and I enjoyed it, but at the end of that semester I was out of money for school. Unable to find a summer job in Kansas City, I moved back home, and took the first job that was offered, no art involved. A few years later I got a job at Fedders Air Conditioning, and got a little on-the-job art experience putting together air conditioner user manuals. I kept working on art at home in my spare time, though. Some examples are in the sidebar topic PAINTINGS.
I had long been a reader of science fiction and fantasy, as well as comics, and starting around 1974 I began submitting art and cartoons to small press magazines and fanzines. I had some success there, placing a few dozen pieces. Some examples are in the sidebar topic FANZINE ART.
One of my favorite fanzine projects was an article I wrote and illustrated for NIGHTSHADE #4, published by Ken Amos, called "Laughter of the Spirit, The Mysticism of George MacDonald". MacDonald was a favorite writer, and I tried hard to do well with the four illustrations. You can judge for yourself if I succeeded in the GEORGE MacDONALD ART sidebar topic.
One fanzine assignment was lettering and illustrating a poem by Darrell Schweitzer, as seen in that last section. Darrell was then a struggling writer and editor of fantasy-related small press books. In early 1977 he got in touch, we corresponded, and he proposed I illustrate a collection of Lovecraftian humor he was putting together. I agreed, and submitted a wraparound cover to the publisher, Ted Paul of TK Graphics in Baltimore, MD. Though the pay was very small, it seemed like a good opportunity to gain exposure. Paul liked my cover, and I agreed to do at least 12 full-page illustrations for "Eldritch Laughter From Beyond, an Anthology of Lovecraftian Humor" to be edited by Darrell. I have no copy of the cover, but I did make some poor Xeroxes of some of the illustrations, which I've tried to improve digitally. They're in the ELDRITCH LAUGHTER sidebar topic. The author lineup for the book included Lovecraft himself, Donald Wollheim, Ron Goulart, L. Sprague DeCamp, Richard Lupoff and Schweitzer, as well as others. The stories were mostly quite funny, and I had a great time working on the art. Darrell even agreed to use a few of my own poems.
All looked rosy until late fall of 1977 when I learned from Darrell that Paul was having serious money problems, had suspended publication of our and any other new books, and might have a hard time staying out of jail. Darrell's option with TK Graphics for our book expired, and he began shopping it to other publishers, but Paul had all the art for the book. When he learned Darrell might have another deal, the art suddenly vanished. Paul claimed he had mailed it back to me, but I never received it. Rumor had it that he had destroyed the art out of spite, to prevent the project from going elsewhere. And to this day I've never found out any more about it.
That experience soured me on the small press/fanzine market, but meanwhile I'd begun working at DC Comics, on staff, and was soon very busy doing freelance work for the company as well. I'd never been much good at drawing people, though, which is the mainstay of comics art, so what little art I did there was along the lines of maps and other non-figure work. A few examples are in the sidebar topic COMICS ART, along with the first page of a sample comics story I produced for my portfolio when I was applying to DC. I'll spare you the rest, it's just a good example of why they never gave me any stories to draw!
I've had little time for art since then, but in 1994 I did a piece of line art for the art auction at the San Diego Comicon, auctioned to raise money for charity. I had fun putting in all the imaginary and unfinished books mentioned in the SANDMAN series, as well as lots of others I'd like to read myself. You can see it at the LIBRARY OF DREAM sidebar topic, and I'm offering laser prints in the BUY STUFF section of this site, with proceeds going to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, after expenses. I did one hand-colored example for the "Fiddler's Green" Sandman convention a few years back, and it sold at their charity auction for an astonishing $1200! Hey, maybe I should reconsider this art thing...
All text and images ©Todd Klein, except as noted. All rights reserved.
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