Gene W. Burks

The main character in almost all of my recent cartoons, a girl/young woman named Annie, originated as a minor character in an unpublished novella I wrote in 2002-2003. She turned out to be more interesting than any other character in all of my stories. So, 20 years later, here she singularly is.

The primary influence for my cartoon style and cartoon humor came from classic MAD magazines 1955-1994. A secondary influence came from the dry humor of New Yorker cartoons. Then, and now, I am inspired by the great gang of Illustrative Idiots, Cartoonists superbly clever, often trenchant, keenly observant, the likes of Mort Drucker, Jack Davis, Al Jaffee, Bob Clarke, Jack Rickard, Paul Coker, George Woodbridge, Don Martin, Dave Berg, Sergio Aragones, Antonio Prohias, Kelly Freas, Wallace Wood, Sam Vivino, and Harry North. A common thread I appropriated from this gang, especially Mort Drucker and Jack Davis, was the uber-comlpicated, massively detailed single panel cartoon containing humorous side bits of humor. Patrick Oliphant often used the same technique in his editorial cartoons. Another - current - detailed editorial cartoonist is John Ramirez. These cartoonists provided the impetus for making most of my Annie cartoons detailed & complicated.


More from Gene

Some other whys for my style, particularly when I draw fashions, or Annie - I have always enjoyed designing fashions for large, especially very large, women, and then, in a clean, detailed fashion delineating those ideas on paper. Until very recently, plus size women got the short end of things in the fashion world, the style rejects, the trailer trash togs. The truth is, 40% of women in America re size 16 or larger. So, why have they not been appropriately and proportionately represented in fashion. Only tentatively since the Mid Eighties have large women been included as an important part of the overall fashion body of work. Even today, 2 of the largest plus size mail order catalogues still use size 8-10 models for size 16+ fashions. So, I hope to influence fashion one sketch at a time.

I believe art and (fiction) literature can convey truths, otherwise too obscure or unpalatable to reveal through direct instruction.

Something philosophical to chew on - Why beauty? Why is there a sense of what is beautiful? Why does non-utilitarian aesthetics exist? Where do these notions come from? What is the purpose of non-practical creativity, of seemingly purely non-functional expressions of what one considers beautiful and sublime?

A hint towards looking into this: where does creativity and the whole panoply of artistic expression originate? Who or what is the original artist? Who or what is the original author? Ultimately, this is what I try to plug into.

Common themes in my art

1 Dealings of being a size 28++ girl/woman in & size 0/2 oriented world
2 Landforms, vegetation patterns, tree forms
3 The God Who Is There - usually subrosa, usually subtle
4 Character personalities and emotions
5 Specificity, rather than generic depictions. Avoiding artistic cliches.

Something to note: about 80% of my work, either entirely, or partially, comes straight from my, imagination. This is how the physical depiction of Annie evolved over the past 20 years. Her personality is a composite of several large women I have known. Most of the work that is not strongly from my imagination, I have adapted from well known artist such as Norman Rockwell, and several sports illustrators.

From here there is so much more to explore and try.

I have always done art, having been bit by the art bug concurrent with my earliest memories. So, like most toddlers I started messing around with crayons, pencils and tempera paint. The difference for me was, unlike most, I never stopped doing art. I worked in pen and pencil in grades 7-12. Dabbled in pencil realism my Jr. & Sr. yrs in High school. In Jr. college took my only formal training - a beginning drawing class. During that period also practiced portraiture, poster cartooning and entered fashion illustration. (Actually considered majoring in Fashion Design and Illustration in 1974 at W. Va. Univ. but their criteria for drawing women was too rigidly procrustean, so that ended that. They wanted me to draw only skinny women with drinking vinegar demeanors). In grade school I entered the world of Editorial /Political Cartooning. Inspired by the editorial cartoons of Jeff McNelly, Patrick Oliphant, et al, I drew for the Mich Tech college newspaper for 3 years. My first 3 editorial cartoons were drawn with a ballpoint pen! For cartoons there after, I graduated to Rapidograph pens, Sharpie fine points, and grease pencils. During the 36 years, between graduating Mich Tech and joining PRAG in 2017, I drew posters for churches, editorial cartoons for a 2 issue magazine and fashion illustration for super plus sizes.


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