That was the first drawing I saw by R. O. Blechman.
I loved it instantly.
Firstly, it’s a great observation of how companies operate, particularly ad agencies.
But also, I was in the ideas business and I’d never seen them represented like that – in different levels from a tiny lightbulb to an enormous chandelier.
I also loved the naive style of the drawing.
It looked like a note one naughty child would pass to another secretly in class.
Drawn in a hurry because they were excited.
The apparent lack of craft means it feels personal, human.
A master draftsman like Leonardo daVinci couldn’t improve it.
He’d kill it.
Over the years I became more familiar with Blechman’s lines.
Often referred to as a nervous line.
Countless ad folk have copied it – Alan Parker, John Hegarty, Gray Jolliffe and dozens more, including me, it just looks so easy (try it).
You’ll find you can draw squiggley lines in the shape of a person, but they feel like those chalk outlines the police draw around bodies; dead.
Bob’s not only feel alive, they conjure up multiple personalities with endless emotions.
Often with a couple of dots and two or three lines.
It’s like some kind of magic trick.
And whereas most artists get smoother, slicker and more polished over the years, Bob chose to move in the opposite direction – his line becoming more broken and juddery with each year. (Come to think of it, didn’t Picasso take a similar route?)
Take a look – early, later, later still.
This distinctive style meant you could spot a Blechman from the next county.
He used to teach lessons on it.
(Love that fake science around that doodle.)
But more important than his lines are his ideas.
They cover the map, from the big, weighty issues, like politics and death, to the kind of every day minutiae Seinfeld would go on to cover.
If you look at that first cartoon above or the last one in this stream, you’ll see that the observations are as relevant today as they were then.
They’re about being human.
And whereas the styles of many of his contemporaries timestamp their work, Bob’s human, anxious lines don’t date.
Now 91, Bob still draws a cartoon for the New York Times every week.
We had a great chat, hope you enjoy it.
Bob was offered a token fee, $100, by a new magazine to reprint one of his old drawings on their launch issue, he decided ‘who cares about the money’ and created a new drawing.
This lead him to create every cover for the next 8 years.