Monday, February 25, 2013
A Fine Noel Sickles Illustration
Above is a slightly cropped image of a Noel Sickles (1910-1982) illustration intended for a Life magazine article during World War 2. Sickles was a hugely talented, largely self-taught draftsman who worked in the Associated Press bullpen, then drew the Scorchy Smith comic strip for three years before becoming a successful illustrator. His Wikipedia entry is here. Leif Peng discusses his military art here. David Apatoff comments on Sickles' drawing ability here. And here is one of my takes on Sickles.
The illustration at the top of this post was not used. What Life did publish is here:
I prefer the rejected image as an example of extremely well made illustration. The Life illustration might have been selected because it was a better teaching tool for soldiers encountering armor.
I like the unused illustration for several reasons. Perhaps its best attribute beyond Sickle's accuracy in depicting soldiers and the German Pkw IV is the economy of detail. For example, the tank is not so much a collection of lines as it is a study in darks, middle values and (comparative) lights. The American soldiers are also rendered in a sketchy, slightly impressionistic manner. Folds of the uniforms are highly simplified, yet convey the shapes of the individuals. Helmets are accurately shaped by line and shadow. This is important because many illustrators and painters seem unable to depict helmets convincingly (I'm thinking of you, Sir William Orpen!).
The soldier's poses are also convincingly shown. My one gripe is that, probably for reasons of pictorial composition, Sickles grouped the BAR gunner, Tommy gunner and Lieutenant with the carbine on his back too closely together for a real combat situation. A short machine gun burst or a single mortar shell could wipe out all three along with the rifleman to the right.