Patch Cartoonist Charley Krebs Featured in Riverside
Quincy Street gallery showcases Patch artwork and more.
The artwork of Charley Krebs—our much beloved Patch cartoonist—will be featured at the Quincy Street Gallery, 39 E. Quincy, Riverside, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Display of Kreb's cartoon posters include selections from Patch, Chicago Jazz Magazine and many other publications as part of this weekend's Riverside Arts Weekend. Both afternoons also feature accompanying music by guitarist Paul Halvey.
Patch talked with Charley and took a look back at his years of work.
La Grange Patch: How long have you been drawing cartoons? Were you a big comic book fan when you were little?
Charley Krebs: I think all kids have an interest in cartoons and I was into the cartoons of my era—the original Mickey Mouse Club in the 1950s, the Batman and superhero craze of the 1960s.
Then I graduated to Mad Magazine as all wise-ass adolescent boys do, and also started to notice the editorial cartoonists in the daily papers like Bill Mauldin in the Chicago Sun-Times. Amazing that a World War II legend like Mauldin was around and in Chicago. Mad and those editorial cartoons showed me cartoons could be combined with commentary and have a message and sometimes an edge.
Patch: What's it been like working at a cartoonist for newspapers in the city and the suburbs? Any stories that you've covered been particularly memorable? How have changes in media affected you?
Krebs: Working as a cartoonist for any paper is a dream come true. To be paid in any amount for your artwork—and, in my case, my opinion or humor—is something any artist never gets tired of. Even if its more avocation than vocation. People really pay attention to their local press so you are in a sort of conversation with your readers—and neighbors—about topics important to them. It's quite a privilege, actually. So you want to illustrate an opinion that is not only well-drawn but clever or funny, too. I like to hide some little odds and ends, little jokey details for people to find if they look a little closer. It's fun for me and, hopefully, fun for the reader.
I was lucky to have collaborated with a few good editors along the way who believed in the importance of the cartoon to the editorial pages of a newspaper. One in particular, Bob Lifka who is now head of the North Riverside Library, single-handedly kept my career going for a few years. He was a great advocate of the type of local focus in journalism revived here on Patch.
A few years in the 1980s, the White Sox were threatening to move out of Chicago. I was working at New City (newspaper). Not too many people remember what a big deal that was, especially in the South Side and South Loop areas where New City was based back then. I drew a few things about the Sox, and one full-page cartoon featured Mayor Harold Washington. Harold made a point of telling our city hall reporter that he dug that cartoon, and that has always been a great moment for me.
I once drew an editorial cartoon for the Berwyn LIFE Newspaper congratulating some Morton High School Alumni Hall of Famers, one of which was the actor Joe Mantegna. His office contacted me for the original artwork so I met Joe at his Chicago-style hot dog stand for lunch in Burbank, CA and gave the artwork to him. He's a great guy... all we talked about was the old neighborhood and baseball like we were at Michael Anthony's in Cicero.
Patch: How did you make your selections for the show?
Krebs: I try to stay away from the topical kinds of cartoons that work well at a specific moment for opinion purposes but become ancient history fairly quickly. So it's more about gathering ones about sports, holidays and the 'suburban slice of life' images... and you have to work in a few that are more funny than pointed. Surprisingly they look pretty good enlarged to poster size, particularly the color Patch cartoons. I always feature lots of work from my Chicago Jazz Magazine archive. They're like 'collage cartoons.' Lots of detail. Of course for this display I have included a dozen vintage cartoons about Riverside.
Patch: Who are your influences as a cartoonist? Any favorite artists who inspire you?
Krebs: Bill Mauldin, as I've mentioned. His famous editorial cartoon about the Kennedy assassination re-defined what cartooning was for me and just about everyone. I was quite young at that moment but I remember seeing that cartoon. It filled the back page of the Sun-Times.
Only the old comics fan boys will get this, but there was a guy at DC Comics named Carmine Infantino whom I really liked. He once had a one-time feature called "How I Draw The Flash" and that was as good as any art class I ever had. Some of the Marvel Comics guys were great, too, like John Romita Sr. who drew Spiderman. The king was Mort Drucker of Mad Magazine. No one could do caricature like him. I have his 1968 presidential primary cover for Mad framed to this day.
These days, I seem to appreciate other writers, musicians and artists more for their high-level of endless productivity combined with smart promotional moves. Guys like Mike Houlihan, Mike Jeffers and Tony Fitzpatrick come to mind.
Patch: Any advice to young artists who are interested in also becoming a professional cartoonist?
Krebs: First, study a variety of artists and find one you like or one that kinda matches your style. See how he or she works it to help your own style evolve. And really work on your lettering skills. Secondly, don't turn down any project. And look for variety in the work, like do your own comics but draw your pal's CD cover, too, your family's party invitation, whatever application you can find for your cartoons. Build a portfolio that shows versatility. Trust me, there are not too many editorial cartooning gigs out there so it good to be adaptable for other kinds of illustration assignments. It's even better to be quick and reliable. Lots of guys can draw but few can make deadline with effective work. Get deadline 'battle-tested' on your school newspaper or any publication that you can convince to publish your work. Sometimes they need a cartoonist and don't know it, so be bold. And lastly, keep up with all the new computer programs out there. It's really changed the way the process works. I really appreciate that I'll never have to drive to a South Loop office late on a wintery night to deliver a cartoon again.
More information is available here.
Check back on Saturdays and Sunday for Charley Kreb's comics on La Grange Patch where we're bringing back the weekend funnies. Who said you needed paper?