(Fantagraphics) (Guest Review by Robert Dayton) This book is an expansion of horizons and may just be the least pretentious art book ever made. The cover is, appropriately enough, made out of wood. Why, it’ll float your boat and get your goat.
Born at the tail end of the 19th century, Norman Pettingill started out mostly hunting and trapping in Wisconsin. In the 1940s he started his own postcard business. Much of this book contains reproductions of the numerous postcards that he made right up into the 1980s, as well as some paintings on logs, and hand decorated envelopes from his personal correspondence.
Pettingill was a self-taught artist. His work is completely footloose and full of folksy character, much pluck and hillbilly mischief. There is a reason why his postcard business thrived: the material itself is funny and the visuals are attention grabbing. These unhampered pen-and-ink drawings are rich in detail. Some tableaus have about a billion things going on at once, whether it’s ice fishing, hunting, or animated elk head-adorned saloon settings. He loved to get a bit randy, yet unsexy, when he drew moonshine-addled morons, or other such twisted grotesqueries . Sight gags galore, like a cross-eyed gee-gaw Will Elder run amuck in a log cabin.
This book also includes his more straight-up nature art: gorgeous pictures showing the versatility and variety of his scratchy line.
Sublime, inspiring stuff illuminating further possibilities in the form, busting up some rules.