Friday, September 26, 2014

William Steig's Crying Chickens

Steig revels in his unconventionality, although it sometimes makes problems. He says his sojourn into the world of conventional business—as an illustrator for an advertising firm in the '60s—caused him to double over regularly with severe psychosomatic muscle cramps. "Doing advertising was something I couldn't stand to do," he says. "I just hate to follow someone else's impulse."

Here then is New Yorker cartoonist William Steig doing something he couldn't stand to do. The story is that he has lunch with an advertising executive for a poultry company, who proposes a new advertising campaign. Chickens, you see, are saddened that their eggs are simply too small to be taken by this fine chicken company; hence they--the chickens--are left crying in despair. Mr. Steig covers two sheets of paper with sketch proposals featuring crying chickens. He does this quickly and apparently without the use of a reference. He works directly in ink with no pencil underlining. In the end, each chicken has an expressively tearful face and an appropriate gesture. The artist signs each sheet and leaves them with the executive, who keeps them for decades, even framing one of them. On February 8, 2014, they are each sold separately on eBay in the $230 to $240 price range. The advertising campaign never materialized. Now that's something to cry about.

William Steig, Crying Chicken detail

William Steig, Crying Chicken
William Steig, Crying Chicken

William Steig's signature
William Steig, Crying Hen, detail

William Steig, Crying Hens

William Steig, Crying Hens
William Steig's Associated Press obituary by Greg Sukiennik, Boston as published in The Press, Atlantic City, NJ, October 5, 2003

Note:  More art by William Steig may be seen at various places around the blog.


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