Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Craig's Bookshelf: Original Art of the Oz Books

I would love to own an original drawing or painting by John R. Neill or W.W. Denslow that appeared in one of the Oz books. Unfortunately, most of their art is out of my price range. Consider, for example, Denslow's illustration for the beginning of Chapter Four in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This pen and ink and pencil drawing of the Scarecrow and two Munchkins sold at auction by Swann Galleries on January 23, 2014, for $30,720 (including buyer's premium)!
Denslow drawing for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The asking price at Aleph-Bet Books for even a lesser piece like John R. Neill's pen and ink drawing of Queen Ann Soforth of Oogaboo, which is reproduced at the bottom of page 27 of Tik-Tok of Oz, is $6,250.00. 
Neill drawing for Tik-Tok of Oz

Here's the good news: it's possible to find original art within practically any collector's budget. And even the humblest piece will be rarer than the book. After all, each piece of original art is unique. And if you don't care whether the picture actually appeared in a book, then the possibilities are nearly endless.

As someone who is primarily interested in collecting books, I always keep in mind that any money I spend on art is money that's not available to purchase books. Even so, I am pleased to have acquired about a dozen pieces of original Oz art. The highlights of my collection are pieces by Michael Herring, Eric Shanower, Melody Grandy, Isabelle Melançon, and Joe Shipbaugh.

Herring study for The Giant Horse of Oz
The most important pieces I own are a pair of oil paintings by Michael Herring, who provided new cover art for the Del Rey paperback editions of the Oz books by L. Frank Baum and Ruth Plumly Thompson. The first is a small 8 1/2 x 12 1/2 inches oil study for the cover to Thompson's The Giant Horse of Oz, which was first published by Reilly & Lee in 1928 and later reissued by Del Rey in 1985. The second is the large 48 x 36 inches painting that was used for the actual cover. I get a kick out of the fact that the back of the smaller painting has Herring's handwritten notes from his communication with the editor Judy-Lynn del Rey: "background color - more yellow", "Horse at angle rearing", "face of horse animating". Sure enough, when you compare the study to the finished painting, you can see that Herring followed del Rey's directions exactly.

Herring's handwritten notes on the back of the study
I get an even bigger kick comparing the final painting to the published book cover.
Original Michael Herring painting & cover to The Giant Horse of Oz                    (not to scale)
Another fun item is my original comic book art by Skottie Young, who illustrated Marvel Comics' adaptations of the first six Oz books. This particular piece is from Issue #1 of The Marvelous Land of Oz. It depicts one of my favorite events in Oz history: the animation of Jack Pumpkinhead when the witch Mombi sprinkles him with the Powder of Life; Tip, who is spying on them, is so amused that he laughs out loud! This piece is ink/brush on Bristol board and measures 11 x 17 inches.

Original drawing by Skottie Young & page from the comic book (not to scale)

The text of the Marvel comics adaptations of the Oz books was written by Eric Shanower, who is an Eisner Award-winning cartoonist and illustrator in his own right. He has written and illustrated many Oz books and comics, and he's also a really nice guy! Many of his books are available from Hungry Tiger Press, which is owned and operated by his partner David Maxine. (Also a really nice guy!)
Eric Shanower inscription and sketch of the Shaggy Man on the front free endpaper of my copy of the Marvel Comics graphic novel The Road to Oz

Portrait of Dorothy Gale by Eric Shanower

I don't have any published art by Eric, but he did inscribe my copy of the Marvel Comics graphic novel The Road to Oz together with a sketch of the Shaggy Man. I also own a lovely unpublished drawing by Eric of Dorothy Gale. As you can see from the way he drew her, Eric's vision of Oz is strongly influenced by John R. Neill. This particular piece reminds me of the way Neill drew Dorothy in Ozma of Oz.

Melody Grandy's original drawing of Zim & Jinnicky
Next is a drawing from Zim Greenleaf of Oz, Book 3 of The Seven Blue Mountains of Oz, written and illustrated by Melody Grandy. Zim was issued by Tails of the Cowardly Lion and Friends, which publishes modern pastiches/apocrypha based on the Oz books. The drawing shows Zim being hugged by Jinnicky the Red Jinn.
Melody's drawing reproduced in the book

I have another original drawing from Namesake, a webcomic that is drawn by Isabelle Melançon and written by Megan Lavey-Heaton. Namesake also is available in book form. The drawing is the cover to Chapter 3 of Book 1 and shows Princess Ozma and another character from the Namesake alternate universe. (If you like Namesake, then you may want to check out the Spring 2013 Baum Bugle, since that issue showcases Isabelle's art in the inaugural column of "The Oz Illustrator.")
Original drawing for Namesake (left) & published version from Book 1 (right)
Finally, I'm sharing a couple of acrylic paintings that I commissioned from Joe Shipbaugh. They are portraits of the Scarecrow and Jack Pumpkinhead, and both measure 8 x 17 inches. Most of Joe's artwork is inspired by the 1939 MGM film The Wizard of Oz. However, the characters in these two paintings are depicted as they appear in the 1985 Disney cult classic, Return to Oz.
Portraits of the Scarecrow and Jack Pumpkinhead by Joe Shipbaugh
Oh, and one more thing--if you enjoyed viewing the original art in this post, then I encourage you to see Bill Campbell's blog, The Oz Enthusiast. Bill and Irwin Terry own an amazing collection of Oziana, including original art by W.W. Denslow and John R. Neill, as well as many other rare and unusual items.


ericshanower said...

Craig, I'm glad you have that Dorothy drawing. I did it for a comics retailer at Planet Comicon in Kansas City in 2009. Usually I don't remember convention sketches, but I have remembered this one cuz I thought it turned out well. It was on ebay a while ago. I assume you were that auction winner.

Craig Noble said...

Eric, it's a lovely drawing. I did not win it (nor see it) on eBay. I got it as part of a trade with Marcus. I know he was sorry to part with it, but he's been trying to raise money by selling books or trading for books that he can turn around and sell on eBay.

I would love to acquire additional original art by you. If I recall correctly, you once told me that you don't sell the originals of your published art. I expect that means that I would have to commission something, assuming that you do work on commission.