The Making of an Illustrator — An Appreciation of Harry R. Grissinger
(from Art & Life, January 1926)
Years ago, so many I’d have to count back on my fingers to remember just when, about 1904, if a finger hasn’t dodged me, I frequently received letters from a Mr. Grissinger, of Scio, Ohio, telling me about a son of his that had a “bent” for drawing.
Unlike some parents, Mr. Grissinger wanted to give this son, Harry, a chance, and the outcome of the correspondence was that Harry was enrolled for an art course in the old Acme school, then a flourishing institution – with a bit too much “flourish” that eventually resulted in bankruptcy.
Harry wasn’t one of these “geniuses” we hear so much about, but seldom – if ever – see. He was just a bright, earnest young fellow who wanted to be an artist bad enough to dig in and do the necessary hard preliminary work leading up to meritorious original composition.
Harry did not start in with the idea that a few months of easy work would enable him to make $100 a day, or, if he had any such notions at the start, they were soon knocked out of him – without knocking him out also. Many an art student makes the start, but it takes grit and detemination and a goodly amount of exceedingly hard work to win out, and when the average student commences to find out about the hard work he is apt to get the proverbial cold feet, that turn him around and take him back to a warm spot where he can bask in the sun and take it easy.
Harry had the right kind of feet, or at least his head was able to govern them and keep them in the path of artistic progress, tho, perhaps, there was a slip or two in the early days, the record makes no mention of them. Thus old father Time bumped along for several years without Harry accomplishing anything that entitled him to a niche in the Hall of Fame; he was just a good student, faithful and persistent. It was during this study period that Harry had his first drawing printed in the old Student’s Art Magazine, familiarly called SAM, now Art and Life.
During the year 1911 Mr. Grissinger went to Chicago and from that period up to 1915 he worked in various engraving houses, freelanced, and did special work for The Western Newspaper Union and the International-Press bureau. In 1915 he accepted a position with the W. D. Boyce Co., publishers of Saturday Evening Blade., The Chicago Ledger, Lone Scout, Farming Business and Home Folks, and did work on all of these publications along the lines of fiction, news and comic illustrations, cover designs, etc.
During the World War entered the army but received an injury while in training so did not cross the pond, was honorably discharged and resumed his old job with the W. D. Boyce Co., with whom he continued up to the year nineteen hundred and twenty-four.
During the above period he did considerable freelance work for outside publications including many story illustrations for The Boy’s World, The Girl’s Companion, The Young People’s Weekly and Countryside.
In nineteen hundred twenty-four he accepted a position on the Sunday staff of Hearst’s Examiner, illustrating stories, news features and articles both serious and comic, by such writers as Rubert Hughes, Mary Roberts Reinhart, George Shaw, George Ade, Will Rogers, etc. And, as the fairy story says “There he is to this day”. .
While much of Mr. Grissinger’s work has been along comic lines and his comic work is good, having an individuality about it quite different from the work of any other artist in the comic field, yet his important work is serious illustrations, and it is into this field that he expects soon to enter, exclusively.
The making of an illustrator takes a long time. There is so much he needs to know, so many things he must draw with accuracy and feeling, before he can properly interpret an author’s ideas into pictorial form and supplement a manuscript with illustrations that really illustrate. The illustrator must be more than a mere draughtsman, he must have the intellect to appreciate the theme he is given to illustrate, must be able to enter into the spirit of his task with a high idealism that makes his pictorial interpretations a substantial addition to the authors work.
Besides being a fine draughtsman, Mr. Grissinger is a student, not an “academic” student entitled to any B.D’s or P. H. D’s or – well possibly he has some B. V. D’s, but we’ll let that pass. The idea we wish to convey is that he is a student of the BIG school. LIFE, an earnest reader of good books and magazines and, also, that he does his own thinking, and has passed the stage of letting the other fellow tell him what to “believe” and “how to vote”.
For years he has looked forward to the time when he could get into high grade magazine work and we predict that that time is in the very near future for Mr. Grissinger is eminently capable of producing the finest kind of pen illustrations, and really good pen draughtsmen are few and far between. There is no instrument of art quite so difficult to master, nor is there any medium so effective and appropriate for illustrations that supplement the printed text.
William Morris, the great English artist held tenaciously to the idea that the pen rendering was the only kind that properly went with printed type. We are pleased to be able to present a few of Mr. Grissinger’s pen renderings in connection with this article, and on following pages, as samples of meritorious work. You may soon expect to see his work appearing in the large magazines.