Personal Observations on Humor in Art



Some Personal Observations on Humor in Art
By Victoria Chick, Figurative Artist and Early 19th & 20th Century Print Collector


Those of you who have read my articles about Art with a capital A on a regular basis know I am serious about what is generally recognized as universal elements of art and principles of design that allow us to understand or, at least appreciate, art that has been done from prehistory and ancient times in varied cultures.

You may be surprised to learn many pieces of art I have collected over the years have attracted me because of the humorous aspect of the subject being expressed within classic organizational elements and design principles. One of the hardest things developing artists have to do is retain a childlike sense of fun while learning a craft that is “serious”. Sometimes the “children” disappear until the artists are confident and secure with their chosen medium.


One of the artists whose work I have collected is Edward Abrams, a noted illustrator for articles in many periodicals, TIME Magazine covers, classical record albums, and portraiture. Abrams also does visual puns, one of his dealers told me, for his own enjoyment. 


His choice of multiple etching as the medium for his puns gave many of us the chance to purchase and enjoy his work. His sensitivity to drawing loses nothing in its translation to etched lines and ink. And, as an artist and long-ago 4H Club member, Ed Abrams makes me smile each day as I look at his drawing, “Pointless Meeting of the 4H Club” and admire the way drawing skill and sense of fun combine so beautifully to bring back memories.


Another artist whose original print I bought is known to me only by his last name, Lund. This print is a serigraph, sometimes called a silk screen for the technique used to produce it, in which a stencil blocks very thick ink from being forcibly pushed through tiny holes In woven silk that is tightly stretched across a wooden frame – a silk screen. In this serigraph, Lund has used a diptych form which is a two-part composition, in this case, showing stop-action with fanciful, comic figures.


Even Phillip Evergood set aside his dark social realist worldview on occasion to indulge in a burst of humor. The print seen here is a far cry from his paintings of distorted figures expressing social themes of the Depression and WWII eras in which he lived. Evergood occasionally autographed his original prints for specific people. I think it can be assumed the autographed print referred to a private joke between the artist and recipient. The one pictured here, “to Helga”, seems to have begun as a serious head study that morphed into a cartoon figure pleased to hold a thousand dollars.


In considering humor in art, the cartoonist must not be left out, but placed at the top. Cartoon art is enjoyed by millions daily. I have collected original, signed cartoon art that makes me laugh about some aspect of my own life. From the simple line drawings of stock characters in Charlie Podrebarac’s “Fat Cats” to the complex drawings produced by Michael Ramirez in his daily editorial cartoon, cartoonist’s skills in observing life combined with drawing ability make us laugh at ourselves, our situations, and nudge us toward better understanding.

Victoria Chick is the founder of the Cow Trail Art Studio in southwest New Mexico. She received a B.A. in Art from the University of Missouri at Kansas City and awarded an M.F.A. in Painting from Kent State University in Ohio. Visit her website at



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Victoria Chick is the founder of the Cow Trail Art Studio in southwest New Mexico.

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