Monday, March 05, 2012

Gallery On Baum's Bushmiller Forgery: Let's Take A Closer Look, Shall We?

Ohhh... why does this piss me off so much? I guess it's because I'm so fond of Bushmiller's work that I hate to see it misrepresented by such a bad drawing. Here's the Gallery on Baum's fake (Yes, I am saying that: fake, fake, fake, and intended to deceive) Bushmiller which I wrote about this morning on the right, and the genuine panel from his 1957 Sunday strip on the left:

Goodness, those are awfully close (NOT in quality, mind you). How well do they match up? Let's turn the original blue and the fake red and overlap them:

It's positively uncanny! No, it's not uncanny: it's a tracing done on a lightbox. But could it be a tracing by Bushmiller himself? Ask this question: why would he do this? If Bushmiller were to dash off a quick sketch for a fan, why would he lug out a lightbox instead of... well, dashing off a quick sketch? Also, if Bushmiller himself were doing the tracing, one would expect him to understand his own drawing and not make what are called "tracing errors." Does the Gallery on Baum's drawing include tracing errors? Oh, yes, that and more. Let's really get into this:

(Click to open a larger version in a new window and play along at home!)

  1. On the left, the horizontal lines in the building are Bushmiller's visual shorthand for "planks of wood," misunderstood by the tracer as simply shading lines, which he doesn't feel a need to follow exactly.
  2. Note that where the tracer doesn't feel a need to exactly follow the original, as in the bushes and the shading lines on the building mentioned above, the lines are fast and assured. Where the tracer feels more of a need to follow the original contours closely, such as in Sluggo's outline, the lines are shakier and slower, less sure. These are elementary aspects of tracings, and once you get used to spotting them, you'll notice traced drawings everywhere, like this Warhol.
  3. Tracing error: Bushmiller uses two separate lines to delineate the collar of Sluggo's shirt and his left hand. The tracer misinterprets this as a single, continuous line.
  4. Tracing error: the crease in the pants caused by the bend in Sluggo's knee in the original is misinterpreted as... Sluggo's bulging crotch? Ew.
  5. After decades of drawing Sluggo, "Bushmiller" suddenly forgets how he has always drawn his ear.
  6. The tracer says to himself, "Stupid Bushmiller should have put shading there!"
  7. On the left is Bushmiller's visual shorthand for "edge of the sidewalk and grass." On the right is "Bushmiller" suddenly forgetting how he has been doing this for decades.
  8. This is probably the most damning detail: "Bushmiller" suddenly starts constructing the letter "B" in a totally different way than he has been doing for decades.
  9. And here is "Bushmiller" suddenly forgetting how to draw the same shoes he's been drawing over and over on a daily basis for years and years and years.

I could probably come up with at least five more points, but I think I've already belabored the obvious here.

And don't even get me started on the signature.

One last thing: Could Gallery on Baum's drawing be a rough sketch for the final strip? No: Bushmiller's rough sketches didn't look anything like this, and he didn't make them on index cards with felt-tip markers.

UPDATE: Bushmiller authority Mark Newgarden (and co-author with Paul Karasik
of the upcoming HOW TO READ NANCY)  has this to add about the drawing:

As far as we can tell EB never owned a light box.

His real drawings for fans were nothing like this. They are usually quite
tight and often water colored-and never drawn in a ruled panel (let alone
one taken from a daily strip!)

Click on the "Gallery on Baum" topic tag below for more in this series.


JMC said...

...I'm hopeful you've seen this? Right up yr alley, I think.

Peteykins said...

I haven't seen that particular page, but those are all just scans from Brian Walker's "Best of Ernie Bushmiller's Nancy" book. Great stuff!

Civic Center said...

The guy should be arrested. He's committing public fraud. The biggest and most obvious tracing fuck-up, which you didn't bother to point out, is the lettering of "BEATNIK" which is completely different and less crisp in its lines than the original.

You live in D.C. Can't you get the FBI on this, or are they still worrying about terrorists and radical environmentalists instead of Serious Crime?

Rosa S. Levy said...

This is fascinating! Our very own Princess Sparkle Pony, Forensic Cartoonist!

Peteykins said...

Mike, I thought the overall horribleness of the lettering pretty much spoke for itself. That "B", though, is totally convincing forensic evidence.

It's frustrating: so many have condemned this guy, but then they all shrug and say, "Somebody should do something about it."

I did actually file a police report with the Pittsburgh PD, but I honestly don't expect to hear back from them at all.

I really don't want to just let this go, though.

Anonymous said...

Example #4 totally cracked me up. The original has the pants crease drawn in an upside down u arc (I'm not artistic at all), and the copy has the crease drawn like a u, which makes Sluggo "bulge." HA!!HA!!

Can we do more of these? And also, don't forget about the Santorum answers. I couldn't figure them out.

Matthew Hubbard said...

Great work, Peteykins. There are so many things to point out, let me say that Sluggo's right hand is so cleanly drawn in the original and such an ugly lump of clay in the forgery, much like what sfmike said about the lettering of BEATNIK.

Call the authorities! (Well, Peteykins is the authority, I mean the people who can arrest and convict this blackguard.)

Peteykins said...

Can we do more of these?

I would LOVE to. For instance: Gallery on Baum is currently offering a drawing "by" a famous animator which is traced from a drawing made after that animator died!

HRH King Friday XIII, Ret. said...

PSPCSI. I love it.

Anonymous said...

Also, what can be done about those high seller ratings on eBay? People are being deceived!

Peteykins said...

I don't think there's anything that can be done about ignorant collectors leaving positive comments about their transactions.

nixiebunny said...

I just posted a link to this page a s a question to the seller on the eBay item listing. Tee hee! I love stirring the pot.

Peteykins said...

Uhhhh... thanks?

nixiebunny said...

OK, so I received a reply today at 2:59PM California time. The reply I received said, "I didn't know anything about it."

Ten minutes later, the item was sold.

Coincidence? You decide.

Peteykins said...

How interesting, given that the auction was originally set to end on March 8. How about that!

Anonymous said...

How bright does the light in a lightbox need to be to make tracing onto an index card possible?

Peteykins said...

Anonymous, I've looked through Bristol board (with difficulty, admittedly) on a lightbox. An index card isn't all that much thicker than bond paper. No problem. Some areas would be harder to read, though, such as the patch on Sluggo's left elbow... and lo and behold, note how the tracer gets it wrong there, in addition to the other tracing errors already discussed.

Ike Iszany said...

Is it just me or is The Gallery on Baum starting to get a real rep for forgeries?

vollsticks said...

I'm surprised that no-one's noted that it seems to be drawn with a crappy non-lightfast ink-pen whereas Bushmiller (as far as I know, feel free to correct me)would've used pen-and-ink--anyone know what type of nib Bushmiller worked with? I'd guess a Hunt lettering nib, B or C, maybe?
Anyway those "scribbled" spotted blacks are a dead giveaway....

Peteykins said...

Good observation and good question, vollsticks. Mark Newgarden would know the answer to that for sure.

I didn't mention the crappy pen, because I thought it was pretty obvious.

vollsticks said...

My God, done a bit of clicking around on here, I could never have guessed the sheer volume of ropey "art" that guy's selling! The fact that he won't have his collection authenticated speaks volumes, to me.
Who the hell is buying this stuff?!?!

Comrade Physioprof said...

Excellent forensic analysis! Thanks for explaining in detail how you do this.