Cliff Roberts Mid century Illustrator of Jazz and Muppets
Cliff Roberts (1929-1999) was a cartoonist and animator. His cartoons appeared in magazines such as The New Yorker and Playboy. He worked on inserts for Sesame Street as well as the spin-off comic strip and Sesame Street Magazine. Roberts spent much of his early career in New York City as a freelance commercial artist and director. For Sesame Street, Roberts created Jasper and Julius, two characters who would engage in debates over body parts, as well as Christopher Clumsy. These characters were brought over to Roberts’ Sesame Street strip, alongside Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch and Cookie Monster.
Thanks to the flickr site of Ariel S Winter for these great B/W images of Langston Hughes ‘The First Book of Jazz’.
How stunning are these ? Such simple lines but beautifully drawn and wonderfully expressive.
There’s such energy in his work.
He also worked as a photographer, with work displayed at the 1964 World’s Fair, and contributed cartoons to Playboy and The New Yorker. He soon became a popular designer for animation, creating character model sheets for Terrytoons and UPA projects. Roberts’ style, reflecting his commercial illustration background, involved flat but appealing forms and a minimal color palate; most of his characters were white blobs with occasional splashes of color. Roberts later worked on the Saturday morning cartoons The Smurfs, Scooby-Doo, and The Pink Panther.
‘Depth Study’, is a 1957 sales film for CBS Television which shows Cliff at the peak of his career. Thanks to Amid Amidi over at Cartoon Brew for this.
Thanks to Eric Sturdevant over at Fun All Around Blogspot for posting these illustrations which were some early work done by Cliff Roberts for FORD TIMES magazine in the late forties. He was in his late teens when he drew these ! Roberts cites illustrator Jan Balet as an influence of his from this period.
More full colour illustrations from the Ford Times again and one of Cliff’s books called ‘The Dot’ (c.1960)
I do prefer his work in the book ‘Thomas’ (1956) where his ornate, whimsical style really has a chance to shine out, or should that be Purrrrr !
More stills from Cliff working on animations for Sesame Street over on Muppet Wiki and a great article by Leif Peng over on Todays Inspiration Blogsopt too. He retired in 1993 and sadly passed away 6 years later at the age of 70. Such a talented guy. I sense from looking through his work, that he was a larger than life figure, who liked jazz, enjoyed his work and had a great sense of humour. What do you think ?