John Whitlock, photo registrar for the Harvey County Historical Museum, has some unique insight into the creative process — something he is looking to share as part of Carriage Factory Art Gallery's Third Thursday festivities this week.
From 6 to 8 p.m Thursday, Whitlock will showcase the artwork and share personal stories of Newton High School graduate and comic illustrator Reed Crandall — his uncle.
"We'll get a real personal look at an artist's life and how he connected with family," said Carriage Factory Director Cindy Snider. "We'll learn some personal tidbits in addition to about his work."
"I kind of grew up with him living in our household, watching him doing his art," Whitlock said.
Often working out of New York City, at times when he was unable to support himself Crandall would move back in with Whitlock's father and the rest of his family in Kansas, giving Whitlock a chance to see the various types of comics his uncle did illustration work for — ranging from traditional superhero to science fiction and horror stories.
Though Crandall got his start in Newton, thanks to a push from former NHS art teacher Marie Orr who helped him earn a scholarship to the Cleveland School of Art and opened the doors to his work in illustration, Whitlock noted his artistic footprint locally remains somewhat subdued. He is looking to change that with this Third Thursday presentation.
"I think a lot of people who grew up during that time period knew Reed while he was a student at Newton High. From what I understand, a lot of people in town have some of his artwork, but have never really shared it," Whitlock said. "I'm hoping to try to get people to at least maybe share through the museum here."
Even just taking photos of original artwork — whether sculptures, wood carvings, oil paintings or any of the other mediums he worked in — would suffice, Whitlock said.
Crandall's work is also on display at Santa Fe 5/6 Center, as he painted a mural in the building (the former high school) when he attended school there.
As a 2009 Eisner Hall of Fame inductee (one of the top honors in the comic industry), Crandall's work in the field is well-documented, from stints drawing Captain America for Marvel Comics' previous imprint (Atlas Comics) to the co-creation of superhero Firebrand to acclaim earned for his work on the military comic "Blackhawk" following a group of adventurous World War II aviators.
Much of that work has been collected into "Reed Crandall: Illustrator of Comics," a book currently available at the Newton Public Library and one Whitlock is personally spreading the word about. Given that Crandall undersold himself while in school at NHS, Whitlock said he is happy to share his stories to garner more recognition and discussion of his work locally.
"I'm trying to open up more so that people will see more of his work and appreciate it," Whitlock said. "It's just too bad that he died too early to appreciate that he did have followers and people who collected his things."
Recognizing local talent is something Whitlock hopes to facilitate more of through his presentation — knowing there are many skilled artists from the Newton area. The art gallery hopes to inspire that, too, by showcasing some different perspectives that continue to grow in popularity.
"This, I think, fits into what people are interested in knowing about, especially for Reed Crandall who is one of us and became well-known. So, it just all fits together and we're going to have fun with it and learn some things, too," Snider said. "It's just sort of a different type of art form that just gives us a different look at artists, what directions they choose to go."
Admission for Thursday's event is free and refreshments will be served at the presentation. For more information, check www.carriagefactoryartgallery.com or call 284-2749.