Gospel cartoon by Jack Hamm

Jack Hamm was an American cartoonist, who made Christian-themed artwork and editorial cartoons. He holds historical significance for being the first comic artist to host an educational TV show about cartooning, even if this specific program was only broadcast in his home state. Hamm is nowadays maybe best remembered for his instruction books 'Drawing the Head and Figure' (1962) and 'Cartooning the Head and Figure' (1967), as well as 'How to Draw Animals' (1969) and 'Drawing Scenery: Landscapes and Seascapes' (1972).

Born in 1916 as as Jack Beaumont Hamm in Elkhart, Kansas, his father was a clothing store salesman. Jack Hamm attended the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago after high school, while preaching in small churches in Kansas and in and around Chicago. However, he was in need of money, so he turned to cartooning. During the 1940s, he ghosted on such newspaper features as 'Bugs Bunny', V.T. Hamlin's 'Alley Oop', Dick Calkins' 'Buck Rogers', Edgar Martin's 'Boots and Her Buddies' and Raymond Flanagan's 'Let's Explore Your Mind'.

Instruction by Jack Hamm
Sequential sample from 'Cartooning the Head and Figure'

He fulfilled his military service in Alaska and the Aleutians during the war. Back in civilian life, he went to Baylor to teach commercial art, and he also served as interim director of Baylor's art department. He also taught art at Dallas Baptist University. From 1949 on, Hamm was the host of one of the first TV shows about art and drawing, called 'The Jack Hamm Show', which was broadcasted in Texas.

Samples by Jack Hamm
Drawing old age, according to Jack Hamm

He eventually combined both his callings, and started making religious cartoons for the Baptist Standard of Texas. He also returned to preaching, but did this with aid of pencil and paper. He sent his Gospel cartoons and illustrations to magazines like Time and Newsweek free of charge through Religious Drawings Inc., the company he ran with his wife Dorisnel.

Jack Hamm remains an inspiration for aspiring cartoonists to this day, as his instruction books have continued to be reprinted. Besides giving useful tips and tricks for mastering the art of cartooning, the books are also a showcase of Hamm's skills, since the artist provided illustrations and samples in a variety of techniques and styles. Matt Groening claimed in a 1993 interview with Jamie Angell that Hamm's 'Cartooning the Head and Figure' demonstrated to him "that you can evoke all sorts of emotions with the crudest little ink squiggles."

Jack Hamm

Series and books by Jack Hamm in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:

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