Saturday, January 09, 2010

Art Clokey

Art Clokey, the creator of Gumby and Pokey, began his work with clay figures on his grandfather's farm 80 miles north of Detroit where he spent his summers in the 1930s. It was paradise to him as a boy. A neighboring farmer had a son about his age. They would play together in the barnyard or in the living room of the house. The son had a set of blocks and toy cannons. They built forts with toy soldiers. They would shoot pencils and marbles out of the cannons and destroy the fort. When they ran out of soldiers Art began to make them of clay. It was the first time he can remember working with clay.

Great artists are often inspired by mentors, and for Art Clokey this was Slavko Vorkapich, the head of the Cinema Department at the University of Southern California where Art was a student. Vorkapich was an immigrant from Yugoslavia. Art did some graduate work with Vorkapich, who, shortly thereafter, resigned from the university to work on his own films. Vorkapich continued to teach in private classes at his home in Benedict Canyon, California. Vorkapich considered Art his protégé, and introduced him to his kinesthetic film principles of animation. "He turned my head around at USC as far as motion pictures are concerned," Art said. He also introduced Art to his friends, who were some of greatest film makers in the world at the time, including the great Russian director Eisenstein.
Art experimented with film as he was developing as an artist, long before he created Gumby, Pokey, and all of their friends. But his work with clay in film really began in the advertising industry with commercials, and it was during a break in the filming of these commercials that he began to create an art form that in a very short time would be recognized throughout the world.

He is best known for his animated television character Gumby. Clokey and his wife Ruth invented Gumby in the early 1950s at their Covina home shortly after he had finished film school at USC. Since 1955, Gumby and his horse Pokey have been a familiar presence on television, appearing in several series—and even in a 1995 feature film, Gumby: The Movie. Clokey's second most famous production is the duo of Davey and Goliath, funded by the Lutheran Church in America.
By that time, Gumby toys were already ubiquitous. But Clokey had mixed feelings about commercialization.
“I didn’t allow merchandising for seven years after it was on the air,” Clokey told the Tribune, “because I was very idealistic, and I didn’t want parents to think we were trying to exploit their children.”

Good Night Mr. Clokey
Thank you for the gift of Gumby

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa
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