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Cut & Paste: Illustrator D.B. Dowd Finds Insights In A Lost Art

D.B. Dowd
A page from "A Is For Autocrat," with words and pictures by D.W. Dowd and design by Scott Gericke.

D.B. Dowd has spent a lot of time collecting and studying the history of illustration, a category of artwork that art historians and art museums have often overlooked.

His interest was sparked when the son of illustrator Al Parker offered to donate his late father’s papers to Washington University, where Dowd teaches illustration, design and cultural history.

D.B. Dowd
Illustrator D.B. Dowd

When Dowd got a look at the materials, stacked in a California garage, he glimpsed artifacts from a once-prominent line of work that had become all but forgotten, he said, because it doesn’t fit into a history of fine art.

“There was nowhere for that stuff to go. It had no cultural home because it’s this in-between, deeply contingent stuff that illustration always is,” Dowd said. “I was fascinated by that reality. I was saddened and fascinated.”

Dowd recommended that Washington University take the materials. It is the cornerstone of what became the school’s Modern Graphic History Library — a collection that was named after Dowd in 2016.

His own work includes Graphic Tales, a blog where he’s published observations about visual culture since 2007; “Stick Figures: Drawing As A Human Practice,” a book-length examination of the history of the art form; two collections culled from “Sam The Dog,” a pointed political cartoon series about race and class that he published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in the late 1990s; and the newly released “A Is For Autocrat,” a full-throated indictment of Pres. Donald Trump communicated through the form of an alphabet book for very young readers. He authored it with designer Scott Gericke.

Follow Jeremy on Twitter: @jeremydgoodwin

Jeremy is the arts & culture reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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