These drawings represent the drawing of the young Erik ReeL as he worked out his artistic identity as an early teenager. From the period from fifth grade to early eighth grade [ages 12-15] ReeL began drawing as a conscientious intention to creat art, though he had been drawing for his own sake since six years of age.
These were drawings made independently of any school or teacher or classroom experience. ReeL worked in three very different styles during this period: a Matisse-like linear style, usually in pen and ink, that he continued well into college; a finely shaded rendering technique, as in these examples, that culminated in these type of drawings when he was 14 and 15 — though later used to challenge classes at art school and as a foundation for drawing his art school course work; and a very highly developed, professional-level, cartoon style which he drew in single panels.
ReeL claims that in his earliest drawing, when he was very young, starting when he was six, he frequently used multiple-panel cartoon-like formats to draw stories with pencil. His main audience for these stories was evidently completely limited to his mother and himself.
The later cartoons of his teenage years frequently featured a pot-bellied janitor whose ascerbic observations were frequently used to parody or ravage the foibles of the teachers and administrators at ReeL’s schools When caught and punished by his Junior High art teacher for drawing an unflattering cartoon, ReeL reportedly replied to her that he planned on being a janitor when he grew up, which evidently infuriated her. ReeL did not ink his cartoons, even though he did an extensive body of work during this time in pen and ink and was thus comfortable with the medium and in producing a variable line with ink, he left his cartoons in a finished, or “clean” pencil state in such a way that they could be inked later if required.
The rendered or shading technique of the type of drawings pictured here were usually of famous artists, or other famous people, but mostly artists, taken from photographs on LP album covers found in his local public library which evidently had a considerable jazz and symphonic music offering, in the case of musicians, from book jackets for authors, or other reference materials he found in the library for other artists. The earliest known example of this type of work is from the end of ReeL’s third grade year and was kept by his mother and was part of her estate. It is a drawing of Hans Christian Anderson in profile based on a picture from an encyclopedia that was in the house. The drawing’s current whereabouts is unknown. Most of these drawings have not survived, including most of the cartoons.