Book/Magazine Covers (Jones) · Connections · Jeffrey "Jeff" Catherine Jones · Look Here

Look Here: “The W. C. Fields Book” cover by Jeffrey Jones

The W. C. Fields Book (Brooklyn: Wonderful Publishing Company, 1973) is identified in the indicia as a “special issue of Witzend (No. 9).” Witzend was an underground comics magazine launched in 1966 by E.C. legend Wallace Wood and published and edited by him until 1968, when he sold the magazine, for a buck, to Bill Pearson/Wonderful Publishing Company. Here’s the cover with Jones’s painting of W. C. Fields, which, by the way, is reprinted at a small size but sans text and in full colour on page 64 of Jones’s first solo art book, Yesterday’s Lily (Dragon’s Dream, 1980):


And here — SURPRISE! — is an extremely obscure illustration by Jeffrey Jones, published in black-and-white in National Lampoon, vol. 1, no. 23 (February 1972), along with an article entitled “The Thoughts of Chairman Fu-Manchu”; the painting has never, to my knowledge, been reprinted:


The washy, rub-out style of the “Fu-Manchu” painting, which can be accomplished most easily with oil paints but is also possible in watercolour/gouache, was state-of-the-art in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Three of the best known practitioners were Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame inductees Bernie Fuchs, Burton Silverman, and David Levine, but many others tried their hands at it, too — including Jones, apparently. To learn how to do it in watercolour, all you need is a copy of Silverman’s Breaking the Rules of Watercolor, a selection of watercolour paints and brushes, a few rolls of good-quality paper towels, a large tube of white gouache, a stack of the heaviest weight Strathmore plate bristol you can find, AND THE PATIENCE OF JOB!


Here’s an album cover, not by Jeffrey Jones, with a portrait of W. C. Fields that appears likely to have been based on the same photo reference of Fields as Jones used for his painting; the accoutrements are slightly different in the two portraits, but the face, I think, is a dead giveaway:


I suppose it’s also possible that one portrait was based on the other (though it seems to me unlikely). Either way, however, Jones’s W. C. Fields genuinely looks like the kind of man who keeps a supply of stimulant handy in case he sees a snake, which he also keeps handy, while the other Fields looks like he has been living for days on nothing but food and water. Can you guess which one I like best? Wrong again. I prefer Jones’s version.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.