Art Clokey and Mass Media

October 12, 2011

Art Clokey would have been 90 years old today, he passed away two years ago. Art was one of the guys I modeled my own career after since he created my favorite childhood character GUMBY.

Now my most common comment I get from fans is that they were raised on Earthworm Jim. I understand that sentiment all too well. Yes, it gets old to hear that every day of the last 15 years of my life, but it’s more than tolerable. Earthworm Jim or any of my other characters will always mean more to others that it will to me. Earthworm Jim is to them what Gumby is to me. Earthworm Jim doesn’t bring me back to being a 6 year old again, Gumby is my transport. I remember those formica table tops, Brady Bunch on prime time TV, hearing Partridge Family songs on my little AM radio and bright colored glass ashtrays in all of our friend’s houses.

That’s the multiplying effect one gets with mass media. It’s like launching a thousand messages in a thousand bottles without knowing who is going to be the recipient. That makes mass media a powerful tool, and like all forms of power, it can corrupt the wielder, and ought be handled with even greater responsibility.

Back to Clokey. Gumby became a mass media character, but he started as an art project called “Gumbasia”. Clokey represents a new form of fine artist that came about in the age of movies, inexpensive printing and a public with a voracious appetite for entertainment. Where does the fine art end and the commercial art begin? Clokey never drew that distinction, even when selling his services to the Lutheran Church to make Davey and Goliath religious shorts…a religion that was not his own, by the way. Clokey was more an Eastern Mystic than a Lutheran.

Along with Clokey came other artists who used commercial industrialization as a mode of delivery. Jim Henson, Dr. Seuss and Peter Max used entertainment as their fine art medium. While there’s no reason not to enjoy a fine oil painting in a church, now the masses get the painting delivered on their television sets and gaming systems.


8 Responses to “Art Clokey and Mass Media”

  1. omni Says:

    A wonderful insight into your past, we, the younger generations will never be able thank you in full for the Gumby’s you created for us, but I’m glad you relate and tolerate all those thanks. It sure can get tedious I suppose. You’ve made characters that reside in a special part of many many hearts worldwide. That’s a very strong feat, and very little types of art besides videogames have that power.
    I shall not thank you for those, I’ll instead thank the Boss up high for you :)
    Stay well, monsieur.

  2. Kathy Fullerton Says:

    I share your love of Gumby. Also, did not know that Clokey was the artist behind the Davey and Goliath shows. I loved those, too! Keep on keeping on, Doug. Man is called to such things.

  3. sven Says:

    Still though I’ll take this oppertunity to thank you once again for creating earthworm jim and the fond memories of the era that go with it. It made me the artist I am today

  4. I’ve gotten over 50 emails from guys who work in video games and said they were inspired to go for that job because of EWJ. I couldn’t be happier that I inadvertently contributed to another artist’s inspiration.

    Just think…one day artists will email you and tell you that they got into an art form because they saw some of your work.

  5. BillDoors Says:

    For whatever its worth, I developed my musical tastes as a direct consequence of the awesome cover art you did for some of FIF’s albums. I can’t help but think that that played some part in my tastes in arts and entertainment in general, which eventually lead me back full circle to your fantastic graphic novels. Thanks for all of the awesome over the years!

  6. sven Says:

    Heh that would be great! Haven’t gotten any emails yet, though I have a good job now. I get to make animations for a educational platform. Lots of kids get to see my stuff. PLus I have allot of freedom. Check out this piece for instance ( short animation about the dangers of ticks :p And all the gruesome ness that comes with it)

    Just sucks that I only get 2 to 3 days to do these things. Learning allot though from doing these allnighters. As long as I can keep doing things cartoony! Thanks again mr. tennapel

  7. Jordan Says:

    I am elleven years old and a male. I grew up on The Neverhood. I have finished the game countless times and still play it. This year I decided to search the web for The Neverhood, and I found a site called The NeverhoOd, on the site I found that you made a sequal to the game. This is sad, because I will never play it. This year at our school we did speeches. we could write ‘someone I’d like to meet (dead or alive)’ or, ‘an inventoin I appreciate.’ I chose someone I’d like to meet. And I choose you. I would really like to meet you. ever scince I found out that you made The Neverhood, I have wanted to meet you. Long Live Doug TenNapel! Please visit my blog at, Bye!

  8. Erik Weems Says:

    >>”no reason not to enjoy a fine oil painting in a church, now the masses get the painting delivered on their television sets and gaming systems.”

    Here’s my protest: whatever the delivery system, its a photo of an oil painting. A framed print on a wall of a painting is just the printed version of the photo of the painting. There’s a lot of distance, technologically speaking, between them, and one is obviously, instantly inferior if placed side-by-side. One is the ‘art object’ and the other is a souvenir of it, a reproduction. By any measurement, the repro is not equal to the original.

    But it’s good we can at least get the repros, because traveling to the Louvre is expensive.

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