Futurist illustrator Art Radebaugh was in the waning years of an impressive career when he created Closer Than We Think for the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate. He had been producing advertising art and illustrations featuring his unique visions of the future starting in the mid-1930s. His sleek air-brushed fantasies were used on magazine covers, in automobile ads, even in Coca-Cola marketing.
Closer Than We Think was a Sunday panel that ran from 1/12/1958 through 1/6/1963. Each week Radebaugh would look at some aspect of future life with a few paragraphs of text and a detailed drawing replete with arrows pointing out points of special interest. Radebaugh’s future vision was Jetsons-like, full of floating cars, flying saucers and push-button technological magic.
If only newspaper comic sections could have reproduced airbrush drawings, Radebaugh would have had a huge hit on his hands. The artist’s airbrush work was gorgeous stuff. Unfortunately, due to the limitations of high-speed color presses, Radebaugh was forced to use alternative methods. As a substitute for the airbrush he used stippling and shading techniques to supply a simulation of the depth and startling realism of the drawings he had usually produced for fine coated magazine paper stock.
The shading method was a disaster from the start. The finely drawn details turned to mud on the newspaper page, giving the feature a dark and dingy appearance. For reasons that I can’t guess, he continued using the technique despite the problem. It has to be considered a huge tribute to Radebaugh’s unique vision that the feature lasted even as long as it did.
To enjoy a much more thorough biography of Art Radebaugh, and see an eye-popping sampling of his amazing creations, be sure to visit the Palace of Culture.