VALPARAISO, Ind. (May 4, 2023) – For the past four years, artist, illustrator, animator, and cartoonist Jim Siergey has been creating “nartoons” for The Lansing Journal. Although he does do some work in paint, he said his preferred art medium is black and white drawings because he can do them in the shortest time frame. That black and white appearance is what readers will find in many of the cartoons that have appeared in The Lansing Journal’s print edition and online.
What is a “nartoon”? According to Siergey, “If it’s art, it’s art. If it’s nart, it’s nart.” It’s a genre of his own. It’s often, but not always black and white. It sometimes has a nostalgic, throwback vibe. It sometimes has little hints or hidden symbols. There’s humor. There’s irony. Sometimes his works make you laugh. Sometimes they make you think. Sometimes they make you smile as you reminisce the past.
In a 2019 Lansing Journal article by Melanie Jongsma, she described some of his works that were part of an exhibit at Promise You Art House in Highland as follows: “They are all black-and-white illustrations, and most involve some kind of clever silliness or visual wordplay. The style is reminiscent of early animations like Steamboat Willie and 1950s Popeye cartoons (which Siergey concurs were an influence), and the humor evokes 1980s desk calendars from The Far Side series.”
Whether or not viewers — or even Siergey himself — can put “nart” into words, there’s no doubt that he possesses impressive talent, talent that he was recognized for on April 28 when one of his pieces received an Honorable Mention at the Art Barn School of Art 29th Annual Juried Art Exhibition in Valparaiso, Indiana.
The honorable mention went to Siergey’s work titled “Monkey with Frida Kahlos.” With over 420 entries for the exhibit, only 22% of the pieces were selected for inclusion in the exhibit.
A life dedicated to art
Siergey got started in the field in “old-school animation.” It was a time pre-computer of “hand-drawn animation inked and painted onto cels and shot on film,” Siergey said.
“I was a character animator for various studios in Chicago for 20 years or so for commercials, educational films, industrial films, etc.,” he said. “I also freelanced in spot illustration for various entities and with my partner, Tom Roberts, collaborated on a comic strip entitled Cultural Jet Lag (‘an illogical combination of high and low culture with no regard for time and space’) that ran in the Alternative Press for about 20 years, as well as a 4 1/2 year stint with TIME Magazine and another stint with USA Weekend and three comic book compilations from various publishers.”
Siergey can’t remember a time when he wasn’t drawing.
“I think I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil,” he said.
However, he didn’t think of it as something that could do as a job until adulthood.
“The thought of doing it as a career never occurred to me until I met Jay Lynch, an Underground Comix legend and comics historian when I was in my 20s. I began getting my feet wet freelancing then but it wasn’t until I was 30 and segued from gilding harps into animating that I began making a career doing the same things I used to be punished at school and at home for doing — drawing pictures.”
The Art Barn exhibit
The 29th Annual Juried Art Exhibition at the Art Barn School of Art in Valparaiso runs through May 18. It includes work from 85 artists from the Midwest and beyond, including Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Missouri — and as far away as Utah, Texas, and North Dakota.
Drawing, painting, pastels, printmaking, mixed media, photography, textile, and ceramic art work are all part of the exhibit.
“If you haven’t been to the Art Barn, it’s a most unusual place to exhibit as it has a few animals walking around outside — a donkey, a goat and some chickens, to be exact. And the Art Barn is an actual barn. I’ve always found it very charming,” said Lansing resident Pat Kremer, who attended the reception and awards ceremony for the Juried Art Exhibition. “We just returned from his exhibit at Crown Point’s historic jail, which was an entirely different experience where they use the actual ancient jail cells for display areas for the art. It is fun, however, to see the artists in the Region come together under one roof.”
Where to see Siergey’s work
After living in Chicago for four decades, he and his wife relocated to Munster a few years ago to be closer to their grandchildren. Since the move he’s enjoyed being part of the art scene in Northwest Indiana.
“I found that all these drawings I do for fun, I put a frame on them and they’re considered art,” he said. “The same thing I got sent to the principal’s office for — drawing — I get paid to do today.”
In the past four years, Siergey has been part of a number of exhibits and library displays that have included the Towle Theatre, South Shore Arts Juried Art Show, Munster Library and more.
His work can currently be seen at:
- Wildrose Brewery in Griffith
- Dyer Public Library
- Paul Henry Gallery in Hammond
- Promise You Art House in Highland
- The Art Barn in Valparaiso
- Munster Public Library (until Memorial Day)
- Sip Coffee House in Highland, where he’ll be on hand for a soft opening on May 21 from 3 – 6 p.m.
- The Merrillville Library, where there is an artist event on May 20 from 11 – 4 p.m.
“I’ve found that there is quite an art colony out here in Northwest Indiana and I’ve learned they are all very welcoming,” said Siergey.
Those interested in seeing illustrations Siergey has done for various paperbacks can find them in the books listed below:
- Vamps & Tramps by Camille Paglia
- Fair Game: Open Season on Baseball by Bob McKenty
- Rewriting History by Max Gutmann
- Albert the Orca Explains Echolocation by Scott Rowan
- If They Did It: A Hypothetical Account of How the Chicago Cubs Might Have Won Every World Series Since 1908 by Greg Simetz and Jim Siergey
Siergey was profiled, and his work was included, in the book Attitude: The New Subversive Political Cartoonists by Ted Rall and he designed and illustrated a series of comic strips for “Albert Einstein”, a major exhibit at Chicago’s Field Museum as well as a brochure for their “Dinosaurs” exhibit.
He’s also done work on The Garbage Pail Kids trading cards and designed greeting cards for the Smart Aleck company.
Animation-wise, he animated Rembrandt a 23 minute video from the Getting To Know The World’s Greatest Artists series as well as Take Me Out To The Ballgame, a 7th inning stretch video that was played on the Chicago White Sox’ Jumbotron.
- What is ‘nart’? You’ll know it when you see it (January 30, 2019)
- Local artist Jim Siergey featured in Whiting ‘Midsummer Dream’ exhibit (September 1, 2021)
Jim, & Lansing Journal, CONGRATS to a great cartoonist! AND, Today is National Cartoonist Day! SWEET! Keep up the good work and keep fooling those who can’t understand your humor! Mike
Congrats to Jim and the other awardees of the Juried Art Exhibit!
We appreciate the article
I love the images you took Carrie, if you would be willing to share we would greatly appreciate it.
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