All artists hope that they will make a lasting impression on the world; something that carries their name for hundreds of years so that, long after the artist is dead, the name lives on.
Except these guys. These guys were just farting around on the side when they accidentally created something that would impact the world for decades and decades to come. They impacted the art scene forever, and changed things in our world, infecting pop culture in astounding ways. And you have no idea who any of them are.
#6. Benjamin Franklin
OK, well, yes, obviously you know who Ben Franklin is, but you probably don't think of him as an artist. Well, unless you count his whoring, drinking and mad skateboarding skills.
"Excuse me while I kiss the sky."
However, long before he invented the hoagie, Ben Franklin experimented with something that soon became as much a part of the democratic process as the super PAC or the middle finger. We speak of his 1747 editorial "Non Votis," or "The Waggoner and Hercules," which appeared in his pamphlet Plain Truth. The publication was a precursor to the zine -- which, incidentally, Ben Franklin is credited with inventing.
According to his autobiography, "The Pamphlet had a sudden & surprising Effect," not unlike an 18th century equivalent to Cracked.com. Franklin revisited this phenomenon on May 9, 1754 in his Pennsylvania Gazette with his editorial "Join, or Die." Just like "Non Votis," Franklin made his message as idiot-proof as possible: It was just a drawing.
Ben's poor understanding of reptile anatomy would cause thousands of tragic snake mutilations.
Not only did Franklin's experiment in zine-making permanently establish him as a hero to Philadelphia's punk rock scene, but his illustrated editorials simultaneously invented political cartooning in the United States. His depiction of the segmented snake -- which could be reunited to survive -- was widely reproduced up to the American Revolution decades later and served as a precursor to the Gadsden flag the Tea Party whacks off to every day. It essentially did for political cartooning what Machiavelli's The Prince did for political science, and it remains popular with political cartoonists to this day. Not too bad for a guy whose prior art experience likely consisted of doodles of naked women on cocktail napkins, is it?
#5. Platt Rogers Spencer
Penmanship may not seem like much now that most handwriting is outsourced to robots, but in the 19th century, that shit was treated like the first and second rules of Fight Club.
Such was the case when Platt Rogers Spencer developed Spencerian script in 1840. Despite enjoying the impressive reputation of a drunk, Spencer created a school of handwriting that set the standard for all business correspondence in the U.S. until the advent of the typewriter. Back then, you didn't just learn how to write; you learned how to write like Spencer. If you ever had to write something worth a damn from 1850 to 1925, odds are you wrote it using Spencerian script -- the Arial, Times New Roman and SpongeFont SquareType of its era.
"He called me an asshole in a letter, but I feel strangely flattered."
But why should you care how some fancy-fingered boozehound used to sign his name at the police station? Because Spencer's artful handwriting was used by virtually every business from the Gold Rush until The Gold Rush, and after the turn of the century, some of these businesses decided to keep their company name the way it always appeared in their paperwork. Among them:
So, if you were ever tantalized by Coca-Cola's creative logo, aka one of the most celebrated logos of all time, that's Platt Rogers Spencer's surprisingly steady hand at work. All of you folks who are super into fonts now have a lovely little anecdote for your next crazy font party.
#4. Sir John Tenniel
Sir John Tenniel was a Victorian cartoonist and illustrator whose contribution to pop culture was as immense and expansive as the breadth of his mustache.
He's turning around! DUCK!
Tenniel started out as the primary political cartoonist for Punch, a humor and satire magazine perhaps best described as Cracked's 19th century equivalent. Tenniel illustrated more than 2,000 cartoons for Punch over the course of 50 years, cracking wise about every subject in Victorian England from the Irish question to Jack the Ripper.
Still, there have been plenty of successful cartoonists and hundreds of pamphlets and magazines, so why are we supposed to care about some mustachioed guy we've never heard of? Because in 1864, Tenniel was approached to illustrate Alice's Adventures in Wonderland after Lewis Carroll's first stab at illustrating ended, well ... piss poorly.
Via Alices Illustrated Adventures
Carroll may have been writing about mercury poisoning from personal experience.
John Tenniel and Lewis Carroll hated working with each other, but their unfriendly collaboration resulted in some of the most iconic illustrations in history. They're certainly responsible for how Wonderland looks and feels in all of our imaginations.
Gosh, who could forget that famous scene where they had their crazy board meeting?
Or what about the wacky antics of Smiley Treehead?
OK, so we just looked at the pictures. Reading wasn't really our thing back then.
While Carroll never appreciated Tenniel's "Leave me the fuck alone!" approach to artwork, his detailed style set a new standard for children's illustrating that was carried on by Dr. Seuss, Edward Gorey and Maurice Sendak. Even more impressively, virtually every subsequent depiction of Alice was so deeply rooted in Tenniel's style that in many cases artists just said "Screw it" and threw Tenniel's illustrations into their product, as was the case with American McGee's Alice, Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland and even freaking Batman: The Animated Series.
Gotham's primary export is mental illness.
All future illustrators and creators were incapable of seeing any vision that wasn't Tenniel's, so they didn't even try changing it.
It's not just that Tenniel's work influenced other illustrators; it shaped the way that we will forever think of Alice in Wonderland. For example, we all know that Alice is a cute little blonde girl, right? That's how she's depicted in the book, as well as in everything she's been in since. Well, there's one person who actually thought Alice was a brunette ... Lewis freaking Carroll, which is why he drew her with dark hair in all of his illustrations:
And according to these, she may have actually been a boy with long hair.