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 Ray Dirgo  (20th century)

About: Ray Dirgo
 

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Lived/Active: Connecticut      Known for: illustrator-circus genre

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Ray Dirgo
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Ray Dirgo was a native of Bridgeport Connecticut.  He was an artist, cartoonist and scriptwriter who seemed to enjoy his profession.  Of his work, he said: "I go out every morning, look up and thank God for my talent."

Dirgo was primarily self-educated in the arts.  After high school, he was a sign painter and worked in advertising for a department store.  Then he landed an advertising job at General Electric as a staff artist, a job that gave him confidence, skills and a variety of disciplines.

Leaving General Electric, he did many freelance cartoon style jobs for news publications advertising for local businesses.  Bridgeport was the home of PT Barnum, the circus owner, and in the early days, the Circus played a big part in the lives of the population. Dirgo took an interest in sketching at the parades, and especially loved the clowns as well as the color and pageantry.  For Barnum, he designed many attractive promotional posters, and these projects led to additional commissions from circuses and carnivals around the country.

His work had many clowns, other figures and a wide variety of animals, which he depicted with bold color in semi-realist style.

Dirgo didn't watch much television, but he was fascinated when watching the movement of some of the new Hanna Barbara Cartoon Shows on TV.  Concept artist Ed Benedict along with animator Dick Bickenbach created much of the material that was incorporated into the television renditions.  Dirgo then spent hours and hours privately drawing the famous characters in an animated style. Flintstones, Top Cat, Quick Draw Mc Graw, Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound along with The Jetsons (The first space age family) were at his command.

He pondered going to the big studios as an animator as he had acquired the authentic style and mind set necessary for the Hanna Barbara productions.  The new style differed from Disney Characters as there was sort of two-dimensional approach which was angular instead of round, and produced by a method of limited movement.  Actually this approach offered advertising people a chance to produce less expensive animation productions to their clients.

In the 1970s, the Charlton Comic Group of Derby, Connecticut acquired the necessary licenses for the successful cartoon characters, and management was ready to incorporate the famous Hanna Barbara characters into an authentic comic book series.  Ray Dirgo illustrated a few sample scripts.  George Wildman, the art director and accomplished cartoonist whose renderings included Popeye, reviewed Dirgo's work and hired him to draw his favorite characters.  He was also assigned the Studio character sheets that showed the character requirements.  Later he wrote, penciled and inked the complete book.  Most of the time he did the covers for the series.

Dirgo lived a long life and appeared much younger than his years. His wit talent and dexterity remained with him until the end.

Submitted December 2004 by James Kieley of Woodbury, Connecticut. Kieley wrote:
"Shortly after meeting this artist for a consultation we became friends.  I was browsing in a comic store when I noticed Ray Dirgo's style on the cover of a comic, "The Flintstones".  How could this be? It was twenty years after the cover had been created. Harvey Comics had purchased all the old editions from the now defunct Charlton Press, and Ray received no payment or royalties.

One reward was seeing his productions upgraded to better paper and skillfully recolored.  The whole series was republished, and Dirgo enjoyed a revival of his celebrity status. This artist's output was not limited to the above.

A few years ago he collaborated with writers on the production of Children's Books that are on the market at present.  Although Ray has passed on. His works live. Below is a sample of his later cartoon work. It's the kind of artistic output that has brought so much joy to children and adults of all ages."

If I Could Only Whistle Loudly. (A Day in the Life of the Circus) Written by Frank Mellon / Ray Dirgo Illustrator

I Cant Talk I've Got Farbles In My Mouth. Written by Mary Sydlowski / Ray Dirgo Illustrator Sept 1996


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