Kurt Vonnegut’s drawings and other doodles

Kurt Vonnegut thought drawing good for the soul - his own doodles and more have been compiled in a book

“My own means of making a living is essentially clerical, and hence tedious and constipating. The making of pictures is to writing what laughing gas is to the Asian influenza.'”

– Kurt Vonnegut, Fates Worse Than Death


kurt vonnegut selfportrait

© Kurt Vonnegut, Jr National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Kurt Vonnegut liked to draw. Other writers, notably J.R.R. Tolkien who illustrated his own work, and more who brightened letters with doodles and marginalia found the connection between visual art and words in how artist can tell a story. For him it mattered “because it’s known to make a soul grow”.

In Breakfast of Champions, Vonnegut’s satirical encyclopaedia of all things, the writer doodled a whimsical self-portrait – one he often used as a signature; the one that showcased his moustache – amid all manner of little drawings as a non-textual means of furthering the story. He held a one-man show of his felt tip drawings in Greenwich Village in 1980 (“not because my pictures were any good but because people had heard of me”).

Kurt Vonnegut drawings

More of of the writer’s drawings, made in pen and magic marker in the 1980s, feature in Kurt Vonnegut Drawings. The author sent the drawings to his daughter Nanette Vonnegut in the mid-1990s. Nanette writes of her father in her introduction to the book:

“Whether it was music, literature, theater, or the visual arts, he believed practicing the arts saved lives…

“I see hints of blueprints, tile work, leaded-glass windows, William Blake, Paul Klee, Saul Steinberg, Al Hirschfeld, Edward Gorey, my mother’s wasp waist, cats and dogs. I see my father, at age four, forty, and eighty-four, doodling his heart out.”


Kurt Vonnegut signature doodle via Sothebys

Vonnegut did make some notes on his drawings, likening the blank canvas to a  “Ouija board” and how “the canvas ponders this addition and comes up with further recommendations”.


Kurt Vonnegut art Kurt Vonnegut art

Kurt Vonnegut art
Kurt Vonnegut art


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