A comic strip is more than just a consumable art-product. It’s your love letter to comics and everything you’ve ever read or loved that got you to where you are. As often as you can, whenever you can, fill your comic strip with angels, not demons. If it’s not fun to draw and doesn’t make your heart sing, well, it’s just like smashing ‘n’ stomping on your own box of chocolates.
This morning the video card on my computer died (again), so it was clear I wouldn’t be able to complete a strip today. Instead of posting a re-run, my older daughter and I went out for doughnuts and decided to come home and do a “Daddy-Kiddo” strip. This doesn’t happen very often, but when it does it’s great fun. When I was in my early 20s I used to imagine that getting married and having a family would just get in the way of my “art life,” which I felt would be all encompassing, but – of course -I was wrong on all fronts. For me, the art life is not all encompassing, and having a wonderful family just makes everything all the sweeter.
My adviser and mentor, David Becker, who guided me through art school at UW-Madison told me that having a family (for artists) is very good because it keeps them grounded something real beyond their art. He told me a story of a fellow he knew, a loaner, who cast off all things so that he could dedicate his entire life to his art: no family, no lovers, no friends…just art. Eventually, David told me, this fellow ran into a very “dry spot” where is art just wouldn’t come to him; his ideas were blocked and he just couldn’t make art.
“What did he do,” I asked?
To which Becker replied, “He XXXX his head off with a XXXXXX.” (Edited for younger readers).
Granted, that’s a very colorful, awful, and Mid-West kinda story.
Very few cartoonists (I’ve ever known) are extreme in that manner.
That said, I love having a family and love the balance it plays in my life.
All these later, having drawn comics for over two decades, I tell myself “I don’t avoid life so that I can get to my drawing board. I finish my work, so that I can get back to my life.” …And, I believe it.
Comics are wonderful. Cartoonists are wonderful.
But, family and real life are most important.
That said, I’m glad my computer broke.
Today has been really wonderful. – I have zero regrets.
Here’s an etching my my art school adviser David H. Becker. He’s such an interesting person and a true genius in what he does.
We had many wonderful talks while I was at art school at UW-Madison. One of the most important things he taught me was how to make a gin martini. Some day, if I ever get around to it, I’d like to write a book (or something) about my time in art school. In terms of the density of insane experiences, it may very well be the most outrageous three years of my life.
I’ve been using this brand of ear plugs for over a year now, and I really love them. On a daily basis, it’s easy to overlook the problem of noise, but noise is everywhere. It’s amazing what a little quiet can do when you take the time to seek it out. I have this very same plastic jar of ea rplugs on my bookshelf at home, and use my plugs when I meditate, sleep (sometimes), and at other times when it’s just nice to have some quiet. Twenty years ago if someone had told me this was the thing I’d really be into (as opposed to a giant TV or a video game type-thing) I would’ve said they were nuts. – Not true! – Quiet is the new cool. – If you’re interested in finding your own version of quiet, you can buy your own jar of purple squishies on Amazon here.
The best things that happen in Art are between the creator and the art piece. When things go well it can feel like falling in love or finding something beautiful in nature. That bond that the artist creates with the work is an experience that only that artist can feel.
In the art world, there’s a great emphasis on exposure, fame, and money. There’s a belief that adding these things on top of the art is like adding a love potion to the experience you’ve already created, that somehow these elements will make your love for the art deeper. This is something that many artists agonize over. Over time, this obsessive focus on competition, exposure, and status can start to over shadow the very essence of the art itself. It becomes like a dark sticky tar that gets poured over something beautiful.
Competition in art is like poison for the soul.
This kind of thinking will only lead to heartache.
To free yourself from this trap you must return to the basic premise of your art.
Each artist has a different story to tell.
Each artist has different work to do.
The best thing you can do for your art is to be true to yourself and your inspirations.
Make art that you find compelling, inspirational, and joyful, and embrace the experience it creates.
Do this and your art will continue to grow and feed your soul.
Do this and you’ll never fall out of love.
For the past year or so I’ve been drawing “Watson” on regular typing-paper, i.e. “computer” paper. For decades, I used to draw everything on fancy paper from the art store, but as I’ve gotten better at drawing the strip I’ve found that typing-paper works just as well. About a week ago I bought a new ream of paper that was working out just great, but for the last few days all my pens have been bleeding like dying cowboys all over it. Not only that, but the fibers (such as they are) from the paper are pulling up and getting stuck on the ends of my pens. – Could it be that not all typing-paper is created equal?
I just figured it out!
Because of the humidity in the house (ever so slight) the paper has become a bit more porous, which has affected its texture. It was fine when I bought it, but now it’s turning into cheese.
Next chance I get ‘ll have to go to CVS or wherever to get some new paper, and then keep it in a cool, dry place.Given the latest heatwave around the country, I’m not sure if we have a cool, dry place in the house.
I’ll really have to look.
The basement is somewhat cool, but some of those liquor bottles keep it from being totally, totally dry.
In the past when I’ve done interviews or talked to younger, aspiring artists there’s always a lot of discussion on “getting there” and how life, real life, is some how on hold until you “get there.” If someone were to ask me the secret to “surviving life” or how to make “the time go by faster” until you get to where you want to be, I would say “stop waiting.” – Never wait at all.
If you spend your whole life waiting to not worry, or waiting to get a place where you know exactly what your art is or who needs to be seeing it, you’ll wait and worry yourself right to your death.
Life is full of uncertainty, and making any kind of art that’s true or real comes from making peace with that. Don’t wait for your “famous stories” to start enjoying your life or making your best art. You’re in the middle of your famous stories right now.
The secret to making art and living life fully is to appreciate the beauty of each day – the beauty of your story – and seeing the good parts for what they are. Everyone’s life has amazing and beautiful parts to it. — It’s easy to forget that, but you shouldn’t.
One snowy night, a group of Jazz musicians were on their way to a gig when their train broke down on the tracks. Rather than waiting for the train to restart, the musicians decided to hop off with their instruments and cases, and walk to the nearby town where they were performing. As they were making their way across a snowy field, collars turned up, wind howling, they noticed a little house glowing in the distance. Through the frozen window pane, wrapped in orange light, they saw a little family in front of a fireplace, all holding hands, sitting down to dinner. Big John, the trombone player, turned to the rest of the group and said “…Must be nice. I wonder why we’re not in there.” The band leader responded “Really…? – I don’t know why they’re not out here.”
Just dropped off the computer to Tom-The-Computer-Guy. (See video at the very bottom).
Hope to have it back soon.
LAST UPDATED July 9, 2018
As if life wasn’t confusing enough, my computer’s video card failed (for good) on Monday and I am without a computer to color my strip once more. In the delightful video below, although my darling child suggests contacting Gary Larson to “arrange” another loaner computer until mine is fixed, we all know that is absolutely not an option AND we all know why. – At present, my computer is in the shop and should be back in a week. Enjoy some of the recent Gary updates below.
The “feud” with Gary is still ongoing.
There are no new updates at this time.
THE BEST THING any cartoonist can do is to help the next generation of artists find their way. Once a cartoonist has found his or her success, every little bit of effort, I think, should go into helping everyone else find theirs. — I learned this lesson from Mike Peters, Dan Piraro, Wayno, and Jeff Parker, my dear friends and mentors. — with Jan Eliot.
At this year’s Reuben Awards we toasted Mort Walker, creator of “Beetle Baily” and “Hi and Lois” who passed away this year. Turns out, Mort had his own special brand of whisky. This was the only bottle at the dinner, but I managed to get a sample.