Sunday, May 29, 2011

Basil and Robert

I am a cartoonist of sorts. I did political cartoons for a couple of papers in years past. I still enjoy cartoon art and I got two different takes on the Bible from two of my comic heroes. Basil Woolverton first crossed my eyeballs in Mad Magazine when I was a kid. I copied his grotesque faces and loved them because grownups didn' I was surprised to learn that Basil was a high ranking member of the"cult like" Herbert Armstrong church that was popular in the forties, fifties, and sixties. Basil did part of the Bible in comic book form for the church and the result is stunning. His eccentric style is a beauty to behold whether you believe or not. I found this hardback copy on ebay for a very good price.

Robert Crumb is an artist I discovered during the wild and wooly sixties. His style of comic art is one you can spot the first time you see a drawing. He's done everything from underground comics to greeting cards. Fans of his other work may be surprised to find that he does the book of Genesis "straight." He just tells the complete story start to finish--and does a very good job. The most fundamentalist believer will find nothing to object to in this book--and the comic art lover will find page after page of artistic delights. Not to be missed. These two comic artists were two of my heroes when I was learning to draw. They are finally getting the respect for their art and their craftsmanship they deserve. If you love black and white penwork don't miss these two masters. Now, If I can just find a good book of the work of Jack Davis...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

What? I'm Still Here?!?

This post will be short, because I'm worn out from kissing the ground this morning. I'm SO GLAD I'm still here, and there was no rapture of the "good" folks. After all, if there had been, the only folks left on earth would be the entire Fox News organization, lawyers, used car salesmen, literary agents, publishers, book critics--and me. Not a pretty thought.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Southern Child's Garden of Verses and Poetry Month

This is poetry month. I hope you will consider picking up a copy of A Southern Child's Garden of Verses for your little ones. This project is one of my favorites. We intentionally went for the old fashioned picture book look instead of the modern "computer generated" look. The book is a mix of funny and nostalgic poems for children. Herb Leonhard is a master artist and the book makes a good coffee table book for adults too. The art by itself is worth the price of the book.

Lots of my picture books are based on the books I loved as a child. A Child's Garden of Verses was one of them. I played around doing funny Mad Magazine type parodies of poems and songs as a kid. The first time I really remember trying to write something "serious" was in the 8th grade for Mrs. Cobb at Roger's Junior School. You could get out of some sort of work if you wrote your poem instead of just reciting one. Being basically lazy, I opted for that route. The poem earned me a good grade and got my mind thinking along poetic lines--especially stuff like Ogden Nash. He was my favorite. I loved his humorous pieces.

I always had a knack for satire and parody. It got me in trouble at Highlands High School. Especially that day in Mrs. Sun's class. She introduced us to Walt Whitman's poem, Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking. She asked us to try to write a poem using Walt's style. My poem was titled "Out of the Sewer Endlessly Spewing."

She was not amused.

I think I got three days in detention hall for that one.

The truth is that I DID love Leaves of Grass and lots of other poetry, but in those days a love of poetry could get you beat up on the school yard. As the years went by I appreciated poetry more and more. I write some "serious" poems, but I still love parody,. My mind runs that way. What's a guy to do?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Old Fashioned Cartooning

I did the cartoon above over twenty years ago for Comics Buyer’s Guide. It went with one of my short humorous articles. I think I made something like 2 cents a word for the writing. (As you can imagine, in that situation, I did as little cutting as possible.) The pieces were surprisingly funny considering the desperation that dogged me in those days. I lived in the small town of Sulphur Springs, Texas, and most everyone thought I was lazy, crazy, and stupid for quitting my job in my late thirties to pursue my twin dreams of drawing and writing.

I had no computer in those days. If the paper I freelanced for needed a political cartoon the next day, I had to stay up late and get it drawn—and drive twenty miles to the newspaper’s physical location to meet the deadline. I did the cartoons at ten dollars a pop. Not much even twenty years ago--and I loved every minute of it! Not everyone liked my political cartoons. My life was spiced with anonymous late night calls by cranks threatening to kick my butt if they caught me.

 The Editor was a retired AP reporter, and he taught me a lot. He told me that when I was drawing my cartoons I could draw anything I wanted, but I should “make ‘em mad or make ‘em glad.) No lukewarm dilly-dallying. It was hard for me to find two quarters to rub together, but the education was priceless. Not to mention the fact that I got to gig politicians. The late Texas politician, Bob Bullock, even bought the original of a negative cartoon I did about him. His aide told me that he collected any cartoons about him, positive or negative. You know, that hombre was smart. It made it a hell of a lot harder the next time I needed to skewer him with my pen.

I went broke buying Winsor-Newton Series 7 brushes for inking. They cost too much, but I could never find any other brushes that rivaled them. I used every sort of pen tip and pen for lettering. Supplies were hard to find in that town, so I got most of my stuff mail order from the Dick Blick catalog. Good old India ink was the media of choice.

There was no electronic re-do. If you screwed up the drawing or lettering it meant a brush and the Pro White bottle—or the circular file. I generally drew the cartoons in “non-repro” blue pencil and then inked the pencils. I also worked with assorted airbrushes—including a left-hand version of the Paasche rotary AB airbrush that set me back BIG BUCKS. I don’t think they even make them anymore. I did huge drawings of people, and I can’t tell you the times the thing clogged and spit right at the end ruining the whole work.

I remember the first day I got a computer. It was an early desktop model ordered from DAK mail order. The entire hard drive was only 20 megs! The amber and black screen was small and the dot matrix printer was loud and slow. And I thought I was in hog heaven. No internet. No email. No sending your work to the office electronically. The one thing that was the big innovation for me is that I could save my writing on a floppy disk. And in those days they WERE floppy.

That’s when I first started transcribing the notes, stories, and events that eventually became my memoir Travels With Grandpaw from my spiral notebooks. I’d scribbled notes in assorted notebooks before that and I entered them in the computer for the first time. I put out a small self-published booklet that I called New Summerfield Sketchbook. I sold them through the old Factsheet Five zine magazine. And all this time I was a “house husband” with two little kids helping me. Old times. Good Times. The best of times. The worst of times.

Thank God for graphics programs, and laser printers, but I still miss the days of India ink under my fingernails. I’m in the process of creating some cartoons in the old way. This may not pass your “So what?” test, but I’m getting jacked about it.

Purchase Travels with Grandpaw at Amazon

Purchase Travels With Grandpaw at Barnes and Noble

Purchase Travels With Grandpaw at

Standing Knee Deep in Literary Hoopla


I had a great time at the Texas Library Association--except that the powers that be had laid off so many librarians and cut the state education budget so much that fear was just under the surface of the fellowship. Those wonderful Texas librarians are afraid for their jobs. Fandango Stew and Green Mother Goose were well received. I'm thankful, but I found myself missing something I want to recapture from my youth.

Nothing approaches the pure joy I had way back when creating "underground" comics in the sixties at college. Not risque like Crumb, but satires about little things on campus. The quality of the  food in the cafeteria, the war between the cowboys and hippies, dorm life etc. I'd work for hours on a pen and ink cartoon and sneak over and post it on a cafeteria door or dorm wall early in the morning. The cartoons weren't officially sanctioned, so they were torn down after a while. But how I enjoyed "sticking it to the man" for those few hours. Nothing earth shattering. Nothing very important--but fun.

Now that I have some published books through traditional publishing houses, there are new pressures. Things are changing fast. The word for today's writer is promote-promote-promote. Everybody is blogging, Twittering, Facebooking, Linked in, sandbagging and pumping up resumes. Making literary mountains out of literary mole hills. But suddenly I find myself wading knee deep in literary hoopla all the time and not having enough creative fun. The reason I quit my bank job to draw and write full time was not to become an internet marketer. I realized I needed to get a little balance back in my life.

I've decided to fix the problem. I'm going back to the future.

I'm going to follow my old time bliss more. Do more of the things that attracted me to the creative fields in the first place. I still LOVE doing school visits, but I plan on feeding my comic soul a bit more. I'm going to do this blog for fun. And if it quits being fun, I'll quit doing it. I'm going to do more "hobby" writing. The work on picture books etc. will still be there, but I'm also going to do some experimental writing and get back into comic art. My first venture into this area is my memoir Travels With Grandpaw that I've just published as an ebook. I really had fun doing this project about growing up with my grandfather. I may sell a few, but the joy I got by doing it was the main reward.

I've looked at the bestsellers and if I was market savy, I should have titled it, "Midnight Zombie Travels With a Vampire Grandpaw in a Texas Twilight," or perhaps I should follow the trend and write a book about a werewolf writer with one of the one word titles so popular right now. Maybe "Unpublished" or "Unpromoted." lolol. Don't get me wrong. I respect all those skilled writers who write that sort of thing. It's just that my "inner Mad Magazine child" needs some attention. So, I've unpacked my dip pens, India ink, and old fashioned drawing paper.

And of course, I'm not pure. Here's a bit of shameless promotion. You can find Travels With Grandpaw for download at the Amazon Kindle Store, the Barnes and Noble Nook store, and at Smashwords. No werewolves, no zombies, no wizards, no vampires (other than Texas politicians). Now, if some movie producer will see it and  buy the rights to it for a million bucks, I can retire to my hermit's abode and kick back. One more thing. The only person to play Grandpaw Lacy is Robert Duval. Okay, enough fantasy.

Now, after writing this, I realize I am STILL standing knee deep in my own literary hoopla, and it's rising fast--at least I hope that's what I'm knee deep in...