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.

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chipper said...

This is totally great!

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