Artists Only

Once upon a time, I also wanted to be a cartoonist. Not instead of writing – along with writing. I did both for the college newspaper, and both at different times for the paper in Gillette, Wyoming, drawing editorial cartoons one summer and writing movie reviews the next. One of my cartoons, about the retirement of Senator Cliff Hansen, earned me a note of thanks from the Senator himself. So I sent him the original, and he sent me another note to tell me that he’d had it framed.

I later tried to break out into the national markets as a single panel cartoonist, but my art style was odd and my sense of humor odder. It was tougher than breaking into print. By the time my writing began to pull ahead in the race of artistic expression, I had sold only one cartoon to a national publication, which can be seen here. Naturally, the art side of my life went by the wayside.

I haven’t drawn anything outside of doodles on a notepad while on hold for customer service in years and years and years. The last time I was drawing anything consistently was when I worked in radio between 1989 and 1992. I started drawing a comic strip based on things I saw at the radio station, and briefly entertained the thought that maybe I could sell the idea to a radio trade mag. I never did anything with it, and I think the strips, which were drawn on legal pad paper, have become lost over time.

So I haven’t thought about drawing again for a long time. Until the last couple of days, when I discovered one of the most creative blogs I’ve ever seen. It’s called 4-Block World, and it sums up life, the universe and everything in a series of diagrams containing four blocks. My immediate reaction to it was, “Man, I wish I’d thought of something like that!” Then I thought, “Maybe I could. I could make sketches and scan them…” Then I thought, “Do you really need something else competing for your creative time that you already don’t have enough of?”

Thus, the idea of picking up a pen to draw again was scratched. In the meantime, I want to direct you to some of the other art-oriented blogs that I’ve discovered over the last few weeks that also contributed to this brief flirtation.:

  • The already mentioned 4-Block World by Tom McMahon. Distilling the world and its complexities into little boxes with four panels.
  • Doug Savage’s Savage Chickens adds another interest of mine, chickens. Savage’s intellectual poultry are rendered on yellow Post-It notes, scanned, and posted on a daily basis.
  • Chris Muir’s Day By Day is the right’s answer to Doonesbury. Only Muir doesn’t resort to photocopying panels and using it over and over and over like Trudeau does.
  • Francesco Marciuliano’s day job is as the writer for the strip Sally Forth. By night he writes and draws Medium Large, a web strip that shows what a strip can be like if it’s not worried about being family friendly. The least consistent comic on this list, it does have its moments.

On another creative front, it’s a really strange feeling to be playing a Gestapo agent in the revised version of The Diary of Anne Frank. Not because of who I’m playing (although I have joked that between this and playing the Constable in Fiddler on the Roof, I won’t have any Jewish friends left), but because I’m so detached from the production. I’ve put in less than two weeks in rehearsals, and aside from a certain set of guidelines (I’m the one who takes Anne’s diary away from her), every night is a little bit different, and therefore improvised. I show up late and do my part and get out before everyone else (except for the other three Nazis). But there’s no angst over having a larger part with real lines. I’ve never done a show under these circumstances and it’s, well, different.

As long as I don’t get the urge to start doing single panel cartoons about actors in bit parts, I think I’ll be okay.

Listening: Talking Heads, “Swamp” (via iPod Shuffle)*

*Ironically, I chose the name of another Talking Heads song as title for this post before the song came up in rotation

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