Monday, January 6, 2014

A is for pencil

I'm working on a book project that is based upon a school program I gave for many years.  Back then I called it "visual thinking".  It was a way to get children to look at objects creatively and in this instance to encourage the innate cartoonist that dwells inside every kid.

The concept is pretty simple:  Take a letter of the alphabet and make a picture out of it.

Lower case h is a little girl reaching for a star

Its sort of a subversive alphabet book in which A is for pencil and C is for salt shaker.  I know that kids will enjoy it, they certainly did when we were doing this together in classrooms.

Its written in rhyme, no less.

What does a lower case q suggest to you?

 yeah, me too.

Stay tuned!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Grab your crayons

The challenge was to do a coloring book that was also an alphabet book that told the battle story in sequence and in rhyme...whew!
Here is the result.  Happy coloring.


Monday, December 30, 2013

1986 - the cartoonist's new apartment

My cartoons really started to percolate about the same time that I did. Sometime in 1985 or 86 all of a sudden I became very happy, and productive.

I took an apartment in the "East town" neighborhood of Grand Rapids which sort of fancies itself as Greenwich Village west, providing that Greenwich Village east is populated with uptight dutch people. Marvin, my landlord, I've discussed him earlier, was an outstanding influence to come under in many ways. His name wasn't really Marvin, by the way.

Marvin rented me the upstairs apartment of his Genessee Street home. The rent was something like $125.00 per month. Interestingly enough he'd only been charging the previous tenant, Bill, fifty bucks. I guess he thought is was time to up the ante.

But before I could start entertaining in ernest I had to move into and clean out my new apartment. What a disgusting job lay ahead of me.

Bill, the former tenant (of many years) was only interested in one thing:

Fishing was Bill's big passion. He'd fish day and night. He got a job at the local hardware/sporting goods store to be near the equipment that his employee discount put into his reach.

One of the problems that he left for me was the detritus of his hobby. The musty, musky shag carpeting (orange, thank you) was a mine field of fish hooks, long lost and embedded in the shag just waiting for an unsuspecting foot to happen by.

That carpeting was also saturated with Bill's favorite bait - salmon eggs. Like electric orange BBs made of jelly these fragrant little fertility bombs were liberally mashed into every highly trafficked area of the floor. I spent the next month cleaning salmon eggs out of every nook and cranny of the apartment.

A stinky essence pervaded every inch of that apartment.

Having my sister Fran along for the initial recon of the apartment was very helpful...unlike me, she could see beyond the filth, stench, and degradation. She insisted that the place had real possibilities, especially for a young man in my position. Trusting in my sister's judgment I held my nose and gave Marvin the check.

When Bill moved out I moved in and the frenzy of cleaning began.

(only slightly exaggerated)

Though daunting, the task of cleaning this stable was nothing that time, ammonia, vinegar, and elbow grease (and a strong stomach) couldn't accomplish. Eventually I'd established a pretty nice little roost for myself to take the best of what life had to offer.

Marvin and I also became pretty good pals and we spent many a happy hour on his front porch watching the wanna-be bohemians of East Town promanade by. The Pembroke strip below was informed by some lazy afternoons on that sagging but cozy couch on the porch.

And it only gets better,

Stay tuned (and turn down that music!)


Sunday, December 8, 2013

When smoking was fab

Two smoking vampires walk into a bar...

When I was working a Acraforms back in the early and mid 1980s, it seemed like all of us smoked, or at least bummed smokes while trying to convince ourselves that we didn't really smoke anymore. This was also reflected in my cartoons of the era.

Here's about half of the Acraforms slide department:

Nancy, Chuck, me, and Pete. Chuck was the only nonsmoker. In the background is that famous photo of Jack Ruby killing Lee Harvey Oswald as Willard Scott looks on

 I think I did the original "Bad Santa" twenty five years prior to his arrival in theaters.

The human zippo has an FDR sophistication.

A cartoon drawn for On-the-Town magazine in Grand Rapids Michigan.

A three-dimensional cartoon I did in Clay, called "Corporate Structure 1"

After years of normalizing smoking through my cartoons the big irony came along when I found myself doing gratis work for the American Lung Association. Like second-hand smoke; what goes around, comes around.

I've been smoke free for over thirty years now, nary a puff. I made a deal with a gal I was dating back then: I'd quit smoking if she'd start using her seatbelt. Decades later, I don't know if she stuck her end of the deal, I'm just glad that I stuck to mine.

By the way, for me, it was like throwing a switch. One moment I smoked, the next I didn't.

Here's this week's installment of Pembroke. This one's really dated. Tony Randall the actor had an equally high profile as an anti-smoking crusader. I guess you had to be there.

Smoke 'em if you got 'em, just not upwind of me, thanks.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Friday, December 6, 2013

Three-dimensional cartoons

Many years ago I ran across a sculptor in Gettysburg, Charlie Caldwell, who worked exclusively in Sculpey, a wonderful polyform plastic modeling clay.  His figures were whimsical and quite delightful and prompted me to get some Sculpey and get to work.  That was nearly thrity years ago and although Mr. Caldwell's Gettysburg shop is shuttered, I still fondly recall my conversations with him every time I break out the Sculpey.

These sailors and Marines of the "golden era" of the U.S. Navy, made of Sculpey, represent my memories of the years I served with the U.S. Fleet as a young 3rd class petty officer on the island of Guam and aboard Destroyers.

These figures all average about six inches in height and though they have a lot of detail they're not intended to be photorealistic but rather, three-dimensional cartoons of the guys I remember serving with back in my version of "the old Navy".

This sculpture represents one of those greatest of pleasures, the mass consumption of cold beer at what were termed "Beach Parties".


Held as morale-boosters, a beach-party would be proclaimed by a division officer or a skipper in recognition of a period of hard work, a successful operation, or as a general "well-done" to the crew.  This  celebration of a cohesive crew, the beach-party, would usually occur during regular working hours and might comprise an entire afternoon of baseball, burgers, steaks, swimming, and the ubiquitous swilling of a designated number of beers per man.

Warm beer of a local or otherwise cheap pedigree would be tumbled into a GI can and several large CO2 fire extinguishers would be expended to hose down the brewskis and get them serviceably chilled.  Then the drinking could begin in earnest. 

At a beach party, sailors who didn't drink plied a lucrative business selling their alloted four beers for whatever price the market would bear.  As a result a good time would be had by all!

I was a non-drinker by the way.

A picture of hard-earned satisfaction as this first-class petty officer draws deep the sweet elixir of life.

San Miguel was a staple in the Philippines and on the Islands of Guam and Midway.

Back in the "Old Navy" every lifer had a church-key on his key ring for just such eventualities.

Sculpted by yours truly, this is the first of a few of my old shipmates...

that may appear on this blog from time to time.

Art imitates life, and this was a part of my life so many years ago.