Slap Happy [comic strip]

This comic strip is the last of my recent finds from the 1980s. It’s a large-format comic from December 1982 and it features a rarity in the world of Louie & Bruce. It shows the guys in class at their local community college.

l&b 1982-12 v2 1200x900 100dpi

I hope you enjoyed this run of rarities from the past.

Rude Awakening [comic strip]

I spent January away from WordPress while I worked on some art and writing projects. Since retirement from my 9-to-5 job, I’ve been busy planning to republish my books at Amazon and setting up a workspace so I can paint again.

Last week, I found more Louie and Bruce comic strips. Two were heavily damaged from age because I didn’t draw them on archival paper. They were test runs of ideas and were never published. But they were always a part of the Louie and Bruce storyline.

So, I cleaned them up on my computer with barely any difficulty. The first one, which is from January 1982, is today’s featured post. It shows our friend Louie having a dream. The figures (except Louie) in the dream are out of focus. I illustrated those characters by using broad strokes to minimize detail. They are secondary people in Louie’s life during his first year as a student at his community college. He dreams of being someone important to them, perhaps a desire to overcome his insecurities.

The other characters were based on models from a fashion catalog. By the way, plaid shirts and blouses were popular apparel for women in the early 1980s. And a lot of “tough guys” wore sleeveless shirts.

I’ll probably post the rest of my finds in the days to come, but I don’t want to take too much time away from my projects. Until then, peace and love.

Conroy’s Corner from the Archives [comic strip]

I began drawing comic strips when I was in high school. I mentioned The Klutz in my last post. I featured it in my notebooks, notes to friends, and on chalkboards when teachers weren’t around. The Burgess Bros. came next and became a common feature on many unattended chalkboards at my school. Fifi was a French girl from Montreal, Canada who had a passion for watching the Expos play baseball on TV. Her boyfriend, Carl Burgess, was a Navy recruiter stationed in a city I called Big City. (Hey, I was 15.) His brother was a brainiac inventor whose inventions caused crazy adventures that took place in many of my school notebooks.

Super Cluck was my rendition of Super Chicken, a feature on the TV cartoon, George of the Jungle. He was also a klutzy version of Big Bird from TVs Sesame Street, and a member of the Harkem Glove Trompers basketball team, though he rarely played because he hated wearing gloves and was so busy fighting crime. He used to wear a cape but almost hanged himself when he leapt from a rooftop, causing the bad guy (Evil McWeasel) to get away.

The Bullpen was a mature comic strip about a baseball farm team’s group of pitchers that tended to get into trouble with their coach and manager. Think Bad News Bears for grownups crossed with Catch 22 and M*A*S*H without the military locale. Or, imagine all your pitchers behaving like Ty Cobb or the way Babe Ruth did when he was out of the news public’s eye. Even Coach, who was like a father to the guys in the bullpen, had a lot of Pete Rose in him.

The Adventures of Moses featured a high school track star named Moses who was a health nut and an all-American clean-cut kid and his nemesis Flash’t (short for Flash Itt, his name) who was better than Moses was but didn’t take care of himself, like smoking a cigarette and pounding down a beer for warmups before running a track event.

After high school and six years later, I drew Louie and Bruce (a comic strip featured in my last post). I had finished a six-year enlistment in the Navy and had the means to attend college. Conroy’s Corner was born from that venture.

The early strips were 3-panel gags for a monthly newsletter addressed to the “adult students”—a title the college gave students who weren’t fresh out of high school and a way for college officials to segregate them from school activities. I drew many strips about the injustices at that school and the “us and them” attitude there. Most students ignored my protests. I tamed the later strips and eventually only featured sports gags.

The main character, Bruce Conroy, was really Bruce from Louie and Bruce in disguise.

I based the next strip on a true event.

After I graduated college with a BA in art, a local newspaper printed these strips and more. Some of them, yellowed by age, are still on refrigerator doors. I still get a kick when people ask, “Are you the person who drew Louie and Bruce and Conroy’s Corner? Those comics made me laugh.”

And I always grin. It’s fun to laugh. We need to do it more often.

Night [poetry]

Night came tapping at my door,
But I with book heard not a sound;
It entered on its own accord,
Trespassing on my private ground.

Night crept about my house with ease
And darkened everything from sight,
’Til through my study’s door it squeezed
And skirted past my candle’s light.

I did not peer to watch its plight
Across my shelves and down my wall;
I know not if it bade goodnight;
I heard not if it spoke at all.

With book aside I pondered why
That one so strong as dark of night,
Who snuffs the life from day’s bright light,
Could not put out my candle light.

Insight

I wrote this whimsical poem many years ago when I was at college and studying the classics in literature. I rarely write rhyming poems, but this one came to me out of the blue, so I jotted it down with no changes. I imagined the protagonist as a child in a long ago era, observing the coming of night.

A Past Kept In Shoeboxes [photography]

I used to keep my snapshot photographs stored in albums. When I married and had children, my wife and I did the same for many years. Then, somewhere along the passage of time, we stopped storing our photos in albums and tossed them into empty shoeboxes instead. Now we have 30+ years of unlabeled shoeboxes stacked in storage, filled to their brims with photos of births and birthdays and holidays that we barely remember. That’s why it’s fun to open a box and delve into those recordings of yesteryear, to refresh those memories, and to feel again the old days.

Last week, I tackled rearranging items in our basement storage room because I plan to use a corner as an extension of my writing room. So, while I moved some shoeboxes and peeked inside the last one, I found photos of my college days, back when I was an avid outdoorsman, wildlife artist and photographer, and often the bearer of flannel shirts and a bearded face. I know I’m the person in those photos, but he seems like a stranger: different in so many ways—from the clothes he wore and the food he ate to the movies he watched and the music he listened to. I wonder if I were able to travel back in time to those days, would he and I enjoy each other’s company. Hmm, story idea…

I always had my camera with me.
I always had my camera with me.
I always had my camera with me.
I always had my camera with me.
I always had my camera with me.
I always had my camera with me, even when it was hidden beneath my graduation robe.

Here are three of my many favorite photographs from my college years:

Red-tailed Hawk. One of my first honest-to-goodness wildlife photos that turned out decent.
Local church not far from my house.
Time lapse photography of downtown Corry, not far from my house.

Stranger yet was when I saw childhood photos that never made it into my old albums that are tucked away in bigger boxes. That kid was a 180-degree turn of the person I am now. And, oh, the stories I could tell him. He would be at his little portable typewriter for months writing about the old man who visited one day and told him some crazy things about his future. Hmm, another story idea…

Me at the bottom right, with some of my brothers and relatives.

The ancient Italian poet Virgil said that time flies, never to be recalled. Thankfully, 2,000 years after Virgil’s time, we have our albums and shoeboxes of photos to look back on.

Save

The Day I Helped Create an Artists Guild

In 1997, when I was 40 and had been busy teaching art, as well as creating and selling artwork for nearly 15 years, I happened to re-read an essay from my college days, “From Art Student to Fine Artist,” written by Jacob W. Getzels. In it he rightfully claims that every year thousands of young people enroll in art schools, colleges and universities, yet only a few become professional artists after graduating because art students are the most disregarded — there are no places that facilitate entry into an occupation like other professions. “A degree in fine art,” he says, “has little effect on the holder as a fine artist. The art school may increase artistic skills, but the certification it gives does not bestow artistic status in the sense that a school of law or medicine bestows legal or medical status. [The artist] hopes that society will recognize and reward what he is doing.”

Since I failed every year to have my artwork accepted in national shows entries, my closest reward for recognition was the art competition held every summer at the local park where city officials handed out ribbons to artwork voted Best of Show. Although I wasn’t nationally known, I found satisfaction showing and selling my art at the park, even when I won no awards.

Also, I felt proud of my accomplishments, and I felt quite successful as a productive and selling artist. Getzels’ essay concludes that an artist must first negotiate the difficulties of being independent and relatively unknown. He says, “An artist needs to be introverted, sensitive, and self-sufficient in order to do the work, as well as entrepreneurial and sociable, and a salesman and master of ceremonies in order to show and sell the work. Likewise, an artist’s persistence to produce the work, as well as to exhibit and sell it will determine the extent of his failure or success.” And, I realized, attitude plays an important part as well: how satisfied artists are with their status in society. I had met too many disgruntled artists angry at the world because they didn’t receive the recognition they felt they deserved.

That year, the summer of ’97, while I and fellow artists sold our art and demonstrated our how-to styles of painting at the City Park, several young people approached us and revealed their interests in becoming artists. Among their excitement of becoming artists as good as us, several voiced their anxieties about being “not very rosy-cheeked at all,” as one young lady worded it. High school art was “too craftsy,” she and others said; not enough emphasis was put on drawing and painting techniques, and so they feared they may not be accepted at prestigious art colleges. They believed that diplomas with big name universities were their tickets to getting the best art jobs. (So do some of my colleagues to this day.)

Some of these young artists were ex-students of mine, and several exclaimed that they had learned more from me than any other teacher. They wished that I taught at the senior high and college levels, too. (So did I, sometimes.) But I told them that no matter where they went to learn, always keep the joy of learning and making art burning inside them. A few would. The others would change their majors to ones our society considers more practical.

I thought about Getzels’ essay that day. Without support from seasoned artists, these kids faced enormous opportunities to fail. I got together with my fellow artists that day and co-created an artist’s club with them. Our intention was always to teach what we knew and to help and counsel anyone feeling lost, overwhelmed, not good enough — all those notions that play at our minds when we’re not feeling our best.

This summer, the Artists’ Guild will enter its seventeenth year. It has artists of a wide spectrum of age and talent, as well as many members willing to tackle problems and seek solutions. Overall, this you-can-do-it quality has made the group succeed, and it has been the care, understanding, and encouragement of its seasoned veterans that has kept the light shining for the newer and younger artists.

The group’s thriving membership and longevity proves that success isn’t measured by how many paintings we artists sell or the ribbons we win, but by what we give to our fellow artists and the world around us.