The Artist's Path - Part 3
Today I am going to talk about my childhood. First I need to talk about a couple of childhood books. First are Ed Emberley's Drawing Books, Make a World and Animals. These books taught a simple way of drawing the things and animals that can populate a world. Hundreds of elements and building blocks to create with. Thinking back, I don't ever remember sitting and doing drawings using the books, instead these books taught me the breadth and depth of the world. Also how everything can be simplified down to it's iconic form. And a simple iconic form can be a powerful thing.
The second book of note was Dick Bruna's Miffy in the Snow. A simple story of a little rabbit who saves a bird from freezing. But this book was to me about character design. Where the Ed Emberley books did not deal with emotion, this book took a character, made her appealing and then told a story. The iconic power of Miffy stuck in my head. That simple pure design still stands as a sort of perfection that I have to always deal with. Later in life I would start thinking about "line" and how an artist creates it and it can be a magical thing. This book, more than any other is the one that set up my feelings about line.
The next significant influence on my childhood were Marvel and DC superhero comic books. I bought my first comic in 1973 and buying one, led to buying more and eventually searching for them at comic stores and flea markets. At one point I had over 10,000 comics. The early comics I owned were obsessed over. I stared at the colorful images on the pages. The design elements seeped into my subconscious. But the interesting thing is that I never wanted to draw comics. So although I loved comics so throughly, my primary imagery would come from other places. But comics would inform my love of newsprint paper, sequential storytelling, the power of marrying image with text and the glory of over saturated color.
I also can't overstate the influence of cartoons and more importantly cartoon advertising mascots. The highlight of my week was the trip tot he grocery store with my mom. My two brothers could care less about going but I cherished walking through the aisles of the grocery store. Every trip was an adventure in discovery, what new cereal might there be, what free prizes would be in the boxes. I always got to pick out a box of cereal. I still remember discovering Freakies for the first time at the store. Taking that box home and pulling out the little plastic figure was amazing. I remember reading the character descriptions on the back of the box and immediately identifying with the shy Snorledorf. These were my characters, the oddball ones, the misfits, the outsiders.
Later in life as an adult, I would go back and rediscover these characters. My childhood love would become an adult obsession for finding these lost characters and the boxes that had originally sat on the store shelves. I collected them because I loved the artistry that went into the productions. These characters had to blend entertainment with selling. As an artist this idea has become important to me, what I create needs to be fun, entertaining, humorous but also exist within a commercial format.
I still remember setting up at my first comic convention with Mr Toast and having someone buy my comic. It was a magical thing, I was now on the other side of the transaction that I had loved so much as a kid. I was the one who made the product for the public to consume. And I realized that is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I would still be a collector to inspire and inform what I did but more importantly, I was now an artist who got to share his creativity with the world. And luckily, a lot of people young and old seem to like what I do, for that I will be eternally grateful.