Ever since I started taking myself seriously as an artist I’ve always worried about my work being too “cartoony” or just not depressing enough to be shown in major galleries or museums. This year I’ve decided to quit worrying and just let my imagination run wild. As I think back on why I became an artist, it becomes clearer and clearer that my first inspiration and my love of color, humor and silly stories came from one main place. The comics.
When I was about five I would sneak out of bed early and sit on the floor heater in our Early American living room and page through a stack of comic books I’d taken from their hiding spot under my bed. I read so early in the morning that my parents hadn’t even thought about getting up yet. I was careful to be very quiet so they would sleep for a couple of hours. They didn’t like me reading at the table or in any of my spare time. Their motto was “go outside and do something…run around…ride your bike…get some exercise”. I guess that was ok too but my favorite times were those early mornings when I could get lost in the world of Little Lulu, Heckle and Jeckle and Daffy Duck. I’d feel so creative and happy. I just knew I could fly or dance or draw or do anything I wanted to do. I’d read and then practice drawing all of the characters. I’d look forward to overnights at my Grandma’s house. She’d read The Katzenjammer Kids to me while I got to drink real coffee with milk and have toast and jam. The Katzenjammer Kids was a great cartoon created by the incredible Rudolph Dirks. The theme was two kids (Hans and Fritz) who rebelled against all authority. What better roll models for a blossoming young artist? Comics for me meant comfort, quiet and laughter with a touch of the rebellious that would come out of me much later in life. I always felt that delicious feeling of getting away with something when I’d read comics. Comics were a world that always made me feel better. Even my mother, champion of outdoor activities, would when I had mumps or measles or was just feeling sick, would sneak me some comics and a popsicle. That juicy feeling of comfort is something I can conjure up at any time by thinking about sitting by myself, in peace and quiet just guessing what would happen next in the “no girls allowed” clubhouse of my favorite comic. There we were, Little Lulu and I, holding hands, walking on the same path and living in the outrageous world of our imaginations.