I was thinking back to a day long ago, 15 long years ago, June of 1992. There I was, a young man of 23 years, a struggling young artist, and I had a had a show of my drawings on display at Muddy Waters Coffee Shop at 24th and Lyndale in Minneapolis, just a few blocks from where I lived. This wouldn't have happened if one of the owners hadn't seen me incessantly practicing drawing in my sketchbooks, as I was trying to develop my style and explore new ways of expression, and she suggested I display my work on their walls. At the time, I wasn't focused, or interested in doing art for art's sake, or anything geared towards mere viewing on a wall. It was all about publication for me, doing comics, for people to read, already. But she spurred me on, and the waiting list was a good, full year, and I had plenty of time to create these works.
All of these works, by the way, were done in india ink with brush or pen, most likely a Hunt 102 nib pen, because that's what I heard the old cartoonists I admired most used. Occasionally, I employed watercolor or a wash technique for various shades, but it was all ink, in the end.
I've been always been predisposed to satire, cynicism, spoofs, sarcasm. I'm a born cartoonist, unfortunately arrested in my development, and though I've never been a professional or had much published, it's still in my blood, and will always be my greatest interest in the visual arts. I never really considered the content of the works I created for that showing, some were mysterious, some surreal, some straight up cartoons, and a few just nice pictures.
So, imagine my surprise when I got some criticisms, which I tried to let slide, but it couldn't be helped. Complete strangers telling me I had no talent and should apply at the nearest gas station. How cruel! On the other hand, a famous comic book artist was in town, visited my show (I was known to him, and had corresponded with him), and drew his famous character declaring me "the greatest artist of all!"...terribly sweet, and I wish I still had it, but some a@@h%le needed it for himself, and the comment book was mysteriously gone.
And friends commented that they liked my "more positive" work...why, what was so wrong with the rest?
One Sunday afternoon, I got a visit from one of my oldest brothers, along with my youngest. I was just waking up, after a session of drinking the night before. I was into British/ Irish beers, then, hadn't discovered American craft brew, and was drinking Bass & Guinness. The bottles littered my floor. The two brothers showed up after viewing my show at the coffee shop, and rang my bell as I was just waking. Oldest brother notes the bottles and wonders how I can drink that stuff, "it's so bitter." And then: "like your art! It's so bitter! LIFE's not bitter!"
Nice to have yourself wrapped all up in one tidy bit like that. Something I've never forgotten. My art, my beer, and my outlook on life, all the same, and all so damned dire, apparently. Well, he was so much older than me, but so less embittered, it seems. Years later, I think his beer taste has widened...art taste, not sure...view on life, and it's occasional bitterness?...maybe, maybe not. We can be brothers, and differ in this way, it's true. We can come from the same mother and still have different views. How can it be otherwise. I am an individual mind, with individual problems.
To this day, challenges stand before me about my struggles in everyday existence, and my continuing work to create art, which has awakened in the past several years, after a long, depression-induced dormancy. Will my new work be more "bitter" or less? Seeing as my existential dilemnas are no less crucial, I can't say either way, except that it's a part of a potent stew, stirring in this braincase.
So this blog will serve several causes, as I may at one time record examples of my particular trials or triumphs in art-making, over-coming, or succumbing to the troubles surrounding my neueroses regarding that, and at other times, celebrate what I love in art, cartooning, drawing, illustration, etc, and in doing so, perhaps inspire and set me forward into more work, maybe more joyful, and happy, even, if you can imagine such a thing.
And so, my nib may be at times dipped in black and even bitter ink, what may emerge could be something of joy, a thing dear, dripping with color and wonder.
One never knows.