Why I Became An Artist
I’ve verbally told this story a million times, and probably written it down more than once, in fact I could probably dig back and find it written here in this blog, but today I want to make the story THE STORY.
Plus, it’s a testament to how awesome my mom was, and STILL is.
When I was a kid I was obsessed with comic books. In fact, obsession isn’t even a strong enough word for how voraciously I devoured my “funny books”. The Amazing Spider-Man. Kamandi, Last Boy on Earth. The Incredible Hulk. Swamp Thing. Conan. Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu. Luke Cage: Power Man. And anything and everything horror.
But, as a small child, I truly didn’t know that somewhere, there was a man or woman who actually DREW the comic books. In my young mind, the mind of a 5 or 6 year old, there had to be a magic machine somewhere, somewhere far away from Colorado Springs, that created these magic things called comic book from thin air. They were just too brilliant, too awesome, too mind blowing to have sprung forth from the mind of mere mortal men. A magic comic book drawing machine existed somewhere and created the things I loved.
This magic machine existed someplace exotic, like New York City (where Spider-Man lives!) or Metropolis, or some other far off place that maybe someday, when I was grown up….when I was big…I would maybe even get to visit! Magic comic book land.
Around this time I discovered the beauty of tracing.
Tracing was like my own little piece of magic. With a thin sheet of paper and a favorite comic I could change the words and make my own stories.
This was the dream world I lived in and I ruled it.
Until my mother blew my mind.
A hard-working single mom in her early 20’s, my mother was great at feeding my crazy little boy imagination. She knew that her crazy kid lived in an imaginary society populated with cowboys, super-heroes, and scary monsters. She knew that even though the sounds outside might make it seem as if there were a dozen kids waging all out war, it was just her own little boy, making enough noise for 20 kids his age, waging a battle to save the universe from the “zombie cowboys from planet xenon nine”, or whatever I had concocted.
She signed me up for drama classes, she would color WITH me in the coloring book – doing one page while I did the one next to it, she and my grandmother never said no when I saw a book that I “had to have”. She allowed my young kid mind to be all that it was supposed to be: The wild and wooly mind of a young kid.
As I said, my mother worked, so after school each day, my playground was my grandmothers house and yard (if I got TOO noisy, it was JUST the yard… “Boy, take your yelling self outside!”). One day, I took up residence at my grandmother’s kitchen table, with a sheet of paper, a well-chewed pencil, and a dog-eared, well-worn copy of “The Amazing Spider-Man #98″.
I was tracing to save the world. (C’mon man! Green Goblin took away Spider-Man’s powers! The possibilities were endless!)
When my mother came to pick me up after work, she walked in and saw me tracing away, and said words that were pure crazy talk.
She said, “You know….you don’t have to always trace. If you practiced, you could draw that way too.”
Can you imagine? This woman who I loved more than anything on the earth truly believed that a mere mortal could make something as great as the magic comic book drawing machines from magic comic book land.
And she was serious.
I must have had a look on my face that betrayed my emotions, because without missing a beat, she grabbed a brown paper grocery bag, an ink pen (not a pencil! a PEN!) – from the decorative glass vase that Grandma kept on her kitchen table to hold ink pens and the like….
And she did MAGIC.
Right there, before my very eyes, my mother did something I thought no one on earth COULD do….she drew a comic book.
Without a magic comic book drawing machine.
My mother drew an exact copy of my “Amazing Spider-Man #98″ and handed it to me.
“See?”, she said, “If you practice, and try really hard, you can do it, too.”
I held on to that drawing for a long time after that. It was my inspiration for years to come.
And I resolved that very day, I didn’t care what it took, I didn’t care how long it took, I was going to be able to draw like that.
I was going to be a magic comic book drawing machine.
Thanks, mom, for showing me magic.
(and for letting me be the crazy kid that is ME.)