Summer Slides

Summer Slides

And speaking of reliving memories, this cartoon might remind you of another cartoon. I’m too lazy to track down the link, but it concerned a loud-mouthed amino acid.

When my laziness peaks (oxymoron intended), I’ll reuse a drawing — or combine elements from several drawings —  and hope that few notice, or mind. There are times when I think of myself as Mark Heath, stock house for cartoons, rather than Mark Heath, cartoonist. Several years ago I was crippled with artist’s block (a condition I rarely hear about — writer’s block, yes, artist’s block, no.) I couldn’t draw. I lacked the strength to plow and grind the pen nib across paper.  The more I thought about this Herculean task, the less Herculean I became.

I eventually outwitted myself — often my greatest nemesis — by reusing old art, cutting, pasting, repurposing. I did this for a year and more, feeling like an impostor, a grave robber, a charlatan.

The Summer Slides cartoon wasn’t assembled during my Artist’s Block.

Sometimes I”m just lazy.

In defense of my work ethic, however, I did draw the boxes of slides from scratch.*

*In prosecution of my work ethic, I can’t wait to re-use them.

The Fractal Nature of Cartooning

mandelbrot mice gray small

I got the idea for this cartoon by stealing it. I try not to steal, at least this blatantly, but I was reading — not stealing — Paul Witcover’s post on the Inferior 4+1 blog — and I’ll confess that I was ready to be inspired, but no more than usual, just the default setting of any artist — when out of the blue, like a trap set for starving cartoonists who are always hungry for puns and punchlines — Paul Witcover described old papers as being damaged by Mandelbrot Mice.

He didn’t describe a situation that made me think of fanciful mice eating paper in an ever-reducing pattern. He did all the work of a cartoonist, short of drawing it. And I did all the work of a thief, short of selling it.*

Artists steal all the time. Not with the intent of plagiarism, but with the intent of connecting.

Punchlines lead to punchlines. Again and again, top to bottom to top.

*It ran at American Scientist Online, but gratis. If you’re reading this, Paul, you’re 30% is in the mail.

This is Why Rejection Hurts So Much

And by rejection, I mean the sort that arrives in your SASE, if you still submit work by envelope.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Not quite right.

Try again. 

And if you submit by email, or some other hocus-pocus meant to erase stamp and paper from your day, I think the animus of paper never really disappears.*

Whatever it is that animates paper needs to find a new host. I think it occupies its replacement.

Here’s my proof: when an email dismisses, insults or ignores your work, it slices fast and deep.**

It’s the sharp and cutting edge of rejection.

Even without the paper, nothing hurts like a paper cut.

*If you don’t believe that paper has an animal nature, I offer one word: Origami.

**The pain will depend on the thickness of your skin, and the depth of your career.

Why Do Paper Cuts Hurt So Much? – Mental Floss.

Lloyd Bridges as David Copperfield as Mark Heath

I used to shade my cartoons with markers. It felt like a cheat — rather than shading with a brush or pencil or charcoal, as did most of the cartoonists I admired, I’d uncap a marker. There were tricks to learn — working different shades of gray into the marker ink before it dried, for example — but it lacked the panache, the reverence, of mastering a traditional wash.

And though it was a cheat, it still had its demands. I had to work fast, to achieve the wet-on-wet look I favored. I had to estimate the bleed of the ink to honor boundaries. I had to be ready to grab a replacement if a marker died in the thick of shading and became a shade itself.

When I finished and reeled back in my chair (swooned is the better word — working close to the paper, my nose breathed a fog of delirium) I felt like Lloyd Bridges lost in an underwater cave, breathing toxic fumes — not from a scuba tank, but a gigantic marker tube… talking to myself … narrating… imagining that I had an audience.*

I was Lloyd Bridges as David Copperfield as Mark Heath. The Hero of my own story.

This was before I used a computer. This was before Photoshop. This was before scanners. This was the 80’s and early 90’s. In terms of technology, I was living off the land, building cartoons with anything I could find that was cheap and plentiful, mostly office supplies.

I use Photoshop now. I don’t miss the markers. They were high maintenance. Not on a par with cleaning a dip pen, or coddling a camel-hair brush, or sculpting a pencil tip. But If I forgot to cap a marker**, the nib died, became a husk, as dry as a mummy. My desk drawers rattled with the sarcophagi of dozens of markers. Some were premature burials, on the threshold of shading their last. Every month or so I’d ransack a drawer, violating caskets, on the chance that a long-capped marker had transitioned into a second life.

On the other hand, if I remembered to cap it***, and the nib seemed fresh, it wasn’t unusual for the ink to sputter in mid-wash and cut out like a plane with an empty tank, spiraling with a mounting groan (my own) into the paper, ending in either an ugly blotch, or scraping across the sheet and carving a ditch.

But that’s me. If you’re feeling nostalgic, or enjoy a flight metaphor, or appreciate the comic work of Lloyd Bridges, Mark Anderson offers a flying lesson.


*Much like blogging.

**And by if, I mean when.

***And by if, I mean if.