Away in a Manger

As we enter the Christmas week of a second strange year in a row, I wanted to share with you my official Christmas card for 2021. The art itself was created with watercolor, gouache, and colored pencil – a little handmade touch in this digital world of ours.

Away in a Manger is one of the most popular Christmas hymns ever written. Strangely enough, its origin is one of dubious distinction, for it is unclear as to who are the authors.

The first publication of the poem was in 1882 by an anonymous author, and only included the first two stanzas. Confusion reined as to authorship, because the lyrics were titled Luther’s Cradle Song, saying that the poem was written by Martin Luther for his children in the 1500s. Perhaps this was just a fanciful claim by “Anonymous” to lend importance to the words, because there has never been found any version written in Luther’s native German predating this American publication. People read it, believed it, and perpetuated the false Luther authorship idea in continued publications for many years. In 1892, the third and final stanza was published with attribution once again falsely going to Luther. Others later laid claim to writing the third stanza, so the authorship continued to be muddy.

Musically, this song has been performed in dozens of settings, however, just two continue to remain popular to this day. The version that starts on a high note and is sung by many in the United States was published in 1887 by James R. Murray who falsely claimed Martin Luther also wrote the tune. By 1914, the melody was attributed to someone named Carl Meuller, a man who is otherwise unknown to history. So, even with this, we really don’t know who the composer is!

The other popular melody we know today that starts on a deeper note was written by William J. Kirkpatrick and first published in 1895. It is his version that carried this Christmas song beyond America’s borders to become beloved around the world.

Kirkpatrick was born in Ireland, and later moved to America where he settled in the Philadelphia area, eventually becoming involved in being a church organist and composer for the Methodist Episcopal denomination. Whether written on his own or with writing partner John R. Sweney, Kirkpatrick published many hymns that richly live on to this day such as ’Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus, Blessed Be Thy Name, Will Your Anchor Hold, A Wonderful Savior is Jesus My Lord, Redeemed, O To Be Like Thee, Lead Me to Calvary, We Have an Anchor, and My Faith Has Found a Resting Place.

William J. Kirkpatrick passed away in 1921 while working on a new hymn at his desk. This past August, I visited his grave at the West Laurel Hill Cemetery near Philadelphia.

If only we all could leave behind such a legacy.


Adoration of the vermin.

Sarah Hale’s Thanksgiving

I had the pleasure this past August to illustrate a Thanksgiving article for this month’s issue of Clubhouse Magazine published by Focus on the Family. It tells the story of Sarah Hale, the woman responsible for convincing Abraham Lincoln to make Thanksgiving an official holiday.


The art as it appears in the November 2021 issue of Clubhouse Magazine. (Click on art to enlarge.)


Sarah was an accomplished writer of books and the author of Mary Had a Little Lamb, and she was also the editor of a very popular magazine based out of Philadelphia. Her persistent letters over the years to several U.S. presidents finally got results with Lincoln.

I wanted a bit of a hand drawn quality to this illustration, so the final line art was a black Prismacolor pencil drawing on bumpy watercolor paper. It was then colored in Photoshop.


The art as it looked when I finished it. (Click on it to enlarge.)


Here is a detail of the newspaper with some headlines that may or may not be historically accurate. I’m particularly fond of the Thanksgiving day sale ad in the lower corner of the newspaper that is announcing the first official Thanksgiving holiday. Silly is what I do, even in the midst of a history lesson.


A detail of the newspaper.


When researching the details for this illustration, I found this great image of an older Sarah Hale who was in her later years during the events of this article. So, I based my drawing of her on this.


Sarah Hale, widowed as a young mother of five children, always wore black the rest of her days.


While in the middle of working on this piece, I visited the Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia to find Mrs. Hale’s grave. The cemetery was LOADED with historical figures both factual and fictional. While it boasted Civil War generals, Titannic survivors, baseball players, and even a signer of the Declaration of Independence, this was also the cemetery where Adrian Balboa, the wife of Rocky Balboa, was buried in the Rocky movies.


Holding my drawing for this illustration at the grave of Sarah Hale in Philadelphia.


May you and yours have a very blessed Thanksgiving, and remember to give thanks to God for all you have in this brief life He has granted.

Extra! Extra!

A new article came out about me a couple of weeks ago. The folks at Shoutout LA asked me a few questions about my work, my mentors, and life in Los Angeles. So, I obliged them with some answers.

So, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy a little light reading about an illustrator in Los Angeles by…



A selection of images you’ll see in the article. Click on it to see it larger.

Beetle Bailey

Today is my pop’s birthday, the man who most influenced me to be a cartoonist even though he may never have realized it.

When I was a kid, my father loved comics. He’d come home from his job in the business world, and we’d get down on the floor and he would read the newspaper funnies to me every day before I knew how to read. He loved comic strips like Nancy, Peanuts, and Beetle Bailey.


My pop reading the funnies to my little brother and me back in the 1970s.


What my dad liked, I liked. Back in January of this year, I came across this great piece I created in my youth. I love how this image of Sarge, a character created for newspaper comics, is surrounded by a background of newsprint. I also love how it looks like it wasn’t finished, yet it looks kind of cool in this unfinished state.


I believe I was nine years old when I made this.


Due to becoming a cartoonist myself as an adult, I ended up becoming friends with Mort Walker, the creator of Beetle Bailey, and was able to introduce my pop to the legendary cartoonist. Dad enjoyed meeting my cartooning heroes. Maybe, in a way, they were Dad’s heroes, too.

Dad passed away last September, but his influence lives on. I’m still a cartoonist.

Top Nine 2019

At the stroke of midnight last night, 2019 ended, and 2020 has begun. In an effort to achieve 2020 vision (pun intended), one should reflect upon the past year.

Over on Instagram, they do a thing called “Top Nine” where they show the top nine posts of the year. It was interesting to me that five of the top nine of 2019 were things I posted just in the past two months. Seems that folks can’t get enough Green Eggs & Ham, and they seemed to like lots of my doodles of other people’s characters. Thankfully, they showed some love to one of my originals (dog doodles), as well as a photo of me taken by my pal Brian Joseph Ochab to promote my upcoming appearance at the first ever Bakersfield Mouse Con (a Disney fan convention happening on January 26).


Click on the image to enlarge.


Here’s hoping more fun and exciting projects come across my plate in 2020!

And if you’d like to see my Instagram page, here’s the link:

Happy New Year everybody!


The Best Nine

Over on Instagram, folks have been posting the nine images people responded to the most in 2018. These were the favorite nine of my art that made the cut over there.


A whole year represented by nine images. That sure went by fast.


If you are on Instagram, and didn’t know that I was, you can find me there at

I tend to post more things on Instagram than I do here on the ol’ blog, so come give me a follow to keep up with all the fun.

September 11

On this morning in 2001, I was getting ready for the day.
I turned on the television that morning to watch the news with the volume off while I was trying to call my father at his workplace. It was my regular day of the week to do so. I saw images of the first tower smoking, and without the volume on, I was wondering what movie we were getting a sneak peek of. The phone at my father’s office was giving me the busy signal, something that NEVER happened because I call into a corporate switchboard. Weird. As I try dialing again, I see a plane fly into the second tower. It was at that point I realized I’m probably not watching a trailer for a movie, and then it was obvious why the phone droned on with a busy signal. The whole world was trying to call loved ones in the New York area.
My father worked in an office building across the Hudson River in Jersey City that had a clear view of the tragedy taking place. I ended up reaching my father much later in the day, and as it turned out, he was out on the road that morning for work purposes, and was nowhere near the city. I sighed in relief.
Taken on the NJ side of the Hudson, this is my father in October of 1998.
Several hours later, I did go to work on time out here in California, but obviously the whole country was concerned with what happened in New York and Washington D.C. that morning. Nobody was doing much work.
Everyone was concerned, especially when no one knew exactly what was up. There was a wash of misinformation going around as reporters speculated on things while trying to sort out the facts. Eventually, we did learn that it was carried out by Middle Eastern terrorists. One idea that trickled forth later in the day was that the very possible next targets were the propaganda machines that spread forth the message of Western decadence – Hollywood movie studios. I worked for the Walt Disney Studios. WE were possible targets. We were sent home early.
Obviously that was a terrible day. Those of you who lived through it probably remember, as I do, where you were and what you were doing when we learned of those events. Some of us might even have been there. I learned a few days later that a man who grew up in the house behind my childhood home had perished at the Pentagon. The tragedy struck home.
Ecclesiastes 9:12 tells us that no one knows when our time is up, but the Bible does give hope about how to use the time we have in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

50th Anniversary

I generally don’t get too personal here on the ol’ blog, but today is a mighty special day in the Frye family. On this day in 1968, my parents were joined together in holy matrimony.

I wanted to do something a bit special for their 50th anniversary. I hope they don’t mind, but I decided to interpret their 1967 engagement photo in my own little way. A time when I could only possibly have been a mere twinkle in their eyes as they prepared to spend their lives together.

The Merchant Marine and the nurse gave birth to a cartoonist. They’ve been wondering ever since where they went wrong.

As my own experiences have taught me, that had to have been a HUGE decision for them to make. I often marvel at how two total strangers from different upbringings can find each other and choose to craft a life together – a life that will undoubtedly have many ups and many downs.

Through thick and thin, and always with an eye towards the Lord, my parents have come through the ups and downs that 50 years together have presented. They have four children who love them, and love the Lord because of them. They have two sons-in-law and a daughter-in-law who are grateful to them for the children they taught and nurtured. And they have nine grandsons, all in varying stages of awareness of what their 50 years mean to our family.

Sure, they were smiling then, but that was because they had no idea what their son was going to do with this photo in 51 years.

Due to some mitigating circumstances, we all gathered together on their 49th anniversary last year. It is unfortunate that we couldn’t all be there to jump up from behind doors and couches to surprise them today on the day.

To my folks, thank you for always putting Christ first, and training up your children in the way we should go, so that when we reach your age, we will not depart from Him. (Proverbs 22:6) I love you.