I belong to the National Cartoonists Society, and specifically am a part of the Los Angeles Chapter called NCS LA. Affectionately, our chapter is known as The Order of Cornelius.
Cornelius is a bear who reportedly saved the life of California cartoonist George Herriman from hurtling over a cliff on a runaway toboggan. He later saved the lives of several other cartoonists, too, and thus earned his place as the patron saint of NCS LA after his passing. He’s now remembered as an angel bear who continues to look after the well-being of LA cartoonists.
Under the leadership of The New Yorker Magazine cartoonist Matt Diffee, NCS LA began giving annual awards for career achievement and for volunteerism to our members. We began giving the awards without actually having the physical awards to give. After a couple of years, I was tasked with designing The Cornelius Award (the one for volunteerism), while Diffee and Spencer Ramsey set about designing The Dingy (given for career achievement).
I looked to classic Art Deco medal designs of yesteryear to attempt to give The Corny an aged provenance of sorts. Cornelius was depicted in a more realistic manner, with his stylized angel wings and halo. Add a few lightning bolt accents, and we had our design!
The next step was getting the medals made, which proved to be challenging. One of our members, Drew Aquilina, found a Los Angeles based maker of custom medals, so I reached out to them only to discover that while they had an LA office, they were actually based in the Philippines which is where the sales representative was.
There was much back and forth via e-mail to make sure the specifics of the design were met with their production people, and then the order was placed. The medals turned out beautifully! They measure a large three inches across, and came with a plaid ribbon of our design long enough so this can hang around the recipient’s neck.
Of course, you have to take a look at The Dingy Award, too! Named after NCS LA founder Ding Daniels, it is given once a year to the member who has T.I.U.A.N. – Taken It Up A Notch – in their career. Diffee and Ramsey did a nice job on this one, too.
Earlier this summer after both medals were completed, NCS LA had a special medal ceremony to give the medals to the six people who had earned them over the past few years. The three recipients of The Dingy were children’s book illustrator Marla Frazee, cartoonist of the online comic BaconLonnie Millsap, and former MAD Magazine editor-in-chief Bill Morrison.
The Corny was given to Spencer Ramsey, Frank Hansen, and as a big surprise, yours truly. It felt kind of weird to be given the medal I designed, but it’s neat to have one.
Last year over on my Instagram page, I posted a photo of a couple of shelves in my kitchen of a variety of novelty coffee mugs, and it got a pretty good response. In taking stock, I realized that there are at least 70 mugs spread all over my home.
This isn’t an intentional collection, mind you. We all get a few mugs here and there, but the collection really started growing back during my college days when I began receiving cartoon mugs as gifts from my parents. I was into cartoon household goods like cookie jars, vases, and kitchen utensils, so my mother kept an eye out for unusual mugs when she went shopping.
When I entered the animation business, mugs became gifts for being on crews and for working at studios. As I would travel, sometimes mugs were purchased at tourist attractions, too. The collection just sort of grew, not once ever thinking that I was a mug collector. Guess what? Unwittingly, I kind of became one!
So, realizing that there are so many mugs all over the place here, and since my Instagram followers thought they were neat, it was decided to post a photo of a different mug each Monday over on Instagram. I call it MUG MONDAY.
With an interest in Star Wars recently being reawakened (pun intended), some of us never actually fell asleep in the first place. Today I thought I’d share with you a set of wooden Star Wars nesting dolls, otherwise known as matryoshkas, that I painted while floating down a lazy Russian waterway two years ago.
In 2014, I was seeing the sights in Russia for about sixteen days by way of a river cruise ship. From Moscow to St. Petersburg and everything in-between, we sailed the rivers, lakes, & canals of that beautiful country.
On one travel day up on the social deck, the tour guides explained to us the art of matryoshkas. They had many amazing examples of ornately painted dolls, and in our travels we even saw strange ones like a set of Vladimir Putin dolls, Bart Simpson dolls, Winnie the Pooh, and in a little out of the way village I saw a set with the San Antonio Spurs players on them. (I am suspicious that none of those were officially licensed products.)
Our entertainment director gave us a little set of unpainted wooden dolls along with paints that we could use to decorate them ourselves. Each doll had a design of a matronly Russian woman etched into it with a wood burner, so all of us were painting the same basic design. Colors and embellishments were up to us.
After having painted my old Russian woman first, I was looking at the overall shape and thought, “Hmm, this looks like Darth Vader.” I mentioned my funny observation to one of the tour guides who went off and found another set that didn’t have the etching burned into it too deeply. So I took it to my cabin and proceeded to work on it in secret. I say “secret,” because they announced that this was to be a competition among the passengers to see who painted the best matryoshka.
Something the other passengers didn’t know was that I was also working on a painting in my cabin for an art show when I returned to Los Angeles (CLICK HERE to read about that). This means I had some decent paints and brushes with me that were a tad bit better than the craft store kiddie supplies that came with the dolls, and I wasn’t afraid to use them.
Later, the dolls entered in the contest were put on display for all to vote on. It was funny, but to walk past the array, you could hear some of the ladies commenting on the Star Wars entry, “Oh, that’s not fair. She didn’t paint them like the design!” I was now a “she” because I guess they didn’t notice any men painting during the group session.
Well, when the awards ceremony took place a couple of nights later after dinner, all were waiting with baited breath to see who the winner was. I must admit, I was a bit on the edge of my seat, too. They called out a third place, a second place, and then………the Skywalker family did not win first place. However, my old lady matryoshka did!!
I only won a mug, but it was my sweet cup of victory!
A little joy left the world last week. My dear friend Stan Freberg passed away one week ago on Tuesday, April 7, 2015.
Stan made his creative mark on the world first as a cartoon voice actor, then a puppeteer, a radio man, a comedian, a movie actor, a television actor, and an ad man pioneering the use of humor in commercials. I have written about Stan’s career before, and I highly encourage you to CLICK HERE to read more about the creative impact he had on society. Chances are that you will remember something of his work even if you didn’t realize he was the guy behind it.
The private Stan was my friend. My pal. We first met just after his first wife passed away. I was privileged to have spent many hours with Stan and his second bride, Hunter. We talked about all kinds of things. He loved to tell his stories of working with Walt Disney, spending time with the Beatles, opening for Frank Sinatra, aspects of his boyhood growing up with a Baptist pastor for a dad, and just talking about normal everyday things. He was charming, witty, and embarrassingly kind – proof of which was his common opening comment to me whenever we met, “You know, you draw Mickey Mouse better than Walt Disney, and I knew Walt!”
Last November, many people gathered at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood where famous friends fêted Stan with praise upon praise for his marvelous career while a packed audience soaked up this treasure. Speakers in person and on video included Leonard Maltin, Al Yankovic, Eric Goldberg, Micky Dolenz, Harry Shearer, Matthew Weiner, Penn Jillette, Tom Hanks, and Steven Spielberg. In hindsight, in a strange way, Stan was able to attend his own eulogy. He sat there beaming from ear to ear at all the kind words and memories. (Photos can be seen here from that event.)
A few months back I had a special day with Stan. It was fitting that we spent some of that time together just drawing. He loved his old Beany & Cecil puppet television show, and enjoyed sketching Cecil for fans. His hands may have lost some of their dexterity, but the creative spark still twinkled in his eye. And the conversation, as always, was lively with much laughter filling the room. Stan always could dish out the funny, but he was also quick to appreciate a zinger when tossed right back to him like a comedy hot potato. Stan may have been 88, but humor kept him young.
Stan made the world laugh. What a pleasure it was to be able to make Stan laugh in return.
When Friday rolled around last week, cartoonists from far and wide could be found at the check-in desk for the weekend’s festivities. Name badges were put on, goodie bags were enjoyed, and backs were slapped. It was great seeing old friends and meeting new ones.
Friday afternoon delivered to us three informative seminars on three very different topics. The first seminar was hosted by Andrews McMeel Publishing who brought together a panel to discuss their foray into e-book publishing. Second up was Rob Rogers, Pittsburgh’s own editorial cartoonist who shared with us his work, most notably several cartoons poking fun at Pittsburgh’s very young mayor (only 26 years old when he was elected) whom Rob depicts as an impish child. The third seminar was provided by Terri Liebenson, cartoonist of the syndicated Pajama Diaries comic strip.
In the evening, the National Cartoonists Society members descended upon The ToonSeum, Pittsburgh’s cartoon art museum. On display were original pieces of art by every Reuben winner in the NCS’ 67 year history of the awards. Of note was an original by Rube Goldberg himself, along with his Reuben Award and his original sculpt when he designed the trophy named after him. Also garnering many “ooooohs” and “aaaaahs” was an original daily Calvin & Hobbs strip that Bill Watterson had hand colored and signed to Charles Schulz. Rare stuff indeed!
As the evening wound to a close, cartoonists gathered once again in the lobby of the historic William Penn Hotel where the gentle jazz strings of the piano scored our conversations long into dreamland territory. I enjoyed chats with Tundra cartoonist Chad Carpenter, his associate Bill Kellogg, Archie artist Stan Goldberg, new acquaintance Ainsley Olsen and Los Angeles pal David Folkman (Hogan’s Alley Magazine).
With Saturday and Sunday still to come, more images from the 2013 Reuben weekend will be on their way!
As you are able to settle down and lay aside the worries and angst of your daily lives, take a moment to pause and reflect on the truly wondrous thought that during this season we are celebrating a holy God’s willingness to have once walked among us for a brief 33 years, then voluntarily suffer through the human experience of pain and humiliation of false accusation, torture, and death so that we don’t have to face even worse in eternity if we put our trust and faith in Him. Merry Christmas my friends. Merry Christmas indeed.
I just wanted to apologize to all those of you who follow my blog. I haven’t had anything new and exciting posted here in a few weeks, and wanted to let you know it will be a little while longer before I return from a very welcome vacation.
If I could pack my scanner with me, I’d have some things to show you. Things such as the sketches I did in the Los Angeles and Dallas airports, or the doodles of all the interesting beach walkers that have paraded past me here in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I’ve also been doing some cartoony watercolor pieces that will find their way to the upcoming D23 convention in Anaheim. Oh, and I even squirted out a sketch or two at my very first monster truck show! Wow. The South has EVERYTHING!
So, when I return to sunny (and from what I hear blazing) California, we will pick up where we left off. Deal? Deal.