Drawing On Inspiration

 In Early years

I loved cartoons when I was a kid, but I wasn’t a very good artist. So I colored a lot. Coloring books were my passion, especially the big thick ones full of Walt Disney characters that you could buy for 39 cents at K-Mart or Kresge’s, if you had managed to save up that much money. I spent countless mornings with boxes of crayons, coloring between those thick black outlines, bringing those characters to life. Later I graduated to Doodle Art posters, which were much more detailed and large enough to frame, using magic markers instead.

I also loved comic books. Not the superhero kind (I never got into those). My favorites were Archies, Harveys, and Gold Keys. Archie comics, of course, included Jughead, Betty and Veronica, and all of their Riverdale pals and gals. Harvey comics included Casper, Little Dot, Baby Huey, and my all-time favorite Richie Rich. Gold Key published the classic TV characters like Bugs Bunny, Tweety and Sylvester, Woody Woodpecker, Donald Duck, and my second all-time favorite Uncle Scrooge. I collected comic books compulsively. At some point I had at least a thousand (I counted), and although they cost less than 39 cents apiece, they added up. But I didn’t mind. They were worth the money. Besides, my grandma bought a lot of them for me.

My other great delight as a child was library books. Especially books that had pictures. There were the traditional picture books, of course, like those by Maurice Sendak and Dr. Seuss. I was particularly drawn to anything by Richard Scarry. But I was also fascinated by the black and white line illustrations in chapter books and novels, drawn by people like Robert McCloskey and Garth Williams. They were part cartoony and part realistic, and they helped lead me deeper into the fascinating world of words.

I still wasn’t a very good artist at that point. I did a bunch of doodling in my late elementary and junior high years, but it wasn’t until high school that I actually realized I could draw, and not until college that I thought of myself as a cartoonist.

It was around that time that I came to love newspaper comic strips: PeanutsFoxtrotB.C., Shoe, The Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes, Frank and Ernest, and Garfield (among others). It was also then that I started to admire Mad Magazine with its biting satire and parody as well as its incredible illustrations. Some other influences around that time were Sandra Boynton and Jim Benton with their simplistic and whimsical styles.

Today I continue to be inspired by these people and works of art, as well as countless others. And I consider myself a pretty good artist. Most of my artwork has always been in black in white, mainly for economic reasons (it was cheaper and easier to reproduce). Even though I still feel much more comfortable using paper than computers, I am (slowly) learning how new technology can be an advantage. And best of all, I’m learning how to color.

Showing 2 comments
  • Julie Angeli

    Wow, does this bring back memories. My family used to spend 2 weeks up north every summer. My parents would buy me comic books for rainy days. I loved the Archies, along with whatever horror comics were available at the time. I also looked forward to reading the Sunday comics in the Detroit Free Press every week.

    • N Levin

      Thanks for commenting, Julie!

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