Friday, July 9, 2010

Why did I aim to be a cartoonist?

For my first venture onto Blogger, I’d like to talk about how I came across the decision to be a cartoonist.

For starters… it was not my first choice.

My ambition from the age of 4 until 9 was to be the first, mixed race, female president of the United States of America. I ensconced myself in every minute detail of the Presidents, their wives, their Vice Presidents, their wives and in every aspect of the day-to-day life of inhabitants of The White House. I memorized facts deemed useless now by those outside the world of the Jeopardy series, and stayed up late watching CNN ~ by myself ~ in hopes of being a scholarly leader.

Then came the 1996 primaries. Several weeks before my 10th birthday, I watched enough CNN to realize that this as not meant for me.

To be a good President, you have to sacrifice the one thing I could not ~ a real life.The average politician never sees his/her family. They’re always on the road, always talking to people they’d rather not, always spending their free time schmoozing with potential backers, and OH the backstabbing that can go on. Even if YOU are not a backstabber, someone in your chosen party certainly IS.

When you retire from the political circus, your spouse doesn’t know you anymore. You have to start your relationship over from scratch. Your friends have forgotten you, your pets have died and your kids have no use for you, because they have kids ~ maybe even grandkids ~ of their own to tend to. Your whole political career has been worth nothing more than a cheap footnote in a child’s textbook, and it exists at the cost of everything you ever held dear.

I can’t do that. Not even for all the money in the world. I spent my childhood being dragged from place to place, all over the country for my father’s “career”, only to come back to find the family I had at home either dead or dying. I promised myself as a little girl that if I ever had friends and/or my own family, that I would never abandon them for a job, especially not one that could end in ridicule and defeat, socially.

Seeing the political world in a colder, more dim light, I abandoned my dream. But when one door closes, another tends to open. Right?

Sometime after I gave up on my dreams of United States domination, I started to draw something. I had always loved to draw, and would spend hours just drawing whatever I felt like. I don’t remember what it was that I drew, but I showed it to my little brother.

He laughed. He laughed long and LOUD. He tipped over laughing, tears in his little eyes, just laughing. When he stopped laughing, he sat up, composed himself and announced “SU my cartoonist.”At first, I thought “That’s a very large word for a 4 year old.” But then it hit me. Cartooning was a dream job and I was sitting on my own talent.

When you’re a cartoonist, you don’t have to travel, unless you want to ~ especially not now that we have technology so advanced that you can carry on a conversation with someone in China, while you tweet another person in Brazil! You can mail a cartoon, email a cartoon, you don’t have to go away! What’s more you can draw whenever you want to! If I want to draw in my PJ’s I CAN. If I want to draw in the car I CAN (As long as I’m not driving.) If I want to spend time with my loved ones while drawing I CAN, I damn well can! I can do a wide range of things while drawing. And the best part is that it’s something I LOVE. From the time I was a baby onward, I’ve always been fascinated by the cartooning and animating process. It’s a topic I don’t get tired of, and it’s something I even do right before bed. This would never be “just a job”, it would be something better, a career. Something I could be proud of.So from then on, it became my dream to be a world famous, beloved and well paid cartoonist.

Growing up, I studied every cartoon, anime, comic, manga and art book I could get my hands on. I read every self-teaching book I could find, more than 5 times, determined to hone my craft. I read books about the Sunday Strip Kings of Charles Schultz, E.C Segar and Windsor McKay, watched endless documentaries about animation pioneers Tex Avery, Ub Iwerks, Chuck Jones and Bob Clampett, studied the history of Tiny Toon Terrace, the Fleischer Brothers, Disney and MGM, I even freeze-framed videos trying to teach myself the intricacies of animation. I even studied video games, just to see what I could learn.

But of course, I needed models. Oh sure, I drew little cartoons for my family, and other things yet to be published, but I needed something to inspire me. Enter Wrestling. Professional Wrestling had always been a comfort to me growing up, a way to escape from day-to-day stress or to otherwise live vicariously through real life superheroes and villains. But a moment struck me when I was about 15… ish.

An ECW wrestler named Rhyno had been injured a year earlier, during a spot where he GORED Edge through the SmackDown set. Rhyno needed emergency fusion surgery, and was out of action for around a year. In one interview shot just three months after the incident, I remember Rhyno being nearly in tears, lamenting his fear that fickle fans would forget all about him. After all, a lot happens in just a month in the wrestling world, let alone one year.

But one fateful night, the APA was in the ring. It was to be a 6 man tag team match, but they were one man short. The two men pointed to the ring, and Rhyno came out.The crowd erupted with chants of “E C DUB E C DUB E C DUB” and all throughout the arena were sings that read “Rhyno” “We miss you Rhyno” “Come back Rhyno” and there, on the face of the Man Beast, was the sweetest smile, and a tiny tear.

Immediately I took a pencil and made a light sketch on a composition book:

The picture came out exactly as I saw it in my head. Expressing the emotion of the moment. Cute, yet poignant. This would be more than just a hobby to me, I felt the need to draw more… wrestlers!

At first I just drew what I saw on TV. But as the years went by, I started focusing my art more on the Indy wrestler, and less on the mainstream. I really can’t ask for better models. Most artists study ballet, to get an idea of the human form. I instead study wrestling, to better understand the strengths and limits of the human body. It’s one thing to see a ballerina hoist up another ballerina of the same size, it’s another if she were to suddenly lock the girl’s legs in a figure four. There’s no better a sport that showcases the way the body contours, the agony, the pain, but also the light and even the comedy of the human body.

Like ballet, wrestlers often tell a story with their bodies. The shady young prankster, clubbing his ex-tag team partner in the back with a chair is expressing a tale of betrayal. The tall, beastly fighter, pounding his fist into what used to be his victim’s face, is expressing a story of dominance. And the pale, quirky little underdog who is suddenly choking an announcer with his own necktie, is expressing a tale of rebellion against THE MAN.

Just as wrestling helped me to get away from my stresses, the sport again helped me understand storytelling, the body, and art. It is my hope, that with each new cartoon, that I may give back to my muses, to give them something to laugh at, make them feel appreciated, and to inspire them to carry on in their day knowing that their exploits are never wasted.

It is also my hope that you the viewer, will be captivated by my cartoons as well.

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