In the small town I lived in (and sadly, still do), there wasn't a lot of encouragement, or even information, about how professional artists went about their work. Occasionally, there would be a newspaper profile of a famous cartoonist, and there were a few Walter Foster© books on cartooning, but being a cartoonist really seemed to be an unobtainable goal.
That is, until I entered junior high.
Academically, I was a very poor student. I simply wasn't interested in the things I was forced to study in public school. I just wanted to draw cartoons and live in my own little fantasy world. My teachers would tell my parents that I appeared (!) to be intelligent, but that I lacked "focus". If they only knew!
Fortunately, there was one person working at my junior high who was actually interested in kids beyond what their grade point average was. She cared about the children and actually supported them in finding their way through the emotional mine fields of adolescence. She was the school guidance counselor. Her name was Ms. Krause, and she was really cool!
Since I was such a poor student, I was in Ms. Krause's office a lot. She did everything she could to encourage me to do better in my studies, but she obviously knew my head was elsewhere. One day she told me she knew I was interested in becoming a cartoonist and she had a book she thought I might like.
"Might like?!" That was the understatement of the year! The book was "The Art of Cartooning", by Syd Hoff . It was the first "How-to" book on cartooning I had ever seen. Written by the legendary gag cartoonist and illustrator Syd Hoff, it was the perfect introduction to the realities of being a cartoonist for twelve-year-old me.
|Syd Hoff shows you how to draw a face. Simple, no?|
|Finishing a page, by The Hoff!|
As I said, this book had a HUGE impact on me. I really began to study cartoons and comic strips, and worked much harder on my drawing. In gratitude to Ms. Krause, I even tried doing better in school (without much success, but hey, I tried!). Even though I never did become a "famous" cartoonist, with a comic strip beloved by millions, I have earned my living (such as it is) as a cartoonist. That's good enough for me. I wonder, though, where I would be now if not for this book.
|Me, by Syd Hoff*|
MY big regret, of course, is that I never wrote to Syd Hoff to tell him what his book meant to me. He passed away only a few years ago, so I had plenty of time to do it. I just never did. At least I can go to the website here, that celebrates him and his work.
Come to think of it, I've never thanked Ms. Krause for showing me this book, either.
THAT I will do!
* No, Syd Hoff did not draw this. I did. It was fun to try a drawing in his style. I'm sure though, that Syd would have done a better job!
Labels: Syd Hoff