I’ve talked before about how much I learn from painters that I admire, both from the past and in the present. I would gladly give up everything I owned if I had painted every one of John Singer Sargent’s paintings, or perhaps Mary Cassatt’s as well.
Last year I spent some time learning the ancient medium of egg tempera from Fred Wessel, who is an out and out master of the medium, and a nice guy to boot. I recently finished this egg tempera painting back home in my studio, and I gotta say, that I almost wrenched my shoulder patting myself on the back. I’m pretty sure it’s good, because yesterday evening some friends came by and one of them made a beeline for the painting and was almost speechless with admiration. I love that.
But for me, there is more than one genre of masters from whom I study, and that is, of course, the greats of cartooning. Many of you who know me, know that recently I started drawing and writing cartoons in a serious way. Well, the cartoons aren’t serious, (what fun is that?) but I am quite serious and committed to series, The Panda Chronicles, appearing both on my blog, as well as now two books in print. I’ve written before about some of my cartooning idols: Garry Trudeau, Lynda Barry, Bill Watterson, and Darby Conley. I recently discovered another cartoonist, whose books I am devouring like red velvet cuppycakes. I quit reading the newspaper more than a decade ago (oh, their decline is all my fault!) so I wasn’t aware of Pearls Before Swine, other than to occasionally notice it when I picked up a random paper. I really didn’t get it, and in fact, thought it was pretty badly drawn. Like many cartoons with recurring characters, you have to read a number of strips till you get with the program and fall in love with the characters. Stephan Pastis, the creator of Pearls, recently wrote an illustrated middle grade novel called Timmy Failure, about a rather incompetent boy detective and his polar bear assistant. It has a bear? Well, I just had to read it and it was hilarious, and so then I had to read all of his cartoon collections. OK, I’m still not in love with his drawings, but they are perfect for his irreverent, snarky humor, which I am completely in love with. Huzzah! Studying from the masters is so much fun!
Well, off to do some more “studying”