Photo by Yvette Lopez
I’ll give you a brief bio then follow it up with a longer bio, just in case you want some more information.
I am a humorist at heart. Not necessarily a comedian, but a humorist. They overlap but are different fields. At any rate, as a humorist, I take the world into my brain, slosh it around a bit, then produce artistic works in an effort to communicate a point, a theory, a concept, or a perspective.
While many know me as a cartoonist, due to my comic strips “Perk at Work” and “In The Way,” I am more of a writer. After all, comics are written before they are illustrated. Even then, I find more pleasure in the written word without illustrations.
I have worked at a bunch of different places doing a variety of jobs, all the while continuing to work on my creative endeavors.
And that’s that. See below for more in-depth stuff.
I didn’t know what writing was as a kid. Not really, that is. I knew drawing as a way of telling stories. Writing seemed like a rote exercise meant to improve penmanship. That’s not a bad thing, but it was a limiting thought.
In the third grade, my teacher, Mrs. Byrd (she was amazing!) did the whole squiggle drawing deal. Instead of leaving it as a squiggle though, her templates allowed for a story to accompany/describe the drawing. The page was half a blank square and half lines for writing. We did squiggle drawings on Wednesday. I remember because that was my favorite day. Not only did we get out of school early, we got to do squiggle drawings with stories.
But therein lied the rub. Since it was a short day, there was limited time for the drawing and the story. I found a way around the time limitations. We had a 15-25 minute recess in the morning and in the afternoon — on short-day Wednesday, we only got a morning recess. Still, that was unutilized time!
I approached Mrs. Byrd and asked her if I could bypass recess and work on my squiggle drawing/story. To my surprise, she said “OK.” She had a couple of stipulations though. She said that she had to use that time to grade papers so I couldn’t bug her. That seemed like a stupid request since I didn’t ask her to stay in from recess to bug her. I could do that any old time. The second stipulation was that she may not be in the classroom during recess so I would have to watch over myself. Again, stupid. Why would I have to watch over myself it I was just drawing and writing? It seemed absurd. But, of course, I obliged.
What followed were weeks and weeks of me being able to work undeterred, uninterrupted, in silence during the Wednesday morning recess time.
Mrs. Byrd was big on winning. She would put all the squiggle drawings/stories on a corkboard in the front of the room. Then (and this is why I will always love this woman) she would grade the squiggle drawings/stories and put the best at the top on its own level with an “A+” in bright red marker. Each week, my squiggle drawing/story ended up on top. I remember being filled with pride. I put in the extra work and I reaped the rewards! Take that, slackers!
Sure, for the first few weeks, the other kids resented me for always winning. Then something weird happened. They started to look forward to what I would come up with. And, since my stories were never confined to the front of the paper (I always continued on the back), the other kids would ask what happened on the back of the paper.
This stroked my fragile little fat kid artist ego.
I fell in love with storytelling in the third grade and I haven’t stopped storytelling since then.
Thank you, Mrs. Byrd. May all our children have beautiful, wonderful, amazing teachers such as you.
In high school, I was told that I was not a good writer by my teachers; that my syntax was flawed. That upset me. It also discouraged me. While I wrote a fair amount, the sting of that criticism made me abort that part of me.
I leaned on my illustration. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that it didn’t matter what the teachers told me. If I believed I could be a good writer, I could be a good writer. It’s that simple. So I started writing again.
My first novel is scheduled for release June 20, 2017
As a kid, I found the easiest way to express myself using pen and paper was through images. We all did. Before kids write, they draw, usually stick figures.
But, you see, I was never happy with stick figures. No, no. None of that. I was a chubby child and, to me, stick figures were not only inaccurate, they were WILDLY inaccurate. So I practiced drawing people with meat on their bones.
I distinctly remember my first day of kindergarten. The teacher visited our house before school started, to prime us for what to expect. She had given me an assignment prior to her visit: To draw myself and my family.
Homework as a kindergartener? Yes. But it was fun. Or at least I made it fun. By that time, I had gotten bored with adding flesh to stick people. My picture had to be more dynamic than just people standing and facing a camera.
So I drew my family as a bunch of Incredible Hulks, complete with muscles and tattered purple pants.
I couldn’t wait to get to class to see what the other kids dreamt up. Maybe there would be another Incredible Hulk fan like myself and we would bond and become lifelong friends.
That didn’t happen.
When I entered that school room on that first day of school, I was disgusted. Utterly disgusted! Every single drawing from the other kids were mere stick figures or… [holding back from tossing my cookies] …big circle heads with limbs coming out of them like ticks!
You can imagine the sheer horror I felt. Who were these imposters? And what had they done with the real kids from my class???
I learned that not all kids would practice drawing, that many of them would simply draw if they felt like it. It wasn’t a craft to master but just something they did to pass the time or have fun.
What’s worse, is that my Incredible Hulk joke didn’t make sense to them. In fact, at first, those kids thought I was crazy. But kids can be reasonable and they understood why I had done it once I explained it to them.
Since then, I realized that I had a bit of an edge on the average Joe. Since I enjoyed practicing drawing, I would get better. That’s how anything works I reckon.
And that’s how I learned how to draw.
I’ve always drawn goofy stuff. As a kid, I enjoyed making my own cartoons of sorts, one-page deals that were silly takes on whatever struck my fancy (e.g., a guy fishing while his can of bait toppled over, spilling it into the water; the fish are eating the bait from the dropped bait instead of biting his hook).
Later, I was turned onto MAD Magazine and it changed my life. I realized that those one-off drawings were similar to Sergio Aragones’s MAD Marginals. I was on to something.
I poured over my MAD magazines, examining every artist and their linework. I copied my favorites: Mort Drucker, George Woodbridge, Sergio (of course), Jack Davis, Al Jaffee, and others.
The penchant for silly drawings never faded. I still do it to this day. Around 1997, I started developing a comic about two dogs that sat at a bar, drank beer, and talked about random stuff. I called it “Pubbies.” That later became “Perk at Work.”
Basically, when it comes to cartooning, I’ve been doing it in one way or another for my whole life. And even though I’ve told people I’ve stopped cartooning, I haven’t. I’ll keep drawing silly pictures probably until the day I die.
I got my first graphic design job with little to no experience. What got me the job was my hand-written cover letter.
I knew a little about this program and that program but nothing impressive. Yet I got the job. After I was hired, I asked my supervisor how I got hired. She said it was my cover letter. She expressed how much she loved my writing — my handwriting and my words. Writing didn’t get me anything in high shool or college but it did get me a job. There’s something to be said for that.
I worked for the Las Cruces Sun~News in Las Cruces, NM as a graphic designer. I also worked for the Times-Georgian in Carrollton, GA as a graphic designer and artistic director of the Arts and Entertainment tab “KUDZU.”
I dove in, head-first, into KUDZU. I did the art direction, the pagination (i.e., layout), I wrote feature articles, I wrote a humor column, and I designed most of the ads. I poured myself into that publication.
In 2005, my then wife (God rest her soul; we divorced but kept cordial) and I moved back to NM so that I could learn how people make money with real estate, as it was always a mystery to me.
I had one other job in graphic design but, for the most part, my money came from dealing with real estate.
Still, I continued to grow artistically. I do the majority of my own graphic design for my books and zines.