Two very good friends of mine happen to be teachers. When one of them told me that her kids don’t get any art instruction I felt really bad for them. It’s understandable, I mean she only gets so much time with these kids each day and she needs to teach them how to read and count. Teaching them how to draw silly pictures just isn’t at the top of her list. Not to mention that in the words of her students “Mrs. Eriksen can’t draw”. So I told her that Tycho and I would love to come in one day and give the kids a lesson in cartooning. She liked the idea and on Monday that’s exactly what we did.
That’s me up in front of the class drawing on the overhead. I’ve done this a couple times before back in Spokane and I have a kind of system I use. What I do is use basic shapes and letters to create simple cartoon faces. They all know how to write the letter M and the letter U and then I show them that if you put them together just right you can make lips. Then they all oooh and ahhh. I wont lie to you it feels really fucking good. The hair is always their favorite part because that involves lots of scribbling.
Growing up I used to watch Commander Mark on PBS. He had a show called the Imagination Station that was on right when I’d get home from school. He used to show kids how to draw things in 3D and I’d sit there in front of the TV with my sketchpad just eating it up. I was even a proud member of his Draw Squad.
Years later when I was just starting High School Mark did an assembly at the elementary school my mom worked at. I took my sad little portfolio over and after the assembly I stopped him and asked him to look at it. He told me I was doing really good work and he ended up asking if he could buy us dinner that night. We talked for a couple hours about how I had watched his show since I was little and how some day I wanted to be a comic book artist. then I sat there and watched the man I’d grown up idolizing chain smoke cigarettes and stuff himself with pie. It was like seeing Mr. Rogers doing lines in some filthy bathroom. This was certainly not the Commander Mark I was familiar with. At the end of the night he told me that he wanted to stay in touch with me and that he had something coming up that I’d be perfect for.
I think it was a few months later that he called me and told me about his new book coming out. It was called Mark Kistler’s Imagination Station and it was a how to draw book for kids. He asked if I wanted to help him with the book and of course I said yes. He would send me rough pencils and notes for each page and using velum and pen and ink I’d tighten up all his sketches and produce the final page. Towards the end of the project he wasn’t even drawing out the steps anymore. He’d just sketch something out and then leave it up to me to deconstruct it and work out the different steps. This was a huge book with tons of lessons and I ended up having to work on it at school. My art teacher let me work on it during class which was nice and my mom even let me skip school a couple times so I could meet Mark’s deadline.
I can say that what he paid me for the work wasn’t what it was worth. That used to make me angry. Whenever I’d look back at the situation I’d feel like he took advantage of me. Now though I feel like it was an incredible opportunity and honestly I would have done it for free. I look at it as an apprenticeship that I was fortunate to get. I learned an incredible amount from doing that book and not just about drawing. If you see Mark Kistler’s Immagination Station in a book store some time flip it open and you’ll see my name there in the credits. I’m not sure What Mark is doing now but I can honestly say I wouldn’t be doing this had he not inspired me to “draw draw draw everyday!”
I don’t know if Tycho and I inspired any of those third graders on Monday. I don’t know if we lit some creative spark in one of them that will drive them to make art for the rest of their lives. I know that going there really helped me get my head right after a couple weeks of interweb bullshit. The principal of the school sat in on our lesson and afterwards she told my friend that even though we did the lesson for free that the school would pay us to come back and do it again for more students. That seems absolutely ridiculous to us. If anything we should be paying them.
-Gabe out :o: