After supper, kidlingers helped with laundry. And kitchen dishes. Provided a few minutes for me to organize and store some of my art work.
Some ink on paper drawings fell to the floor. Collected at the back of an art portfolio presentation book, they escaped when I opened it. Not sure why they were loose. Too small? Or, I was in a hurry and stuffed them there years ago. Now scattered on the floor, I considered their future.
I picked up a mocked up advertisement for Charlie’s Golden Beetle Café. It was part art deco and part art nouveau. And had a dash of Alphonse Mucha-inspired design with a Patrick Nagel homage. Inked with crow quill and brush, the shellac of the pigment still shined. I placed it on my desk and picked up another page. A character model sheet for a comic book proposal displayed across several pages. Half pages and scrap illustration board. Some in black ink. Some had splashes of red to highlight an aspect of the character’s costume. I gathered up a couple pages of ink brush sketches. Practice sheets. Or illustration exercises.
What to do with this stuff?
Someone called from the other room. It sounded urgent. And yet not desperate. But still. Family duties called.
I picked up the presentation book. It collected a comic book art pages I drew many years ago. A sixteen-page indie comic book story and two other short comic stories. There were no empty clear pockets to place the loose art.
I grabbed the ink drawing pages from the desk and began placing them. The presentation book featured 24 clear pockets. Each pocket sandwiched two comic book art pages and a black paper divider. I slide one of the ink drawings between the black paper divider and a finished comic art page. I continued hiding drawings in that manner until all the desk was clean.
And someone called again.
I closed the presentation book. And placed it in The New Yorker magazine tote bag along with another art portfolio. I paused. Looked at the pencils, pens, and brushes on the desk. Then answered the call.
Three years ago I rediscovered these 11 inch by 17 inch pages. Illustrated comic book pages hidden in a storage container. A gray Rubbermaid® Roughneck® storage tote of the 18 gallon variety. I stored art supplies, books, family keepsakes, manuscripts, and tools in dozens of similar totes. Living in a humid subtropic climate at the time, I did this to avoid water damage and mold ruining art and other supplies. Additionally, heavy duty polypropylene bags also prevent mold and water damage. To offer an added level of protection I used the technique of poly bagging art pages and then placing them within totes. When I moved across the country this also acted as a good way to pack.
However, that was not the case with these pages of art I discovered three years ago. Like an archeologist, I excavated those pages from a gray Rubbermaid® tote. They were loose in the tote. Not poly bagged. Print samples of graphic design projects filled the tote as well. And also old newspapers and magazines. Either these publications featured something I wrote or something I designed.
In an effort to preserve the illustrated comic book pages, I found an old presentation book used for interviews. The Itoya Original Art Portfolio presentation books work the best. Good for professional presentation and storage.
During the holiday season I found one of the portfolio books with those illustrated comic book pages. Examined them again. This time one of the kidlingers was spying over my shoulder.
“These are really good,” the kidlinger said. “Better than I can draw.”
“These are practice pages.” I said. Paused to let the kidlinger read the panels on the page. For a brief moment a wave of vulnerability washed over me. A child-like anxiety of examinations. The kind of fear I had when a school teacher reviewed my arithmetic work during class. Found an error and announced it so that all the class might hear. Why had I felt that way about my child reading this page? There were no objectionable elements to the story. Nor art. Nothing inappropriate for the kidlinger’s age. The moment passed.
“What language is this?” Kidlinger pointed at one of the panels on the page.
“German.” I answered. “Deutsche.”
The kidlinger hesitated. I considered translating the passage: Im Schatten sah ich. . .
“Lines from a German poem,” I said. “I added it to the story to help me remember the poem.”
Or to add texture to the short slice-of-life comic book story I composed. Sequential art as some have called it. A clever way of renaming comic book art.
I did not purchase my own comic book until I was in high school. An art teacher suggested that it may be a good way to study human anatomy. And it was. Exaggerated, dynamic anatomy. Superhero comic books were the only type sold at the local gas station on the way to school. The public library carried collections of Peanuts. But nothing like Superman or Batman. They did, however, carry the Classics Illustrated book series. Excalibur was the name of the comic book I bought at the gas station.
Though superhero comic books introduced me to sequential art, it was the slice-of-life stories that intrigued me. At the time, I had not heard of nor read American Splendor, Berlin, Cerebus, or Strangers in Paradise. But that was the direction I was headedcreatively.
I probably added lines of German poetry to seem more sophisticated. To elevate comic book pages to sequential art.
“You wrote each of these stories, too?”
“Yes,” I answered the kidlinger. “Every one.”
I started to say something. To explain that these were practice stories and drawings. I wrote the script and illustrated the pages a decade ago. No. Maybe two. Each page, each panel pencilled and inked with crow quill and brush. It was practice for greater things.
My goal in those days was to publish a comic book or a childrens book. I did not know how. But the owner of a comic book store suggested I visit some comic book conventions. I did. And even booked a table on artists alley for a couple comic cons.
Artists alleys are a feature in nearly every comic con. The alleys feature artists and writers showing their work in hopes of securing a job with a major publisher. Or any publisher for that matter. Or trying to sell their own artwork. I met several artist and writers at these comic cons. And learned how hard I needed to work. Over time, I connected with writers and got a few independent projects. Some of them published. Most remained unpublished.
The kidlinger flipped through the entire portfolio. Read through several 2-page and 5-page stories.
“Nice,” said the kidlinger. An expression newly formed in the teenager’s mind to mean awesome or fantastic or good.
“What do you think?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” said the kidlinger and ambled out of the room.
I thought about that for awhile. What had the kidlinger found in looking through these pages? These artifacts? In a way, this portfolio is a childrens book for at least one child — my child — mein Kind. But these pages remain unpublished. Hidden in a black portfolio book. Even a fragment of a German poem remained hidden: Im Schatten sah ich/Ein Blümchen stehn. . .
I stumble through a translation:
In shadow I saw
a flower stand. . .
In shade I saw
a flower grow. . .
What is that? Goethe? Was I reading Goethe back then?
I will not deny the desire that someday I would like these early drawings and writings published. But why? Maybe my desire is misplaced. Maybe these pages should remain in the shadow. In the shade. They are practice pages after all.
And then I have discovered something else. I was reading Goethe when I illustrated those pages. A fragment from Goethe’s poem “Gefunden.” Or, in English, “Found.”