Nice way to start a collection.
Of course I've always loved original comic art and could have bought it anytime, but I never thought I deserved to have it until I'd made my first buck as an actual cartoonist. Realizing that collecting could quickly get away from me if I let it, I made two rules: I could only acquire pieces done by people I'd gotten to know at least a little bit personally, or pieces by a small roster of greats who especially inspired me. I also accept gifts. My rules keep the collection small and manageable, and ensure that each piece really means something to me.
(Digression: I see collectors at the comic conventions with fat portfolios stuffed full of pages of original art, and I just don't understand that. They never look at it, never display it, and don't seem particularly interested in the art or artists. The pieces might as well be stamps or coins, and maybe to them that's exactly what they're like. I'd rather have one piece from a friend that makes me smile when I look at it than 100 pieces worth 10,000 times as much warehoused out of sight in black plastic binders. But that's just me.)
Yesterday's mail brought my latest find, a daily "Gordo" strip by Gus Arriola. I've written of my admiration of Mr. Arriola's work before. He's on my personal All-Time Top Ten List. If I could ink like any cartoonist in history, I think it would be him (although Walt Kelly would be a contender).
This one's a two-fer: it's Arriola, plus it's space-related. Finding a piece that hits two of my favorite things = too good to pass up. Here's a close-up of the last panel that shows some of what I mean about Mr. Arriola's inking: the "glow" lines that transition from white sky to black, the silhouetted tree and figures, the stylized hatching on the ground: gorgeous. Arriola began his career as an animator and it shows. I wish you could see the original: the blacks are incredibly crisp, with little evidence of under-drawing. This may be the cleanest original art I've ever seen.
Sadly, Mr. Arriola must fall under my "industry giants" rule rather than my "friends" rule. "Gordo" ran from 1941 to 1985 and Arriola passed away recently, in 2008. I only learned then that he lived relatively nearby. If I'd had my wits about me, I could have written him a letter telling him what his work meant to me, maybe even had a chance to thank him in person. Another missed opportunity to add to my Big Book O' Regrets.
While I'm on the subject, I'll share the second-most-recent addition to my collection, a wonderfully generous gift from my friend Mike Lynch. Mike is a specimen of the nearly extinct genus "people who earn a living from magazine gag cartooning." A long time ago I expressed admiration for this particular cartoon and was thrilled to find it under my tree last Christmas. See? Now that's a story and a friend I get to remember whenever I look at my wall.Caption: "I had a thought. No . . . that was you." ©Mike Lynch
If you're interested in collecting original comic art, it's not a bad or necessarily expensive hobby. As with any art, you have to know what you're looking at, and look at enough of it to know whether the price is fair. Shopping in person is best, but I realize that's seldom practical. eBay is a terrific resource (that's where I found my "Gordo") but beware! Fakes are rampant--it's funny how often Schulz forgers misspell "Schulz." Check out the seller's reputation. Know the difference between an original and the various prints, proofs and photostats that often show up on the market (in animation art, also learn the difference between a production cel (original) and a "sericel" (lithographed copy)). Your best bet may be to buy directly from the cartoonist. Not all sell their originals (I don't) but many do, and will be happy to point you in the right direction.