Wednesday, February 7, 2024


I recently mentioned in passing that I had no "juvenilia," or artwork done when I was young, because pretty much everything I'd created before 2017 was lost in our wildfire. A high school friend, Beth, said that she had some and would send it on. It arrived today.

First, I have to tell you how much it means that Beth held onto things I drew when we were both kids for DECADES. She joked that when I became a famous artist she could sell them for millions. The part of that that's not a joke, I think, is that even when we were 16 or 17, she saw some potential and thought they were worth saving. So that's deeply touching.

And now she gave them back. That's even more deeply touching, although I expect I disappointed her on the "famous artist" part of our deal. I still have time, Beth.

I will thank her privately, but decided to post them publicly for one reason: they are embarrassingly bad. I sort of remembered being better than this at 15, 16, 17 and 18, but here's the evidence I can't deny and it's painful for me to face. The good news is, I got better.

That's today's sermon: No one but the rarest prodigy springs fully-formed like Athena from the brow of Zeus. When you're a kid who gets recognized for your intelligence or artistic talent or athletic ability, you probably aren't actually GOOD, you're just better than the other kids around you. But with encouragement, perseverance, education, experience, and (I think this is important) some real professional feedback, including criticism and rejection, you can get good. 

No false humility: I am a good, confident, professional writer and cartoonist now. But I wasn't born that way, and I sure wasn't when I was a teenager. The kid who drew this stuff had a LOT to learn. 

The grown-up who wrote this is still learning. I always figure that if you look back on your earlier work and cringe, it just means you're getting better.

Thank you, Beth.

An 11x17 poster. My scanner cut off the bottom but you get the idea. Star Wars, Rocky, and The Wiz nail my era of high school exactly.

I don't know if this was a rough draft of the previous "Pops Concert" poster. All I can tell you is that I drew about 100,000 Enterprises and Klingon spaceships in those days, and these were two of them.

Thor and Spider-Man. Urgh. There is nothing good or right about these figures. But, like I said: it's good I've made some progress.

A harpy. Not sure quite what or why this exists, but I suspect it was done for a class assignment, and probably paired with the next drawing....

...which I take to be Cerberus, the three-headed hellhound of Greek myth. I'm not sure what the dog in the foreground is about--perhaps it is imagining its inner savage self--but out of all these five drawings it's the one figure I can look at and think, "Hm, not bad, kid."

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