I have the mind of a humorist and the heart of a teacher. I toggle my time between being a family man, a worker bee, and an independent cartoonist/writer. It’s a tough juggle many times, but I’m figuring it out. The family man part doesn’t change. It’s the job and the creative stuff that battle for the remainder of my time. No complaints, that’s simply how it is at the moment.
As a creator, I enjoy producing works of art (comics, illustrations, writings, etc.) to touch your heart and mind. Those comics are often goofy and lighthearted in nature; a reflection of my own nature. Yet, I’m also deeply serious, pensive, and at times, melancholy. It’s from these moments that I draw inspiration for my work.
Full disclosure: I’m a devout Christian and I lean toward the right politically. That said, I see myself as a bleeding heart conservative. I care deeply about my fellow man, the appropriate care and nurturing of children, respect for nature, and the building and sustaining of communities. There are times for tough love and times for softer love. Wisdom is needed for each and every instance and I seek that wisdom from God and mentors.
That’s about as short as I get.
About a week before kindergarten, my soon-to-be teacher visited my mom at our house. The teacher (a first-year teacher by the name of Ms. Johnson) gave me homework. Can you believe it? Homework before my very first day of school? In any case, the assignment was to draw a picture of my family for Ms. Johnson to tape to the wall of her classroom.
This assignment brought me great joy. I loved to draw and come up with fun and goofy stuff. I drew a picture of my family where each member was an “Incredible Hulk” version of themselves. I, of course, loved the TV show and thought this would be the best representation of my family. On the first day of school, I was aghast to discover two things: 1. every other kid drew their family as dull humans, and 2. the other kids needed to practice their drawing skills. Needless to say, my portrait garnered positive attention from my classmates who not only liked that I came from a family of Hulks, but also that I, as a five-year-old, drew at the level of (dare I say?) a six-year-old.
From that moment on, I was the guy in class who could “draw really good.” Roughly 99% of my drawings were goofy gags with the remaining 1% allotted to drawing roses coupled with sappy sentiments scrawled in hand-drawn Old English font… the latter as gifts for girls I admired who, for some reason, did not reciprocate my unbridled passion.
Luckily, I grew out of that drawing-roses-for-girls phase and, by high school, I eased into my drawing-caricatures-of-celebrities for girls phase. In my mind, the guy who got the most girls had to be the best caricature artist in MAD Magazine (i.e., Mort Drucker). Again, my efforts were unfruitful. I managed to have a few girlfriends in high school but none of them were acquired due to my cartooning skills which, to this day astonishes me because I really don’t know what else I had to offer. Maybe they liked my mullet.
I graduated high school in 1993 with a great GPA and no life skills. College was a bust and I never truly recovered. Thus began my long arduous journey of not becoming a hobo. This involved numerous jobs across a spectrum of industries. While traversing my pothole-ridden path, I encountered scores of fascinating and wonderful people. I truly love people and, while it may have been nice to have had a clear and straight path, the road I walked took me the scenic route. All that to say, I have been blessed with a life of randomness which feeds my creativity every day.
Another beautiful outcome of my journey is my family. I met my wife Jessica in 2017, online, through Facebook of all places. At that time, she was living in San Antonio, TX and I was living in Las Cruces, NM. We found out that we grew up in the same area of town (she too was from Las Cruces, NM), which explained how we had friends in common and somehow connected on that platform. We fell head over heels in love with each other and, later that year, I moved to San Antonio. We were married in January 2018.
Jessica has a daughter from a previous marriage, Lauren – a teenager at the time – and, in May 2019, our son Sebastian was born. Sebastian (“Bash”) has Down syndrome but he is anything but disabled. Even as a toddler, he was the biggest ladies’ man I’ve ever seen. I don’t know how he does it. He has such confidence, blowing kisses to all the ladies who, in turn, fawn over him. This irks me a bit because I’ve seen his drawings and I’m a LOT better. But my wife is beautiful – the woman of my dreams – so I’m not too envious.
When I was young, I remember visiting the laundromat which was owned by my
maternal grandfather and grandmother in Carlsbad, NM. In those days, in that
market, the laundromats were, how shall I say… rudimentary. The place housed
several wringer washers; large, barrel-like contraptions with open tops that gurgled and splashed like a giant iron frog frothing from the mouth. Atop the machines were long wringers that you would operate by turning a crank. In any case, on one occasion, curiosity got the best of me and I decided to test the pressure of the wringer with my finger. Believe me when I say the pressure was sufficient. Why do I bring this up? Being a father of a rambunctious toddler and a step-father of a teenager – both children fiercely fighting for independence – puts my soul through that old washing machine wringer all too often.
In the early 2000s (isn’t that such a futuristic thing to say?), I worked for two newspaper publishers. The first was the Las Cruces Sun-News. It was there that I cut my teeth on graphic design and learned how to produce with a strict deadline. I moved to Carrollton, Georgia (it’s a long story involving my first wife, God rest her soul) and worked at the Times-Georgian. That employment was difficult to obtain. The town, while quaint, was a tough nut to crack. I was an artsy-fartsy outsider; not the best fit for a small town in the deep south.
I believed that I was supposed to work at their newspaper. I had no doubt, never mind that everyone at that newspaper did. I created a zine called “One Lump or Two” and distributed it to various eateries in the area. The zine was a collection of comics and writings; all humor. My goal was to prove to the newspaper people that I had the wherewithal and work ethic to produce a finished product. When I finished an issue, I would head to the newspaper and visit the Advertising Director – the guy who was in charge of hiring graphic designers. I would give him a copy and ask him if he had any openings. He didn’t. However, he was in the process of developing an Arts and Entertainment tabloid and would ask for my thoughts on the project with each visit. Over the course of several weeks, I would come in, he would reject me for a job, then we would discuss the tab. It was during one such meeting that, while I sat there jabbering with him, one of his employees came into the office and gave his two-week notice. The Advertising Director accepted the notice then looked at me and asked, “When can you start?”
I was hired as a graphic designer for ads and also given the unspoken title of Creative Director for their new Arts and Entertainment tab which was named “Kudzu.” I was given complete freedom to create the piece as I saw fit. There was a lead editor, but he was content merely editing copy. Basically, if I wanted to print it, it went to print. This allowed me to write feature articles, a humor column, add comics and collaborate with staff writers for content. At one point, I convinced the Editor in Chief to allow me to interview Leon Redbone to promote an upcoming concert. I created the cover image for each issue and the Leon Redbone issue remains my favorite.
I moved back to Las Cruces, NM and, in 2010, I was accepted as an editorial intern at MAD Magazine. Like so many kids of my generation, I loved MAD. I had always dreamed of being a member of “The UsualGang of Idiots.” One night, I wondered if it was still a possibility. Obviously, it was. I worked in their New York City offices and loved every moment. After my internship, I submitted several pieces which were published. Finally, I was paid for being the Idiot I always knew I was.
I’ve had many dreams come true. I realize it doesn’t make for a sob
story. Sure, I have had my fair share of crappy times. Haven’t we all? But working toward fun and wonderful goals is a salve to all that painful stuff. My current dream is to become a teacher and, one day, a college professor. Also, in my dream life, I have a Herman Miller Eames reading chair with a matching ottoman. Yes, that’ll do.