I don’t want to mislead anyone here. This corner of the website—“New Stuff”—is not a resurrection of The Far Side daily cartoons. (Well, not exactly, anyway—like the proverbial tiger and its stripes, I’m pretty much stuck with my sense of humor. Aren’t we all?) The thing is, I thoroughly enjoyed my career as a syndicated cartoonist, and I hope, in spirit at least, we had some laughs together. But after fifteen years of meeting deadlines, well, blah blah blah … you know the rest. The day after I retired from syndication, it felt good not to draw on a deadline. And after moving on to other interests, drawing just wasn’t on my to-do list. Things change. But then a few years ago—and returning to the subject at hand—something happened in my life, and it started with a clogged pen.
Despite my retirement, I still had intermittent connections to cartooning, including my wife’s and my personal Christmas card. Once a year, I’d sit myself down to take on Santa, and every year it began with the same ritual: me cursing at, and then cleaning out, my clogged pen. (Apparently, the concept of cleaning it before putting it away each year was just too elusive for me.) As problems go, this is admittedly not exactly on the scale of global warming, but in the small world of my studio, it was cataclysmic. Okay, highly annoying.
So a few years ago—finally fed up with my once-loyal but now reliably traitorous pen—I decided to try a digital tablet. I knew nothing about these devices but hoped it would just get me through my annual Christmas card ordeal. I got one, fired it up, and lo and behold, something totally unexpected happened: within moments, I was having fun drawing again. I was stunned at all the tools the thing offered, all the creative potential it contained. I simply had no idea how far these things had evolved. Perhaps fittingly, the first thing I drew was a caveman.
The “New Stuff” that you’ll see here is the result of my journey into the world of digital art. Believe me, this has been a bit of a learning curve for me. I hail from a world of pen and ink, and suddenly I was feeling like I was sitting at the controls of a 747. (True, I don’t get out much.) But as overwhelmed as I was, there was still something familiar there—a sense of adventure. That had always been at the core of what I enjoyed most when I was drawing The Far Side, that sense of exploring, reaching for something, taking some risks, sometimes hitting a home run and sometimes coming up with “Cow tools.” (Let’s not get into that.) But as a jazz teacher once said to me about improvisation, “You want to try and take people somewhere where they might not have been before.” I think that my approach to cartooning was similar—I’m just not sure if even I knew where I was going. But I was having fun.
So here goes. I’ve got my coffee, I’ve got this cool gizmo, and I’ve got no deadlines. And—to borrow from Sherlock Holmes—the game is afoot.
Again, please remember, I’m just exploring, experimenting, and trying stuff. New Stuff. I have just one last thing to say before I go: thank you, clogged pen.