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  Comments (0) Total Wednesday Apr. 16, 2014
Art for Sale
Lurching from one near disaster to another...
If I had to make a living with my artwork, I could do better with a cardboard sign and a beard at a boulevard stop somewhere.

When I was only 10 years old and living with my grandparents and my great uncle, I used to watch him make wonderful pen and ink drawings in his diary. I tried in my own crude way to copy what he was drawing. Rather unsuccessfully, I might add.

Several years later, that all changed when my grandmother gave me a book on cartooning. “Fun With a Pencil” was written by Andrew Loomis.

Within a month I had dropped out of my mechanical drawing class and enrolled in a commercial art class. I was drawing cartoons on anything that was put in front of me.

When I went in the Navy in 1942 I started making cartoon sketches of what Navy life was all about. Before long I published a book, “The Navy Goes To College.” I had the local junior college print shop do the work for me and I bought the paper and paid for the binding. It took almost a year to double my money, but it was profitable and I never looked back.

Soon, I snagged my first commission to paint walls full of cartoons. I wanted to paint them in the skier’s dining room, but my idea was taken over by the artist in residence at the lodge in Sun Valley, Max Barsis. As compensation for the idea, the general manager, Pappy Rogers, let me paint cartoon murals on the employee cafeteria walls. He gave me a season’s pass and free meals as long as I was still painting them. Those cartoons were only taken down about 10 years ago. A friend who is still in Sun Valley took photos of them all and printed them out for me as a reminder of those fun but lean years.

It was beginning to look like the paintbrush was mightier than the ski pole.

This led to a $200 set of murals in Chuck Helm’s ski shop in Ketchum. Not bad, when the monthly salary of most people in the Wood River Valley in those days was about $150 a month.

At Squaw Valley in 1949, while I was teaching skiing and starting to produce my first feature length ski movie, I was also busy creating a pen and ink cartoon every day. I was still selling them for a dollar each and doing pretty well.

On a night off from showing a film in Boyne Mountain in 1954, I went to a mountain top restaurant party.

It was a brand new place with newly painted white walls. Before I knew it, it was after 1:30 and I had one wall almost completely full of my ski cartoons. I only had colored Sharpie-type pens to work with so I figured in the spring they would all get painted over and the lodge could revert to its elegance. They are still there today and covered with plexi-glass so no one can deface them.

John Kircher, who grew up skiing at his father’s ski resort, Boyne, and remembering the cartoons I’d drawn at the restaurant at the top of the hill, asked if I’d do a set on the walls in a new restaurant he was building at Crystal Mountain near Seattle. Laurie knows how long it takes me to paint a mural on a wall and she suggested that I have large decals made of the cartoons. While I was at it I had a smaller set made for our home here at the Yellowstone Club in Montana.

The last four books I have published have been full of my cartoons and my book on wine terminology is nothing but cartoons.

Unfortunately, my eyesight is going away and my ability to draw is going with it. But I have often been lucky in having fun on the walls of a lot of places that I have visited.

If I can get some of my eyesight back, I hope there will be more fun days at the drawing board to come.
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