The Support That Made This Artist

April 25, 2018

I get more than my share of attention for making books, a successful Kickstarter and art… but I almost never accomplish these things alone. I’m not just talking about the incredibly talented crews I’ve worked with, but the people who have nothing to do with my projects that made me into the person I am.

There was a critical period in my life as an artist when I went to college from 1984-1988 where I made the biggest leaps in becoming both a consistent drawer and a stable man with his feet firmly planted on the ground. I met my wife in 1988, but even before she came along, I met “the guys”. Here’s a picture of some of us below:
10398814_8806838847_205_n.jpgThat towering, long-haired giant in the middle is me in the middle of the guys when we took a camping trip to Death Valley somewhere around 1991. I weight 30 pounds less that I do now, and I was trying to make it as a struggling illustrator in San Diego. I know I’m not alone in saying this, but something in me always felt broken. It’s like no matter how happy I was there was this nagging sense that other people weren’t like me. This sentiment is most commonly found among teen-agers, but I didn’t grow up very fast so that feeling lingered longer in me than in most people I see. But my guy friends made me feel normal, or I should say acceptable. It was the most powerful feeling to finally think I could hold my head up among other normal people. Now it’s been thirty years since I’ve met these guys and we still get together once a year and I never feel more at ease or normal than when I’m around them. This was a foundation that gave me strength to take risks, one of the most important attributes of my career.

On the left is Mark Lorenzen, easily the smartest person I’ve ever known. He is a brilliant artist, computer programmer, musician, writer and builder of things… weird things. He invented a number of instruments including one featuring a bicycle wheel. We spent a lot of time together talking about girls-God-philosophy, drawing, making bad puns and repeating obscure commercial jingles and H.R. Puff-N-Stuff episodes. He joined me on Earthworm Jim 2 and later we made The Neverhood game together.

To the right up top is Dale Lawrence, who later helped write The Neverhood Chronicles. Sure, he works for the phone company now, but he’s the best writer I’ve read. We took a creative writing course together in college and his essays were the best. He just slays! As loud and rude as I am Dale is gentle and calm. In a group of guys you need some people who represent peace, and that’s Dale. To be with him is to lower your heart rate. When he speaks, I always listen because he usually has something deep and introspective to say.

The guy below him in the cowboy hat on the right is Clark Williams… my first roommate out of college. He’s a biologist and maintains the same salt water tank to this day that he started when we roomed together 30 years ago! He currently clones the foreskin of a dead guy to create sheets of skin to use for burn victims. We butt heads a lot because he’s probably the most like me in temperament. That means a lot of sparks fly between us but we have the deepest of affection for each other too. While all of the guys are types of brothers to me Clark is my most brotherest.

Down on the lower right is Joe Potter, the best man I’ve ever met to such a degree that he was the best man in my wedding. We were college art majors together and he became a graphic designer in Shawnee, Kansas. When I first met him he would put together these pathetic heavy metal bands and write songs to record on cassettes to give to his friends. It wasn’t unlike what I do with my zines or smaller projects. It wasn’t about making money, it was about making art. And of course, he mostly recorded a whole album just so he could make the album art. Joe is a man full of love, he ponders the Bible and tries to apply it to his daily life. Oh, and though we used to play Command and Conquer: Tiberian Sun in 1998, we found it online a few months ago and play each other three games a day: one for breakfast, one for lunch and one for dinner.

Laying on the ground at my feet is Darren Bowler, a fiery red-headed artistic madman. The “artistic temperament” went so deep into Darren that his art ate him. He’d make these giant installations, intricate paintings of giant chickens in hell (his nickname was “Fire Chicken”), wrapped up dead cats and staged his own fake hanging. For graduation a tower of propane fire blew out of the top of his black graduation square hat! His public art and secret campus graffiti was like Banksy before Banksy… which makes him a Basquiat. He left the arts and became a pest control guy then worked for the railroad and ended up a competent family man. Being a family man is the truest form of art I can think of.

Down on the lower left is Dave King, a naturalist and environmentalist who counts animals in the desert to shut down building projects. That’s probably saying it a bit too bluntly, but Dave knows how man tortoises are in a fifteen mile square radius because he drove across the whole thing and lived in a tent until he counted every one of them. To observe nature for hours is to know the land better than anyone else. He’s quiet. Among all of us, I’m sure Dave has spoken the least amount of words and listened to others the most. Like an angel, he pops into our group, then vanishes in the morning. He invents words what we call mutations. It’s hard to describe, but if Dave brings a word or saying to the group it tends to stick. He starting calling us all “Jim” when he imitated Star Trek’s doctor Bones correcting Captain Kirk. Soon we all just called each other Jim. It’s no wonder that the first cartoon character I made would be named Jim.

To conclude I’ll say that this artist wouldn’t fly as high as I do without the support of real people behind me. My parents, my wife, my friends are under me, holding me up. While it’s hard to imagine my life without art, the lights would truly go out when I imagine my life without the guys. Here’s to 34 years of faithfulness and comradeship.

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3 Responses to “The Support That Made This Artist”

  1. Jason Says:

    Ecclesiastes 4:9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

    Thanks for sharing about these guys. It parallels my own close friendships that are too important to just let dissolve. I think today, I’ll reach out to my ol’ motley crew and let them know how important they are.

  2. John McNichol Says:

    Beautiful piece. While Facebook gets a (often deserved) bad rap, one god thing it’s done this past decade is help keep me connected to the people in my life who are as precious to me as yours are to you.
    God bless you and all you do,
    JDM


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