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Drawing conclusions, not to mention still lifes

I used to be a cartoonist. Uh-oh, Charles Schulz just rolled over in his grave.


No really, I drew cartoons to go with my columns for several years when I was at The Randolph Guide.


The drawings were perfect for my columns. You know, hen scratchings as companions to drivel.


The origins go back to my second round of college classes. I went four years in the late ’60s before having to drop out. Then 30 years later, I begged them to let me back in because the boy-girl student ratio had swung way over in the guys’ favor.


Anyway, I was taking one class per semester beginning in the fall of ’99. Two years and seven courses later, I found myself marching in cap and gown with my younger colleagues.


One of the classes I took was an elective — Basic Drawing. The instructor was a grad student named Carrie, about 30 years my junior but whose position made her my superior.


It became obvious to me early on that the class was way over my head in terms of artistic ability. My classmates tended to be practiced artists while I had never done anything other than doodle in notebooks.


But in a way, that was a good thing. When I thought about it, by starting at the bottom, there was only one way for me to go — straight up.


Not that I overtook any of the others in ability. But my steep learning curve made my improvement more dramatic.


I would drive an hour to the campus after a day of work, sit down at an easel to draw and feel the tension ebbing from me. It was almost like meditation or yoga or some other mind-easing activity.


We would draw items that Carrie found hidden away in closets, like old electric fans, kitchenware or furniture. And some days we drew actual people.


One day our assignment was to draw our own face from memory and then again using a mirror. The contrast in my free-hand drawing and working from the mirror was startling. But in both of them I was as bald as a billiard ball.


Carrie introduced us to the Chuck Close method, which involved drawing a face which has been divided up into a gridwork of small squares. We did a class project with each student drawing a few squares of the gridwork before we put them all together. And on a personal level, I did a realistic drawing of my granddaughter using the Chuck Close method.


At the end of the semester, we turned in all our art work for Carrie to grade. On the last day, I opened up my large folder and found her notes. Carrie had suggested that I use my art in my newspaper work.


That gave me the idea of drawing little cartoons to illustrate my weekly columns. The first week I drew something that was sort of a reflection of what I had written.


After I had saved the column in our computer system, I took the drawing to my editor and said, “This goes with my column.” He looked at it and grunted, then scanned the drawing and placed it on the computer page with the column. Later, it appeared in the newspaper.


Eventually, the editor saved a space on my column page for a cartoon each week. Some weeks he would say, “Larry, I need your art.” He used the term “art” loosely.


Most of my drawings were pretty basic. But there were weeks when my column would be about a personality such as Richard Petty and I felt the need to draw the face.


Petty wasn’t that difficult since the focus was on his sunglasses, hat, mustache and, of course, teeth.


Then there was the time my family met Little Richard in a Greensboro cafeteria. I felt I had to write a column about it, which meant drawing his face.


I drew, tore up drawings, and drew some more. But I never could get his face right. So I wound up doing something I thought was unprofessional — I traced his photo.


My life as a cartoonist — so-called — ended when The Guide closed in January 2015. It had gotten to be a bit of a grind to write a column and then have to think up something to illustrate it.


It was fun while it lasted. But I was never mistaken for Charles Schulz.


Larry Penkava is a writer for Randolph Hub. Contact: 336-302-2189, larrypenkava@gmail.com.