1966: Concerning Primate Posteriors

Re-run Saturday – we finally have cooler weather in Middle Tennessee and it’s brought back memories of winters past.

David R. Deitrick, Designer

My dad did not have it easy growing up. On top of the general Depression/World War 2 experience most men his age went through, his home life was pretty chaotic. He lived on a ranch in south-east Idaho with at least a dozen siblings and at least three step-fathers, not all of whom had his best interests in minds.

David Soren Deitrick wasn’t raised to adulthood; he was dragged up.

Unfortunately we ended up “cross-threaded” quite often. In addition to the effects of his childhood there were other factors involved, the kind of things pop psychologists make their living telling us all to obsess about. I’ve gone back and forth about it all and the bottom line is this: my dad was a good man, I wish I’d known him better and my life would have been richer had we spent more time together…

…but don’t doubt for a second…

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The Avengers Mansion

Avengers MansionLife seems to be dominated by friction between factions:

  • North Vs. South
  • Republican Vs. Democrat
  • Beatles vs. The Rolling Stones
  • Marvel vs DC

In that last line up I’ve traditionally lined up with DC, but there was a time (1967-68) when I was a devoted Marvel fan – I joined M.M.M.S. (Merry Marvel Marching Society) not just once, but twice, thought I have to admit the second time around was mostly to get the full-color membership button.

(In retrospect I should have saved my buck as all the button got me was a lunch-time beat down.)

I went through a period of renewed Marvelmania in the mid-2000s, so it should be no surprise that my trip to Manhattan in 2006 would include visiting the site of the Avengers mansion…or at least as close as I could get to that mythical address.

(yep, that’s me in trimmer times)

2018: Pushing the Envelope

Much has been said and even more has been written about the “bulletproof” mindset of an eighteen-year old. Granted, there are variations in terminology ranging from “Hey y’all – look at this!” to the more basic “Hold my beer”, but ultimately it can all be traced back to the “It-can’t-happen-to-me” mindset that gives us fighter pilots and cage fighters.

I wish I could say age eventually corrects such dysfunctional thinking but even in my crippled state my inner paratrooper lurks, though at sixty-five living on the edge is more likely to involved hooking one too many plastic grocery bags through my fingers than flying through thunderstorm cells or diving without calculating decompression times before hand. Pushing the envelope usually involves handling actual envelopes while paying  bills rather than test pilots consulting performance charts and the limits indicted by lines on graphs (which is where the expression came from!)

In my case there is one situation when my ego has most definitely been checked at the door : when I first get up – or more precisely try to get up in the morning .  Morning is not my friend and when I first stir in the morning there is a fair amount of weeping, wailing, gnashing of teeth and crying-like-a-hungry-puppy coming from the general direction of my over-sized papa-bear chair.

(I started to write “crying like a little girl” but that would be unfair as I wasn’t even close to being as stoic as a little girl would have been)

I keep telling myself that I can still win, that pushups and miles will defeat the disease-dragons I fight each day, but to be coldly honest there is a day coming when I won’t be able to ignore the pain and stand up.

A day coming when I won’t be able to take that next breath.

…but until that day arrives I will keep adding plastic bags to my grip on grocery day.

 

Artists: Val & Ron Lindahn

ValAndRonLindahn

Three of the most physically demanding experiences of my life

  • Two-a-day football practice
  • Basic Airborne course – “jump school”
  • Confederation 44

Confederation 44 AKA the 1986 World Science Fiction convention was not the type event you’d usually associate with strenuous physical activity but as I was in the midst of the initial  flare of ankylosing spondylitis it became an endurance test of sorts. The attendant severe pain along my spine and hips made getting both baggage and artwork from airport to hotel a definite challenge.

I would survive that Labor Day weekend on Motrin and Tylenol 3.

The Atlanta WORLDCON had not been on my schedule; not only did I have the physical discomfort to contend with – for the first time in my freelance career  I was bringing in enough work for a decent income, so I didn’t see a need for making what would be a miserable trip. However at the last minute a New York book publisher told me in a phone conversation that meeting at WORLDCON was all that lay between me and more lucrative book cover assignments.

$KA-CHING$

The  happy ending would have me making my way to Atlanta, inking a multi-book deal and selling several paintings in the art show – all while enjoying a miraculous remission of my physical ailments. Unfortunately reality was more a matter of pain and disappointment: travel aggravated the spasms, I sold nothing in the art show and my meeting with the publisher was a bust as in “ I don’t know what I was thinking when I told you that”,

….but in the middle of it all was a definite “silver lining in dark cloud” moment,

I was standing in the art show next to my panel and feeling totally overwhelmed  at having my work hung next to the stellar work of Steve Hickman when a total stranger walked up, shook my hand and said “Hi, I’m Ron Lindahn. Val and I have been looking at your work. It’s good and I just thought I’d introduce myself”.

I stood there for a moment then replied with something snappy like “Argle bargle urk”. At the time convention art shows were dominated by the book publishing industry and my entry from the role-playing game ghetto had been met with a cool response. Val and Ron Lindahn were definitely “names” in the business and I had difficulty processing what the h*ll they saw in me.

I’d seen their work and admired it from afar for a couple of years – there was a confidence in excellence that I’ve tried and failed to achieve in my own work. I’ve also liked they way they’d experiment and use non-traditional media – one of the most interesting conversations of the weekend revolved around unwinding and fraying coarse twine to use as stencil in rendering undersea plant life.

They are just as ‘excellent” in real-life as well;  I spent the rest of the Atlanta WORLDCON in their company and despite the elevated level of pain I was dealing with I had  a marvelous time, if nothing than for the fact that it was the first large S/F convention where I didn’t feel like a little kid with my nose pressed on the window glass, on the outside looking in.

It’s been a few years since I’ve seen them – the A/S is in full force and I don’t get out much, but I will always remember their kindness.

1966: Fighting Crime on Scout Lake Loop Road

I’ve been overcome by events this week so the re-run is a Sunday rather than Saturday event. It was fall break for my Beautiful Saxon Princess giving us the whole week together but she pulled a muscle in her lower back on Wednesday and helping her became my first priority. I didn’t get much else was accomplished…but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

David R. Deitrick, Designer

I’m not sure what initially (please forgive the pun) drew me to comics and superheroes. The genre was not nearly as popular then as it is now so it wasn’t a social thing. I liked the art…but there was something about the idea of making people safe and avenging wrongs that really appealed to me. Having endured varying degrees of pain at the hands of others I liked the idea of someone preventing that sort of thing.

My cousin Gary introduced me to comics in the early sixties but the hook was set during the summer of 1964 not too long after the Good Friday earthquake. I can trace my interest to three specific issues:

  • Detective Comics # 327 “ The Mystery of The Menacing Mask”
  • World’s Finest #142 “The Composite Superman”
  • Justice League of America “29 “Crisis on Earth-Three.”

My buddies and I had a great time reading…

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Artists: Michael Whelan

Integral TreesWhen I first started going to S/F conventions the word was “Michael Whelan is the Robert Redford of the science-fiction illustration world”. While at this point in time Redford’s name may have been traded out for Brad Pitt the fact remains that Michael Whelan =  superstar.

Years ago I sat on panels at three different conventions with Mr. Whelan so we’re not really acquainted – but during those discussions he seemed pleasant, professional and blessedly free of that common artist’s ailment: an ego requiring a separate life-support system. I also watched him conduct a tour of the 1991 BOSKONE art show and was impressed when he delivered a constructive commentary of every item in the show, from marginally recognizable Spock portraits scratched out by desperate middle-school fans to polished professional work by peers and competitors working in the photorealistic manner of the Brandywine school of illustration.

He’s created a fantastic  body of work over the last 40+ years but the illustration I’m posting today is my pick of the bunch because:

  • Larry Niven is one of my favorite writers
  • As I grew up in Alaska it should be no surprise that I am “tree-hugger”.
  • Green dominates the composition.

So why is green such a big deal? For starters I just like the color green, especially cool greens that run to the pthalo green side of the palette; for “seconders”: from day one of my first illustration class and all the way through my entire career  all I’ve heard about green is that it’s  the kiss of death on a cover…

This image proves otherwise.

James Albert Smith (1933-2018)

Like so many other rites of passage, the whole idea of “talking trash” to peers didn’t occur to me until fifth grade at Woodland Park Elementary School, located in the wilds of deepest, darkest Spenard (Alaska). Central to the art of verbal dueling was developing a good defense, even if it was something as simple as “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me!”, when you were receiving fire, as in  “You were such an ugly baby your mom fed you with a slingshot”. I figured that the anxiety brought on by “words” would ease off as I got older but unfortunately there have always been statements that could definitely shake me up:

  1. “Surface winds on the DZ have dropped momentarily to light and variable.”
  2. I’m sure it’s just a mole.”
  3. “We have some questions about some of the deductions on your Schedule C.”
  4. “I’m going to raise my sons the same way I’ve watched you raise yours.”

That last comment was the most worrisome, and when my friend Delton spoke those words to me I slept poorly for a week, convinced that one or all of his boys would end up in an asylum or jail based on some faulty parenting technique he’d observed me practicing. I always wondered if Brother Smith’s chuckle-in-response was covering up a similar reaction when I made the same statement years ago.

That’s because no other man (including my own father) had as much influence on my growth as a parent as did James Albert Smith. He continued to laugh the idea off, maintaining that he’d never done anything that remarkable while raising his kids, but he never caught on to the fact that it wasn’t the things that he did, but the things that he didn’t do that made all the difference in the world.

He didn’t get a caribou

Growing up on the Kenai Peninsula I was surrounded by hard men – carpenters, mechanics, roustabouts and commercial fisherman who were veterans of World War 2 or the Korean conflict. A moose hunt  with them was more like combat reconnaissance patrol than a hunting trip. I couldn’t help but inwardly smirk as I watched Jim casually load up his boys on a fall morning in 1971, one rifle for the three of them and all of them in street shoes, however as I listened to them interact upon their return later that day I realized that the trip had less to do with steaks and more to do with forging bonds between a father and his sons, that he was spending more time teaching than hunting.

He couldn’t grow corn.

I witnessed Jim’s efforts at vegetable gardening over the course of three summers and it never ceased to amaze me that corn stalks always took up a  fair amount of space in his plot. It didn’t seem to matter that the growing season is too short, the soil too wet and daytime temperatures don’t stay warm enough for corn to thrive. It wasn’t until that third summer that I finally tumbled to the fact that his attempts had less to do with having fresh corn-on-the-cob for dinner and more to do with giving a little bit of Davis County ambiance to help his homesick sweetheart cope with the cold and dark  winters so far away from home.

He didn’t kick my fourth-point-of-contact

I have it on good authority that I can be somewhat of a dumb-a** at times, and I was in that mode of thinking when I once caused a great deal of distress for one of his children. At the time I was literally living on the other side of the continent and figured I was home free from any sort of parental retribution. I wasn’t prepared for the flinty stare he met me with when we finally did meet up in person two months later, a flinty stare which lasted all of twelve seconds before he broke into his trademark grin, slapped me on the shoulder and started quizzing me about “those fancy new graphic design classes you’ve been taking”.

It was truly amazing watching him in parental mode.  My own parents were firm believers in the percussive discipline school of child rearing and while my presence no doubt had a tempering effect on his conduct I was always impressed with the positive, low key manner with which he  counseled and corrected his kids…and when I told him that I was trying to adapt those traits into my own parenting style he just brushed off the statement and changed the topic of conversation to a short story he was working on.1

Despite time and distance the warmth never wavered – he was the only person I’ve ever known who had a grin that could be heard on the phone.  He was always interested in what I did, though to the very end he kept urging me to switch from design to copywriting2.  When I recently shared with him an illustration I created for The Friend his reaction was to tell me that my work was the best part of the magazine, a comment that meant more to me than all the other certificates and ribbons I’ve been awarded in my entire career.

I just hope when this life is over he’ll say the same thing about my parenting skills.

___________________________________________________________________________

Notes

  1. The plot involved father and son cobbling together a hovercraft out of the wreckage of a plane they’d crashed in.
  2. Writers ae usually paid better and are selected more often as supervisors

Another Thirty-year Old Drawing

Puffinzilla0003

This dates from back when we were house-sitting for my parents in Sterling in the late 1980s. I sold the original years ago but I think it  measured about six inches on the vertical side.

As for inspiration there are three things going on here:

  1.  I’ve always liked the way Val Paul Taylor works Pacific Northwest themes into his work – Val and I were classmates for one all-too-short years at BYU.
  2. I’ve been a fan of alternate history since Kirk Mitchell’s Procurator series in the mid-Eighties and I take great delight in designing arms and equipment for “What if” scenarios.
  3. While the Kenai Peninsula art “scene” had opened up immeasurably since I left home in 1971, it was still very much dominated in 1988 by touristy themes such as moose, mountains, the Northern Lights and PUFFINS!

We couldn’t go anywhere without running into paintings of puffins….