Before you start…

sean's comic…let me warn you that you’ll never guess which Traveller supplement this illustration appeared in or which unpublished Metagaming project it was intended to be used in (but was subsequently “eighty-sixed” when Howard  left the company.) I wasn’t art for the program book of some convention that named me as Artist Guest of Honor and it wasn’t a self-promotional portfolio piece I came up with during a slow week…because it’s NOT my work .

It was drawn by my son Sean during a middle school art class.

Proper dad-ship rests on the idea that a father does everything in his power to launch his kids successfully in life and Sean when started high school he was manifesting all the skills and knowledge necessary for a creative career not just equal to but surpassing mine. I’m not kidding – his drawing skills at sixteen were better than mine were at thirty, but when he started college he knew that as much as he loved art he needed an income more stable than art could provide. After spending twenty-five years watching me battle with the vagaries of a freelancer’s life he chose the path that I often wish I’d taken and kept creativity as an avocation instead of a vocation, a hobby to help alleviate stress rather than creating it.

…and he still manages to routinely add to an already impressive body of work.

Parley LaMoine Howell (1933-2020)

1980

“That’s some book-case you’re making David”

 “Thanks”

 “Are you sure you don’t want to add another support on the front:

 “Yes Dad”

(tap/tap/tap)

“You may want to consider adding that support to the front. Conrad is starting to walk, and he may grab onto it and – “

A reply of ultimate snarkiness was on the tip of my tongue but as luck would have it my Beautiful Saxon Princess chose that moment to step in and inform us the coals were just right for barbecue and took her father by the arm to start grilling. I shot a dark look at my father-in-law’s receding form: It was bad enough that in two days I’d be facing a medical board ruling my flight status without getting a critique on every second nail I drove into MY bookshelf…but then he was a civilian paper shuffler and hadn’t a clue about my situation, or ( I suspected) a care.

1991

David, are you sure you don’t want to go with us?’

“Yes, I’m sure”

(pause)

“ Did I tell you that we got a new engine for the boat and new upholstery for the seats?

 “Yes”          

 “Did you see the forecast? It’s going to be perfect weather”

 “I know”

(pause)

“ David are you sure –“ at which point my Beautiful Saxon Princess (well aware of the signs of an impending eruption of Mount David) stepped in with a Bundt cake to distract her father from his efforts to persuade me to join in a water-skiing expedition that afternoon.

I sat back and reached for an unbroken pencil and fresh sheet of paper. He didn’t have a clue – I was hanging on by my fingertips to an MFA program with an open hostility towards middle-aged professionals who also happened to hold reserve commissions in the military. My young family thought of the trip to my in-laws as a vacation but I definitely needed time to work on a research paper on Tlingit raven rattles, a topic that was both politically correct enough to get me through the semester as well as obscure enough to discourage thorough examination.

1997

“David, are you sure you want to measure out the stud lines from that wall”

 “Yes Dad”

(hammer/hammer/hammer)

“David, don’t you think we should measure out from this end”

 “No Dad. Measuring from this end puts most of them under floor joists”

(hammer/hammer/hammer)

“David are you – “ at which point Fate in the shape of My Beautiful Saxon Princess intervened with a tray of sandwiches and drinks prompting me to drop the hammer that I’d been gripping hard enough to emboss fingerprints.

2020

Parley LaMoine Howell passed away a few days ago, joining his wife and sweetheart Velma who’d made her own exit from the earthly stage a little over a year ago. Despite the Huntsville (AL) venue we were able to participate in the funeral via a Facebook Live broadcast (take that mean old Mister Coronavirus) and as we sat in the studio listening to the services several conclusions came to mind:

  • This guy was the bomb! He started college at Gonzaga University on a basketball scholarship, was a pivotal designer for the Lunar Rover used in Apollo program and in three different states was a major factor in the growth and leadership of our faith.
  • This guy was good. In the forty-two years I’d been married to his eldest daughter I’d never once seen him lose his temper or speak sharply to anyone in general but to me in particular when I was acting like a fourth-point-of-contact. He was sincerely Christ-like, and I had no doubt that if he was handed a glass of buttermilk it would revert back to grade A whole milk just because of his proximity.
  • I had sadly misinterpreted his intent those times he had been so insistent. What he’d really been saying in 1980 was “I know your medical grounding is difficult to deal with but you’re still valuable to me”. In 1991 he was saying the same thing about the challenges for graduate school I was facing, and in 1997 he just wanted to make sure our home was snug and well built.

…and lastly:

  • If I was ever going to be serious about weight loss we had to come up with a different way to defuse interpersonal conflict.

1984: Skye Boat Song Promotion

SkyeBoatSongPromo1984

Other than knowing how to sling an airbrush and wield a marker I was totally clueless at the outset of my freelance career. As I’ve written earlier my parents were not overly enthusiastic about my career choices and until my second year of college the only bona-fide artist I knew was Peninsula pioneer and Renaissance man Cotton Moore…and it didn’t get much better when I finally started studying art in college as practicalities of an designer’s life were glossed over in favor of draftsmanship and technique.

Somewhere along the line I discovered CA (Communications Arts) magazine and learned about promotions and hustling up work…which immediately started the internal Stukas tearing up my innards. Along with all sorts of naturopathic remedies I had been spoon-fed in my youth with the idea that you “didn’t shoot off your mouth about yourself”, that hard-work and professional results were the best advertisement ever and in the initial stage of my illustration career that proved to be a sound plan.

…then came the evening in late 1984 when I looked at our snug little home, my sleeping children, the moths flying out of our checkbook and realized that at my current income we’d soon be getting our mail at nsmCardboard Box 5, Under The Overpass at Exit 272 , Utah 77340

My first step was to increase my efforts showing my portfolio locally, but I also went back to CA (then subsequently Step By Step and How-To magazines ) and started researching the idea of promotional mailers. As I was living in the creative wilderness of the Intermountain West a decade before computer aided design (with printers and scanners) the process of designing/printing/distributing promotional mailers was extremely labor-intensive but I managed to churn out some nice work which in turn brought in new clients and an increase in assignments. .

Skye Boat Song was the first promotional image I sent out – the image was inspired by Gordon Dickson’s classic military science fiction novel Tactics of Mistake while the title was a pun playing off the title of one of the first bagpipe tunes I ever learned. The type was all set by hand using Letraset press-type and pairing with the image involved more work with a PS 79 Proportional Scale than should be allowed by law. As photographic prints they were a little pricey to print up, but I sent 25 out in December of 1984 followed an equal amount a month later. As a promotional mailer it wasn’t too terribly successful, but it did startle an existing client into formalizing our relationship and feeding me a LOT more work, so it definitely was one for the win column.

Traveller: New Era “Path of Tears”

One of the last projects I did for Game Designers’ Workshop was the cover for the Traveller: New Era supplement Path of Tears…and like just about every work of art I’ve created there are stories involved in the making of the painting. For example, I’m sharing both the finished art (left image) and the preliminary comprehensive sketch (center image) that had to be approved before I started work – but I’m also sharing my first concept for the cover (right image) that was rejected as not having enough action.

…and then there are the figures themselves.

When the cover was published I took some good-natured ribbing from friends for hubris I was showing by using myself as a model for the central character…except this was painted in 1993 and by that time my sons were teen-agers and accomplished models, so it was my older son Conrad that served as the model for the central character. He just happened to have developed the Deitrick “look” by that time.

You may also notice that the group was a bit more diverse than was expected for a gaming supplement in 1993. GDW was always good about that sort of thing, especially it wasn’t an effort at political correctness on my part but rather my own inherent “there’s room for everyone” mindset that made the original Trek series a favorite when I was in my early teens.

 

Sunday Will Never Be The Same

Spanky and Our Gang was just an inch-and-a=half too successful to be considered a one-hit-wonder but their presence in American culture was cut all too short when lead guitarist Malcom Hale died unexpectedly in the fall of 1968. With tunes like “Lazy Day” and “I’d Like to Get To Know You” the “sunshine pop” band’s positive message provided a welcome respite during those times when social upheaval dominated the news media, but  I will always remember them best for what was arguably their signature tune “Sunday Will Never Be The Same”.

…which is probably why I’ve been playing it a lot lately.

Sundays are definitely not the same for me at this stage of my life, when making sure that my I-Phone is plugged in and charging has a higher priority than making sure my shoes are shined and trousers ironed for work tomorrow morning – or simply being able to make it from my bed to my papa chair prompts the same sense of accomplishment that completing a 5K did when I was younger. That same physical limitation has also transformed church attendance from being almost a habit into to an eagerly anticipated/much appreciated opportunity for spiritual transfusion on those rare days when we can get there.

…but then again some things are not so different. It’s distressing to see heated demonstrations devolve into street violence, but at least the anti-fa and alt-right aren’t bombing each other like the Weather Underground was in the habit of doing fifty years ago.

Life has stayed the same inside the walls of our home as well. Even though my Beautiful Saxon Princess and I are battling our respective autoimmune issues our feelings toward each other are just as warm – no, even warmer as they have always been and we have children and grandchildren around us that share those same feelings, all of which make our home a haven from the craziness

Sunday may not be the same – it’s harder in some ways but in it’s better in the ways that matter.

 

2019: Creative Volleyball

While all three of my children have a good measure of creative talent none of them chose to enter a creative field, a decision brought about by a lifetime of watching the hoops I had to continually jump through to collect on invoices. I can’t blame them as I’ve had similar sentiments, often wishing I’d stayed in the army for thirty or even stayed on a roustabout at Swanson River.

However, there are times when I’d liked to have seen one of my kids carry on the tradition.…which it makes me all that happier when I see one of my grandchildren pick up a pencil or start smashing clay around. All seven of them “make stuff” to some extent but Conrad’s middle son Henry shows the strongest creative inclination, and while I’ve sent drawings via post cards to all the kids Henry gets special treatment.

Henry's Lord of The Moon

Most recently he sent us a drawing of “The Lord of the Moon” and I felt compelled to respond in kind. I don’t know much about “The King of the Moon” but I have read couple of graphic novels about Marvel’s Batman-clone Moon Knight, so I came with a MK drawing to match Henry’s “Moon Lord”. I will be sending a couple copies to him this coming week to include a finished version colored with Prismacolor designers’ markers as well as a couple of plain B&W copies that Henry can color himself.

2019-11-01 Henry's Moon Knight

I may be a day’s drive away from most of my grandkids but I still try to be part of their lives.

1964: One For The Road

We were living in Sterling for no more than a week when it became apparent that I wasn’t the only member of the family who missed Anchorage. From the middle of August to the end of September of 1964 we made the trip three times, for reasons ranging from coordinating Church programs to getting medical treatment at the Elmendorf AFB hospital to retrieving some odd item left during the move while crashing at night with mom’s best friend Jeanne Johnson, though Mom let me stay with my best friend Mark instead.

However, because of the recent Good Friday earthquake the trips could end up taking more than just the time required to transit the 276 mile round trip. A good portion of the highway curled around Turnagain Arm, the branch of Cook Inlet that extended to the south of the Anchorage basin. The trip around Turnagain is one of the most beautiful stretches of highway in the world and takes in majestic spruce covered mountains with countless waterfalls as well as a few rivers and several major streams crossing under the highway to feed into the arm…and there’s where an element of chance entered in.

During the earthquake the ground level around the southern end of Turnagain arm dropped six feet and in the process guaranteed the eventual death of Portage, a small hamlet/railway station at the south end of the arm. The abrupt drop either destroyed or severely compromised all the bridges over the aforementioned waterways so as part of the recovery effort temporary bridges were erected to the side of the old ones and anchored on raised berms that put the driving surface an extra six feet above the original road bed to prevent damage from ocean waters that now flooded the highway during periods of high tide. it also meant that if you failed to consult the tide table when planning a drive around Turnagain arm you stood a good chance of being stranded on one of those elevated bridges until the tide receded.

…which was how we ended up stranded on a bridge late one August night. My mother, four sisters and I ended up spending four hours crammed into a our white Ford Falcon station wagon, though by that time the mud from transiting the regularly flooded highway had our car looking more than white. It could have been worse – August still gave us extended daylight hours and we were able to pass the time with a stack of comics and a box full of home-brewed root beer we’d been given as we left Mark’s house.

As Mom had forgotten her wristwatch on the trip we were clueless about when we could leave the safety of the bridge and it was a little scary when a set of disembodied headlights appeared off the end of the bridge, lights that slowing coalesced into the front end of a Alaska State trooper’s cruiser. The officer parked and walked up to talk to my mom sitting in the driver’s seat, slowly playing the beam of his flashlight though the interior of the Falcon while enquiring about situation.

Suddenly the flashlight stopped and the trooper asked “Mrs. Deitrick, is everything OK with you and your children?” to which my Mom breezily answered in the affirmative.

“‘Are you sure everything is OK?”

I started to duck for cover – Trooper or no trooper, one thing you never did twice was contradict my mom, but in some random act of sanity she resisted verbally blasting the officer, and glanced back to the spot where the officer’s flashlight was shining…on my five-year-old sister Heather guzzling from an Olympia beer bottle. There was a moment of awkward silence then we all started laughing and explained that Mark’s mom hadn’t removed the label when she refilled the bottle with home-made root beer. She had been a war-bride from Helsinki and had grown up with Finland’s much more relaxed attitude towards alcohol so the thought of removing the labels had never occurred to her.

The trooper got good laugh as well, and after clearing us to proceed he left with a copy of the root beer recipe that Mark’s mom had given us, a recipe that my family also tried shortly after getting back to Sterling.

We just made very, very sure to remove all the labels from the bottles before we used them ourselves.

1977 / 2019 : Then And Now

MiltryBall77 sundayafternoon

In our never-ending war against clutter an occasional gem will float to the surface, as was the case last Sunday when I found a little black & white photo in a pile of papers I was sorting. It dates from March of 1977, it was taken at the BYU ROTC/AFROTC Military Ball, and was taken shortly before we got married. Despite the fuzzy focus it remains one of my favorite photos as perfectly captures not just our appearance but the essence of the moment.

…and even though more than 42 years have gone by the same can be said for the other photograph in today’s post , that “capture-the-moment” vibe is still there. It’s a different kind of moment now, but one that is just as precious to me.