Bryan Gibson

What is it with upper respiratory infections and artists? I’ve battled serial asthma/bronchitis/pneumonia all of my life but I always figured that it was due to problems with my immune system ( that is one contributing factor but I will cover it later). However, when you figure in the following factors it’s  obvious that the constant coughing and wheezing has as much to do with the job as the genes:

  • Constant fatigue  ( working all night to meet deadlines)
  •  Environmental hazards (fumes from airbrush work, dust from sanding sculpts)
  • Low Income (Where does the money come from for treatment and medicine)

What brings all of this to mind? This morning I was reading about the passing of Bryan Gibson last February and as I thought back over the year it kind of startled me because I was ill with pneumonia at the same time…in fact shortly afterwards I had a near-fatal asthma attack that has caused me to carry an Epi-Pen (r) with me all the time now. I wonder if Bryan had that continual battle for breathing as I did or if it was a singular event.

I first became acquainted with Bryan in 1986 when out of the blue he called late one night to talk about Field Grade, a military-oriented fanzine he wanted to put together. He was looking for artists with military experience and he had gotten my name and number from Donna J. Barr (Bryan and I had never met but as we compared duty stations we figured that we’d actually worked on the same remote airhead/assault strip during JRX BRIM FROST 1981.)

To be honest his name didn’t set off any flares when he called , but when I looked back through my GDW library after the call  I got a bit queasy. . He had been so polite and deferential during the conversation that I assumed he was a fan with big dreams… but when I made the connection between the name and the work it occurred to me that perhaps Bryan had things turned around – I should have approached him first, cap in hand.

He was so blinking good and while I hadn’t noted the name his work had had me sweating bullets for some time. With his skill and speed I figured he’d be crowding me right out of the black&white game market at any moment, my only advantage being  my color work but I was not looking forward to that time when he bought a set of markers or picked up an airbrush…that and the fact that in true Southern style to Bryan deadlines were more like suggestions than hard & fast requirements.

We finally met in person in the early 90s when my family and I moved south so I could pursue a graduate degree. We’d link up at conventions and compare notes on business and hobbies. I still remember the day I showed him a letter I’d received from MG John Frost (6th Para) of Brunvel and Arnhem fame – his eyes lit up like a kid at Christmas.

We lost touch around Y2K ( the year, not the scare) when my back “issues” started to make conventions a losing proposition. I wish we’d have stayed in touch but it’s like they say, you’re never thirsty until the canteen is empty. It is comforting to know that he’s now in a place where  he has all the paper and pens he’ll ever need and there are no more deadlines.