Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor Day

I was on-call today at work, though the agency was officially closed. We have a big new business presentation due tomorrow and, if things get hairy, I may yet be called in even now. But after sitting around the house all day waiting for the phone to ring, I started feeling guilty. I decided to start getting some much-needed work done around the house.

Once we saw Suzanne's sister and her kids off, I climbed up on my new gazebo roof and put the cap on. Then, I hauled down some stuff from my upstairs office. I moved a heavy table, the drawing/light table I built myself (which is going to my buddy Leaf) and my first Macintosh computer, an old desktop G3. I ended up straining my back a little and it reminded me how much I miss my chiropractor. My last appointment was Monday, August 13th and, well, you know.

Anyway, the reason I'm moving so much stuff out is that I need to make room for some of Mike's stuff. Other than Mike's beloved Charlie and his artwork, the rest of what was in the house was just that...stuff. When we were down there, it was such a surreal time. I kept saying that I was waiting for Mike to come home and yell at me for messing with his things. It just didn't feel real and I had a hard time dealing with it. I ended up donating a lot of his stuff to charities or giving things to friends I knew would appreciate it. But there was one thing I just could not part with. One thing that, in keeping it, makes me feel like I still have a connection with Mike. His drawing table.

Dad took special care to transport the table to Lynchburg when he returned home a week ago. He knew how much it means to me and wanted to keep it safe until I could pick it up. We did that this weekend and now it's set up in the corner where my old table used to sit. That table is where the magic happened. I don't expect it to make my drawing any better or easier. And I don't expect that any more professional comics work will ever be produced on it's surface. But the idea of sitting down there to draw where so much beautiful artwork was created by Mike makes me smile. I don't feel like an imposter in the way I did when I was posting on Mike's site and sleeping in his bed and eating at his table. I feel like, when I draw at that table, Mike will be standing behind me, looking over my shoulder and giving me quiet encouragment. Just like he did when we were kids, laying head to head on the living room floor, drawing away with our typing paper and colored pencils.

A quick trivia aside. If you look up at the picture at the top of this post, you'll see a small hand-made table just to the left of my chair. That's the light table that Dad made for Mike when he was still living at home and had started working on the Doc Savage miniseries for Millennium Comics. Mike was using his technique of blowing up thumbnail sketches and tracing them onto the final board even then. He used that table to do the Doc Savage books, the two JUSTICE LEAGUE QUARTERLY 8-page stories and at least part of his first issue of THE FLASH. When he switched to the light table he got when he moved to Artamus Studios in Hillsborough, he gave me the table to use for drawing my submissions pages. It killed my back to lean over that table and I often wondered how he produced so much work on it. But I loved it. My only alteration was to tape down a couple sheets of transluscent vellum over the clear glass to diffuse the light. Mike and Dad both slapped their foreheads when the saw what I'd done. "Why didn't I think of that?" Eventually, about seven years ago or so, I got tired of stooping over and having two tables took up too much space, so I designed and built the light table you see in the picture. The small light table Mike used is now back in Lynchburg with Dad and he uses it to do small art projects. (What? You thought Mike just fell into this whole art thing?)


TraciW said...

Hi Matt,

Wow, I love hearing stories like this, about the personal connections to specific objects. I'm so happy to hear you'll have Mike's table. I was actually wondering about that.

Despite your doubts, I have a feeling there will be plenty more terrific artwork produced there, and having now seen your Torg pages, I know you're an incredible talent in your own right. I've taught storytelling classes at Moore College in Philly, and I could easily use those pages as examples of quality work... and that's not even mentioning how much I love the drawing itself! I really hope there will be more.

Really nice stuff, man!


Rich Faber said...

Ok, apparently, Traci was still logged in. It should have been posted from here, since I wrote the last comment. Sorry about that.


Matt Wieringo said...

Heh. I do that all the time when I write reviews for movies on NetFlix and it puts it in Suzanne's name. Thanks for the compliments.