Learn why my cartoonist buddy Randy Enos started drawing!
It all started with the son of my father’s best friend, Jose. The kid’s name was Jerry and he was about my age. I must have been 8 or 9 when Jerry seriously stole my father’s affection by being very skilled at drawing. Jerry would go to the zoo, come back home and draw all the animals from memory. My father would rave about these drawings.
As I mentioned in another story, I would read the comics every Sunday with my dad and he would pour over the details of the drawing in the strips. He didn’t know much about art but wanted to. So this kid, Jerry, was encroaching on my territory with my father. One day, my father showed me a pencil drawing of an ear of corn that Jerry had made. It was, honestly, pretty damn good, with lots of neat shading and detail. My dad said that Jerry was taking classes at The Swain School of Design, New Bedford’s only art school. He asked if maybe I’d like to take some classes there. I wanted to get some of that admiration from my dad, so I went to the Swain school one summer and it was the most boring, tedious and frustrating experience of my life. The only thing I remember about the teacher was that he had one eye that refused to look in the same direction as the other one, which was a little unnerving. I was forced to hone my pencil to a wedge shape with a sandpaper block and then to draw smooth, even, parallel strokes close together. I filled page after page of these pencil strokes only to be told that they weren’t up to par. We also made strokes that graduated from light to dark –over and over and over again. We would not be allowed to draw anything else until we mastered these exercises. I was failing miserably. I quit.
When I was about 10, I think, I was walking with a fellow classmate, Barbara Camara, down at the bottom of the street where I lived and where her father had a hardware store. All of a sudden, I saw a new little shop that hadn’t been there before. It was just a tiny place next to the hardware store. It was a store front with two windows, one on either side of the doorway. It seemed to be the studio/shop of a commercial artist. A small sign said “Art Lessons”. I went in and met the artist inside seated at a drawing board. He told me the price of lessons. It wasn’t very much. I rushed home and told my dad and he agreed to me taking some lessons there.
This was a whole other world from the Swain school. I went down to the shop once or twice a week and the guy sat me on a stool at a drawing board right next to his and encouraged me to draw anything I wanted. I wish I could remember his name but it escapes me. He gave me India ink and a brush and a pen with which to draw. I told him what interested me and he helped me in that direction. Milton Caniff was making a big impression on me at that time so our efforts were on replicating some facsimile of Caniff’s brushwork. I didn’t know cartoonists used brushes as well as pens until this fellow told me about it. He showed me how to draw half-lock folds. He showed me how to crosshatch. He inspired the hell out of me. He had a friend who often dropped by and they would include me in their “art talk”. I realized, at a certain point, that their main source of work was in drawing the corny little spots you see in the phone book. They were two very small-time commercial artists but they had big hearts and they shared my enthusiasm about drawing and comics etc.. I was finally getting excited about the world of art and illustrating and cartooning. They showed me books and discussed the leading artists of the day.
One memorable sunny day, they said that they were going out to paint watercolors in the outdoors. They asked me if I wanted to go along. Do bears do poo poo in the woods? Of course I wanted to go along and paint with two professional artists, so off we went. We arrived at a farm house. We trudged out into a field and split up, each finding something interesting to paint. So, I’m there with my little watercolor box and my brushes and I settle down to paint the barn I see before me. Halfway into my very enjoyable foray into the plein arts, I became aware of a presence off a way to my left. I turned my head to see a big cow bearing down me! I had never had a large cow bearing down on me before and didn’t quite know what to do about it. She very determinably strode directly at me and was gaining speed all the while. I leaped up and stepped away from my watercolors, brushes and watercolor pad which were on the ground. The cow didn’t seem interested in me but, rather my painting of the barn, because she didn’t come at me anymore, but strode directly at my painting and stopped. She lowered her head to my picture. Then, this giant cow tongue came out of her mouth and slurped across my freshly painted watercolor. Then, she looked at me and walked back from whence she came. My watercolor had this big “splootch” right across the barn.
Afterwards, I enjoyed showing people the watercolor that a cow helped me paint.
And, Oh … remember Jerry back up there in the beginning of this story, the kid who was a drawing genius ? He became a car mechanic and never drew any more.
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Read many more of Randy’s cartooning memories: