Smooth Line

Spent the last week visiting my brother and my dad in Dallas.

My step mom was out of town in Houston visiting family so it was just us three boys the whole week. We spent a lot of time in easy chairs watching westerns and catching up.

Dad, of course, is very interested in how things are going for me in Seattle and he asks a lot about what I do and how my business is doing. And he has many observations about webcomics. He hates the San Diego comicon, and wishes I would stop going. He feels that between “the goddamn unions that won’t let you wipe your ass on the convention floor without charging you a fee,” the way “every meal costs you 60 bucks and tastes like sawdust anyway” and that “the show is so big nobody can find you.” I’d be better off staying home and telling everyone I went.

Don’t worry, I’m still going to San Diego this year, despite the fact that (as usual) my dad is 100% correct on all counts.

We had a lot of sentimental moments. Dad’s still recovering from the stroke he had almost exactly a year ago. He’s starting to drive again and regain his independence. There were lot of moments of his boys teaching him to do things that he originally taught us. There were a lot of hugs and happy tears and him patting us on the head. But my favorite moment between my father and I this trip happened over dinner, as we were discussing my work.

Dad: Why do I like your characters so much more than the other webcomics?
Me: Probably because I’m your son
Dad: No. Your line is better. It’s smooth. Your work flows.
Me: Oh. Well you taught me that, dad.
Dad: I did?
Me: Yeah, there was one time at the kitchen table and I had sketched a teddy bear or something like that. A little bear character. And I was quite proud of it, and I showed it to you. And I made the mistake of saying “This is really good. I think i’m drawing at a professional level now.” You looked at it and said “No. It’s not a smooth enough line. When you can go SWOOSH, SWOOSH and in three strokes you make this character then you’re a professional.”
Dad: I did?
Me: Yes you did. And it really pissed me off.
Dad: And that’s why you learned to do a smooth line?
Me: Yes. Absolutely that’s why I learned to do a smooth line.
Dad: When was that?
Me: I dunno. After college, before PvP.
Dad: But your line didn’t get really get good until the last couple of years.
Me: Yes. I know. I’ve been working on it a LONG TIME.
Dad: Because of what I said?
Me: Well, I guess in a way. You certainly put the idea in my head that a smooth line was a goal to reach.

Then dad started to cry. And I hugged him. And he said “I don’t remember that.” and he put his arm over my shoulder. We talked a bit more about how the stupidest things we say or do can have such a huge impact on people’s lives. Especially if you’re an important figure in their life. And how that was a form of immortality. We talked about all the science fiction movies we’ve seen where a villain is searching for immortality and he’s destroying lives to get it and all he would need to do is just have an impact on the people around him.

It was a good visit. It really recharged my batteries and it reaffirmed my decision in life to pursue this career. If my cartooning can make an impact on people, then not only am I keeping a bit of myself alive forever, but I’m keeping a bit of my dad alive too. And my mom, and everyone else who ever influenced me.

Later in the week we watch Tangled and the movie opens with a little Steamboat Willie animation and dad says “Look Scotty, he draws like you, with that smooth line.” I said “You mean Walt Disney? Thanks, but i’m nowhere near as good. And anyway, I draw like HIM dad. He came first.” And Dad said “Yeah okay.”

But I could see in his face he disagreed.