San Diego had a wealth of talented cartoonists in 1982 when I published an article in the Communicating Arts Group newsletter by Betty Abell Jurus titled “Different Strokes, Different Folks.” The article featured interviews with seven cartoonists: Tom Voss, Sherman Goodrich, Rick Geary, Mark Zingarelli, Everett Peck, Mark Kingsley Brown, and Gary Radke.
Cover for Communicating Arts Group newsletter with theme, "different strokes" about San Diego cartoonists.
“Different Strokes, Different Folks” by Betty Abell Jurus
The seven of them love toys. Four fly model airplanes from the ceiling in their work area. The fifth owns a blimp. A sixth has a picture with a plane on it. The seventh collects Eisenhower memorabilia. Six know one or two of the others on sight. Only one had met the other six, but they all know each others’ work. They are defined in one dictionary as “a noun.” Who are these guys?
Find out involves laughter, questions, studios rioting with color and toys, lightning-sitted men with eyes that dance and sparkle with wild notions, and laughing some more.
Their names are Mark Kingsley Brown, Everett Peck, Tom Voss, Mark Zingarelli, Gary Radke, Rick Geary and Sherman Goodrich. They comprise seven of a select group — the cartoonists of San Diego. They also plead guilty to doing illustrations, animation, design, and happily caricatures.
“Cartooning,” smiles Everett Peck, admiring his red and yellow toy car, “is like being a standup comedian, only instead of doing it on stage, we do it on paper.
Sherman Goodrich, Mark Zingarelli, and Mark Kingsley Brown, not content with paper alone, have literally done standup comedy. Sherman went further still. “I once caught the Ellmer Gantry syndrome,” he says, “and went jout as an evangelist, too.”
They love their work. Says Rick Geary, “I’m doing what I like to do. I will always draw.”
“Sketching,” says Everett Peck, “is one of my favorite things to do.
“It’s most satisfying to produce a good ad. That’s beautiful,” claims a happy Tom Voss. I always felt cartooning wasn’t a legitimate career because it was fun. I laugh at my own stuff when I’m drawing.”
Mark Zingarelli grins and adds, “I like bizarre and seedy things … diners and back alleys.”
“My problem,” admits Mark Kingsley Brown, “is that I love cartooning so much I’d do it for free if there weren’t rent and other payments to make.”
The seven generally agree that cartoonists fall into three categories: gag cartoonists (it’s all there in one frame), humorous illustrators (drawings for articles, ads, stories), and comic strip artists. Doing caricatures is a special talent not all share. “I’m a draw-er,” Everett Peck said, and with that, spoke for them all.
Everett doesn’t “remember a time when I wasn’t drawing.
“At age 12 or 13, Mark Zingarelli recalls, I took a mail order, thirty-three lesson cartoon course.”
“As a youngster,” Rick Geary smiles, “I’d create my own little world in cartoons.”
“How long?” laughs Mark Kingsley Brown. “Forever.”
In spite of their pleasure in what they do, they agree it’s not easy to find success. Everett Peck says flatly, “There are no child prodigies in cartooning.” His reaction to a determined student: “Are you sure there isn’t something else…have you considered…?”
“Cartooning,” he believes, “can’t be taught. Drawing can be. There is an innate point of view developed within those who haven’t been in the ‘mainstream’ of life and it comes out of their slightly warped point of view. To be a good cartoonist, point of view is very important. A cartoonist must have the ability to intellectualize his feelings and translate them into a drawing. One must have good hand skills, and needs a certain amount of assessed knowledge and observations, an acute understanding of the human condition, and interaction before beginning to get at least a narrow point of view. Minimum age? Usually, 17 or 18.”
“As a cartoonist,” Tom Voss comments, “concept is the most important thing. More important than the execution of the idea. Chuck Vaden is a gag cartoonist. In a single frame, he says it all.”
“To be a successful cartoonist,” says Gary Radke, “one must have a reasonable drawing skill and a reasonable market for the drawings. Cartoonists see things in an episodic way. It’s the relating of related phenomena, a look at the world sideways. A reasonably friendly look. One can be taught to cartoon, probably, but to make money? Doubtful.”
Rick Geary smiles. “Humor depends on style. I try for the understated. Statement comes out jof personal viewpoint. Mine is whimsical. I feel there’s only one way to teach cartooning. Give them a chance to do it. Watch their progress, help them get feedback, learn self-examination, self-knowledge, and knowledge of the exterior world.”
An amused Sherman Goodrich says, “Cartooning is an esoteric business. To do either animated or still cartoons, one needs the innate ability to mentally see-slash-feel motion. My criteria is for a good cartoon is a character standing still, yet looking as though he’s just about to do something. There’s energy in this character. It’s an intangible feeling. Gary Radke captures this.”
His criteria for himself? A couple of years ago, feeling unsure about his skills as a gag cartoonist, he sent out two batches of cartoons to separate markets. Each bought. Satisfied, he hasn’t sent any out since. “I am,” he laughs, “blessed with talent and cursed with laziness.”
Mark Kingsley Brown, recently notified of his inclusion in the 14th edition of Who’s Who in California, shared his thoughts on how students become professionals: “Be versatile. Have a thorough grasp of printing techniques. Know how the art will be used. A problem for art directors is that less experienced people don’t know what it takes to produce and ad. Knowing gives the artist more strength. Learn graphics, production, illustration. In school, get involved with the student publication. It’s a great way to get practical experience.”
He thought a moment. “Once a beginner gets versatility going, the portfolio should represent the work you’re strongest in and the type of illustration you’re most comfortable with. The art director will see the artist’s strengths. Those going professional, basically, have good talent. What separates successful from non-suscessful is that “certain look.’ Your unique strengths.”
“The advertising agencies here are open to new talent. With the present quality of art directors, San Diego is becoming more progressive, more willing to take chances with new talent. San Diego is the market of the future. Now is the time to begin establishing yourself.” His airplane hangs above a model of the Titanic.
Getting schooled, started and established happens in odd ways. A young Everett Peck loved the animated cartoons of the 30s and 40s. This led to graduation from Long Beach State and his becoming a freelance humorous illustrator who also teaches at Palomar College and Otis Parsons in Los Angeles. His airplane is bright yellow.
Tom Voss, an art director at Kaufman Lansky Baker, and graduate of Arizona State, bot his start when an article he’d illustrated in cartoon style caught the eye of an art director who encouraged him. “I freelanced for a time,” he says, “but every morning I’d hear the ‘thunk’ of my neighbors’ car doors closing as they went off to work and there I was. I felt left behind. I felt that I should be out there on the freeway, going to work too. Being an art director is fun.” His airplane is red.
Gary Radke, an art director at Lane & Huff, came in from Detroit. His work much praised, but without formal training in art, Gary says that of his various skills “cartooning is the most natural.” His airplane flies in a picture.
At college, Pennsylvanian Mark Zingarelli went to art school first. Then, “I decided I didn’t want to be an artist, so I changed my major to communication.” We wrote comedy for a local radio show, acted in dinner theater, and did standup comedy. Finally, his freelancing career began with animation. He was persuaded west to attend a wedding, and by the promise of a job in a TV production. “Neither came to be,” he laughs. And, he wrote a book entitled, The Ball of Anunset and the Great Pharoah’s Curse, a book that would be “read to a small child, but it’s really for adults.” His airplane flies high.
Rick Geary, freelancer from Wichita, Kansas, graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in commercial art. He “likes to go do the laundry at the laundromat at 11 at night, and read.” He’s done some workshops, but “it’s uncomfortable being the one who’s expected to stand up there and talk.” He’d rather his work talk for him in publications such as The National Lampoon. Sans airplane, he collects Eisenhower memorabilia.
Sherman Goodrich came from Ohio by way of Scottsdale, Phoenix, and Las Vegas. His is a tale of beginnings. His life as a freelancer began as a caricaturist at the Centerville Ox Roast outside Dayton, Ohio. He drew such a crowd that a photo and story appeared in the Dayton newspaper’s Sunday supplement. Thus armed, he advanced to nightclubs. That went so well, he breached the Playboy Club in Cincinnati. There disaster struck. “The manager,” he relates, “decided the caricaturist should be a ‘bunny.’ I looked wretched in a tu-tu, so I offered to disguise myself as a carrot.”
Failing, he hastened to George E. Rudin’s Polish Restaurant with Circumcised Idols. There, Rudin’s share of Sherman’s earnings was 25%, a situation doomed.
“Lured to Phoenix by friends who sent propaganda, Arizona Highways, for instance,” he settled in the French Quarter, a lounge at Scottsdale’s Executive House. There Paul Shanks took 10%. On Sherman’s first night, he earned $350. Shanks growled, “You’re making too much money. From now on, I get 20%.”
The next night, Goodrich began at Joe Hunt’s, across the street. He stayed there 8 years, and in 1969 caricatured Elvis Presley in Las Vegas for the president of the Sahara, Don Rickles.
Eventually, 450 caricatures of regular customers hung on one restaurant’s walls, and 100 more hung on another’s Not enough. He yearned to do animated cartoons, but had no training. Persuaded to try anyway, he bought a book, Animation in Commercial Art, by Eli Levitor. “I read it. It looked easy. It was.” He produced a ten-second spot film.
Still doing caricatures in clubs, but armed with his film strip, he covered the agencies “promoting animation like a banshee.” He found success, but moved to California.
Bonita is home “because that’s where I found office space.” For 18 months thereafter, no business. It took time to get established, and he is not fond of cocktail parties. “They are uncontrolled situations where people are liable to do anything. This bothers me.” He grins. Eventually, Chuck Vaden and Steve Irwin persuaded him to present himself. When he did, business did too. Above his board, a silver “Goodrich” blimp floats.
From such myriad experiences do cartoonists evolve. “But,” says Mark Kingsley Brown to aspiring cartoonists, “don’t say you’re a cartoonist unless you’re dead serious about the profession. It’s real bad to take up an art director’s time with ‘backyard’ cartooning. They don’t want copying. They want concept. The only way to be a professional is to be able to come up with concepts as well as the ability to illustrate that concept.” He smiles. “One of the big thrills in my life was ordering new business cards. Under my name, for the first time, was ‘Cartoonist.’ At that moment, I was committed.”
His grin widened, a faraway look in his eyes. “Cartoonists. Our view of the world is included in the price.”