Jerry writes the vast majority of Zits strips, but now and then I get a hot hand and send him some ideas he likes. Today’s strip came from a session at Half Moon, my favorite of the four local coffee shops where I hang out with my sketchbook.
Even my best ideas usually benefit from Jerry’s rewrites, but this one he returned to me untouched.
You have no idea how hard it was for me not to screw this one up in the inking. Typically I’d Google Image Search snowblowers and try to capture all the nuances of how the snow sprays. Can’t tell you how many ideas I’ve ruined in my life by overdrawing them. This time I gave my brain a shot of Novocaine and let my hand keep it simple. Even at that, I like the rough better.
There she is, a cardboard box to set my heart a-pounding. This box of 55 sheets of Strathmore Series 500 Smooth 3-Ply Bristol Board arrived last week and I’ve been giddy ever since. It represents a lot more than just my annual order of paper for Zits. It’s freedom, sweet freedom, from the tyrrany of cold-press paper.
See, a year ago I went to one of the few brick-and-mortar art stores still left in Cincinnati to place my annual order. Bruce, my buddy there, had been downsized and I got his 17-year-old replacement who told me he had my boards already boxed and ready to take to Kinko’s to be cut. I ran my hand over the top sheet — it had that buttery smooth surface I’ve been skating around on for years. On the box I wrote the dimensions and drew a diagram of how I wanted the strips cut and then delivered the load for chopping.
But when I got the cut bristol boards back, they felt like sandpaper. Rifling through the tall stack, no more than one sheet in a dozen was silky; the rest had the pebbly finish of cold-press paper. The genius at the art store had pulled my order together from several drawers of paper, it turned out, failing to notice the different finishes. The genius who bought it failed to check through the stack before getting it all cut.
So I’ve been drawing on the wrong paper all year. I tried to see the bright side. There were times when dragging ink across the rough surface enhanced drawings — messy rooms, D’ijon’s dreadlocks and the occasional herd of elephants, for example. But mostly it’s been a slog. There is nothing like the feeling of getting lost somewhere below the surface of the paper in that sweet white void. When the paper fights you it’s hard to find that zone.
So this new order of paper – carefully checked – is my liberation. Here it is all cut and waiting for me. One year of Zits, just add ink.
My older daughter received her first college acceptance letter yesterday, and I’m struck with a combination of feelings; excitement for her,
overwhelming pride, and gob smacked astonishment that I’m going to be the parent of a college kid. Any reasonable person would assume that after writing and drawing about teenagers as long as I have, this would not be my first rodeo. Yet here I sit in the bucking chute with my heart in my throat and flop sweat dripping down into my boots. Hang in there with me. This is going to be an exciting ride.