Category Archives: Letters from Lynn

A Note From Lynn: All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go

I decided yesterday morning that this was going to be a productive day. I checked out the closet for cool and attractive work duds. I put them on. I painted my chops, arranged my coif, and bumbled into the kitchen. These stay-at-home measures would not deter me from doing stuff. Not today. My partner, Paul—who has set up a small recording studio in the storage room—emerged from downstairs and said “Ahhh…all dressed up and nowhere to go!” And he was right. But, going nowhere is fine. I have been going nowhere for weeks now. In fact, as a cartoonist, I’ve stayed pretty close to home for most of my working life, so this is doable. I just have to be in the right mood.

Lynn in her home office.

Lynn in her home office.

Looking good, I sat down in my small office space and prepared to write the best article I have ever written for the site. I was on a roll. The words flowed. Folks my age have seen something like this before…I smiled at my own cleverness as I described my childhood memories of impending doom. Listening to the air raid sirens in the park and being told to hide under my school desk. Watching the NORAD sign on our black and white TV as a nasally-voiced authoritarian warned us to be vigilant and prepare for, well…our imaginations ran wild. Some folks were digging shelters and fighting with once-friendly neighbours who asked if there was room (should the bombs fall) for their kids, too. My folks talked about rationing and hoarding, and what would happen if they couldn’t work.

As kids, we were afraid, then—but there was always music and laughter and friends who looked on the good side. Life went on even as the news became more and more threatening. Eventually post-war politics evened out and the sirens were removed or left in the parks as a reminder of a time gone by. For the most part, the fear and the panic had brought our neighbourhoods closer together.

I wrote about all kinds of stuff. Man, it was a truly great article. I was just about to end with a list of comedians I thought folks might enjoy when my screen went blank and everything disappeared. How does this happen? What did I touch? Where did it go? Together, Paul and I tried everything we could think of. We went to advice sites and help lines and then gave up. This is when a margarita makes sense. Or a good cup of tea. I chose the marg, and stewed for the rest of the morning. By noon, I had lost the coif, removed the attractive attire and melted into my TV couch with a bowl of nuts and a bag of Doritos; these things are still available. So much for productivity. *sigh* Technology is wonderful until it sucks.

So here I am the next day, nursing something that might have margarita undertones. I’m in less-than-stunning attire and thinking not-so-profound thoughts…but the incentive is still there to say hello and thank you to everyone who still reads my work and still enjoys it. Stay safe and sane. Love your kids. Write to friends. Call them. I’ve had some amazing conversations lately with folks I should call more often. Cook stuff you haven’t cooked before. Watch comedy! The comedians I’ve turned to are: Ron James, Danny Bhoy, Kathleen Madigan, and Lewis Black. I’ve watched Gaffigan and Carlin and Seinfeld and “The Debaters” on CBC. Thank heavens for the people who poke fun at life and love, and all the stuff we worry about. This time will be analyzed, criticized, eulogized, and studied for years to come. This world will change because of COVID-19. We will all be changed and our children today will tell their children that they were here when it happened, they were part of it all. Take good care of yourselves. We need each other—and that sudden reality, in the end, is a gift.

A Fun Project: Meet Our New Alien Sculpture

One of our “surface designs” featuring whimsical space aliens.

When my daughter, Katie, and I moved into our new studio and office location, we were surprised by the size of the space we had. When everything is under construction, things look quite different. The finished interior—all white and empty—made us wonder just how to colour it up!

Our unit has two floors, with an atrium in the middle and an open stairway to the upper level. One of the “surface designs” we created is made up of funny outer-space characters, so we wondered if it would be possible—instead of installing the usual kind of light fixture—to hang a spaceship in the atrium. Through an interior decorator, we were connected to a wonderful team of sculptors on Granville Island, who specialize in large outdoor art installations.

Mike Vandermeer and Cheryl Hamilton at ieCreative can make anything! I took them a sketch of a spaceship with a character inside, and asked if it would be possible to build a 3D model and if it could light up! Always up for a challenge, Mike and Cheryl have built and installed the most wonderful sculpture. It looks exactly like my original sketch!

It’s about 4 feet in diameter, and has a plexiglass dome on the bottom in which you can see tentacles. As you ascend the stairs, you can see the goofy alien inside. He sits in control of his flying saucer, grinning ear to…well, he has no ears.

The finished lamp!

My 5-year-old grandson has named our alien “Beep-Bop”. Fortunately the lamp is silent—but it does change colour! Mike created a system which allows a soft, glowing light to shine in a series of brilliant colours. The whole thing lights up my day. We wanted to show you our new sculpture–just to let you see what can be done when you get a bunch of funny folks together with an idea, some resources, and some skillful engineering.

Katie and I are looking forward to working with Mike and Cheryl again…we just have to come up with another crazy idea!!

Lynn Wins A “Sergio” Award

Last May, at the Reuben awards, Sergio Aragonés–the master of the wordless MAD “marginals” and author of “Groo“–asked if I would accept the “Sergio” award, named in his honour, from the California based Comic Art Professional Society, or  CAPS for short.

I said I would be more than happy to…and I was! On November 9th, I was presented with the very funny and coveted statuette of Sergio himself, at a small banquet at the Airport Burbank Hotel.

Some of my best pals were there. Greg Evans (Luann) gave a roast of yours truly–for which I now owe him a clobbering rebuttal–and Cathy Guisewite (Cathy) made a most wonderful introduction, over which I am still feeling pretty misty-eyed.

Over the years, we syndicated cartoonists have all become family. It’s a crazy career with its ups and downs–a sort of stand-up comedy gig, but from basements and quiet studios, hidden from our audiences. We understand, respect and admire the people who share this coveted newspaper real estate. A comic strip isn’t an easy job.

While in Burbank, Paul and I had the opportunity to spend time with Cathy, which was wonderful. Now that we are retired, we can actually sit and talk about other things! We enjoyed lunch, dinner, and some lingering cups of coffee and we introduced her dog, Leo, to bacon….something for which Cathy has some regret.

We spent time with the CAPS members, some of whom work at the Disney studios. On the morning of our departure, we were treated to a tour of Disney’s products department, which works on things such as books, toys, and clothing. It’s a maze of cubicles–and in each one works a creative genius. I’m not kidding. In one fast tour, we met some of the most talented artists on earth.

The "Sergio" Itself!

The “Sergio” Itself!

After lunch at the company commissary, and a promise to come back for the animation tour, we caught our flight back to Vancouver, almost missing our boarding time. The Sergio statuette had caught the attention of the security system and had to be thoroughly inspected. The funny part was seeing the look on the guards’ faces as they found “Sergio” standing on a pedestal, holding a dripping pen. It really is a funny bronze statuette, and it’s now one of my most favourite things. What an honour. What a gift.

Lynn’s Reflections on D.C., the Canadian Embassy and the Library of Congress

Early in the spring, I received an email from a Public Affairs Counsellor at the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC asking if I would consider having a display of my work at the embassy. I was speechless!

From my seat at the drafting table now, I felt that my time as a syndicated cartoonist was past—that the work I did is safely in the archives and that public interest in FBorFW was over. I was wrong. With the help of the folks at the Canadian Embassy, the Art Gallery of Sudbury, and my crew here at the studio, work was assembled, information was sent out, a show was created, and on September 12th, Paul and I attended the grand opening in Washington. It was a beautiful exhibition and it had all happened so fast.

One of the things I didn’t expect was that several good friends living within commuting distance of the city were able to attend, so it was a reunion with cartoonists, as well as an opportunity to meet and thank the wonderful folks at the embassy who had worked so hard to put the show together. What an honour.

The embassy gallery is not a large space, but it is tall! A mezzanine floor creates a series of large, high white walls onto which they had placed a series of giant, coloured prints of my characters, which looked out over the display below. It was an impressive sight. I stood on a podium in the foyer where folks were enjoying canapés and drinks and I managed to thank everyone…although, anything I said felt inadequate. It had taken me awhile to realize this was really happening, and that we were really there!

Lynn speaking at the University of DC

While we were in Washington, I was asked to give a talk to a group of university students in the graphic arts program at the University of DC. Rather than lecture them, I asked them to inform me! In this technical age of electronic media, where does a new graduate go to find a job? They didn’t know. It was an interesting encounter because we all had ideas and information. In this changing world, some things stay the same.

I said (as a business owner looking to hire a new artist) I had been hoping someone would just come to me with a folio. It had not occurred to the students that making appointments and going door to door might be a good idea. It’s OK to see someone’s work online, but I want to meet people face to face. I’m more interested in an artist as a workmate than I am in their folio! In fact, I’d rather train someone with an average folio than hire a top-notch artist with an attitude! It was a fun talk, and we all enjoyed the banter.

I also had the opportunity to give a “Chalk Talk” at the Library of Congress. This was another honour, and even though I’m used to public speaking and have done this many times before, I was terribly nervous. The group was small and welcoming, and the talk went well. It was recorded, so I have decided that it was my last. No more public speaking!

While I was doing this talk, I encouraged Paul to go to the Arlington Cemetery where a dear friend of his is buried—he was a Vietnam vet and a member of Paul’s band for many years. He was buried there with full honours. Paul had been unable to go to the funeral, and this was the perfect time to remember a guy about whom he speaks of lovingly and often. It was a good idea. It took awhile to locate the grave, but as he stood there, a military funeral began; a ceremony much like the one that had celebrated his friend’s life. Paul was there to see it and experience the significance and solemnity of it all. It was a pilgrimage that was long overdue.

After our time in Washington, we took the train to Baltimore to spend some time with my cartoonist friend Barbara Dale, whose “Dale Cards” are well known and wonderfully funny. We continued on to NY where we met with a fine crew of talented animators (Greg Ford Animation) who are presently creating a series of short animated “Giphys” for us, as part of our 40th Anniversary celebration. FBorFW is 40 years old this year!

We continued on to Long Island to see Bunny Hoest and John Reiner, who created the Lockhorns. Bunny invited a group of friends to her home for lunch and we had another fine reunion. As we get older, it’s becoming more important for us old farts to get together at each others’ homes, rather than at the Reuben awards where the chaos and the events make it hard to find a quiet corner where we can catch up. For almost an hour, I sat with John Reiner and Mort Drucker talking about the “acting” that goes into caricature, and how essential it is to see your subject in motion. A still photograph just doesn’t give you the subtle nuances of expression and the body language necessary when trying to capture someone’s “self”. It was a conversation I will cherish. Mort hasn’t been well and no longer travels.

That’s about it! We returned home in a daze of reflection. We had been to the Canadian Embassy in Washington for the opening of a show of my work (still hard to believe!), and we had visited with the dearest of friends. How fortunate we are to be able to do this. How lucky as well. We have much to be thankful for.


Lee Salem, 1946-2019

For someone who spent nearly 30 years writing (and drawing) for a living, I can’t find the words I want to say.

Lee Salem was someone I always thought I’d see again. You know, “wait a year”, or “we’ll get together at such and such an event.” This is never going to happen now.

I have missed my chance to tell him how grateful I am for his guidance and his gift for editing comic art. I have missed an opportunity to tell him that his confidence in me, and his gracious way of telling me I had missed the mark, helped me to become a professional. He was a mentor, a friend and a wonderful sounding board.

Lynn with Lee and Anita Salem.

I am so lucky to have known and worked with Lee Salem. I can’t tell him this now; I can only write lines for a website and notes to friends. No words seem adequate today, even for his dear and loving family. I guess if I have anything to say, it’s to tell everyone I know to hug the folks they love, write to those they admire, and tell these people how much your life has been influenced by them. Do this before it’s too late. We are all such a precious time-limited offer. Lee was only 73.

Lynn J.

[For more about Lee’s incredible contribution to the world of comic art, read Cathy Guisewite’s lovely words here. ]