Category Archives: Letters from Lynn

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.

LJ

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. ]

“Thorns and Roses” with Lynn and Friends

At the Reuben awards in Huntington Beach, Ca. recently, Cathy Guisewite collected a few longtime friends together for lunch. The theme was “Thorns and Roses.” We each briefly said what had happened to us during the past year – good and bad. There were some amazing stories. We all got to know each other just a little better!

Reuben Awards Thorns and Roses Lunch

Seated in order from left to right are:

Lynn Visits Murray and Eleanor Enkin

A couple of weeks ago, I made my annual pilgrimage to see Murray and Eleanor Enkin. Not only did Dr. Enkin deliver both my children, he was the one who encouraged me to create my first book of cartoons and to then find a publisher. To this day, I thank him for my wonderful education (as one of his medical artists) and I credit him for my eventual entry into the serious world of comic art.

Lynn’s First Book!

The Helijet leaves from an obscure spot on the other side of the harbour from where I live. I can almost see where it lands. I packed an over night kit, walked down to the Sea Bus and in 20 minutes, I was sitting in the small waiting room, watching the sea planes lifting off and wheeling into an overcast morning sky. Six business people anxious to get to Victoria, and a couple of easygoing travellers like me packed into the cabin of the Helijet, and in no time we were rising from the dock as waves along the edge blew furiously away in great white sheets. Our pilot was an attractive young woman; her copilot a handsome young man. They were two people capable of the most astonishing magic. No matter how often I fly, or in what kind of aircraft, I always believe I’m experiencing a miracle!

It took about an hour to get to Victoria. By then, it was raining and a taxi was waiting for me. The Enkins live in a small house on a quiet street in an older neighbourhood. A sign on the door read: “Keep ringing the bell. We can’t hear!” Murray and Eleanor opened the door together and welcomed me inside. They are both in their 90s now. They looked exactly the same to me as they did the last time I dropped in, but Eleanor was not able to carry a conversation, and Murray was a bit unsteady on his feet. We had all changed (as one does), but when you feel at home with people, there seems to be no lapse of time. It was as if I’d just seen them the day before. We laughed and hugged and made our way to the small sitting room where Murray keeps a fire lit in the wood stove. A young woman, who comes to give them a hand each day, arrived with tea and cookies and we sat by the fire as we always do, enjoying the warmth and the companionship. Murray and Eleanor are family to me.

Lynn’s dear friend, Murray Enkin

It took awhile to catch up. We tend to interrupt each other and then forget the topic! After filling in the blanks about family and friends, we sat and let the moment settle; like butter melting into warm toast. “How many more times” I thought to myself,  “will I be able to sit in this room with these dear people?”  Conversation was sometimes difficult, as Eleanor chatted about things unrelated to what we were saying. Murry told me she lived in a world of her own. He said he kept himself sharp by reading, writing, meeting with academic friends, and counting backwards from 100 by sevens. I told him I couldn’t do it. By fives, maybe! He said he missed his colleagues at McMaster University and all the great times they had. He missed the challenge of his work, and the business of his days. He missed thinking, and planning, and doing meaningful things. I could feel his sadness. I’m beginning to understand these things, now. I’m beginning to see the world quite differently.

Until I was perhaps 65, I thought I’d always be the person I’d grown into; the person I recognized in the mirror, the person who thought the way I thought and did the things I did. Now, I’m 72 and I am different.  I’m old. My body is old. I find myself doing “old” things.  Murray and Eleanor are older.  We look at each other with a new and profound understanding.  Saying goodbye comes with an extra hug. Saying “take care” means just that.  Saying “I’ll see you again” is a fervent hope. We must meet again soon.

I’ve always been practical, and somewhat cynical, when it comes to life and death. But, the older I get, the more I believe that there’s more to this existence than meets the eye. As I hugged Murray and Eleanor one last time, I felt joy and anticipation. I was thinking: “There’s more to come. There’s a reason we met this time around. Now what?” It’s a profound question: “Now what?”

Growing old gives us time to rustle through our accumulated knowledge and experience and think: “Now that I’ve done all that…what does happen next?”  If I’m careful. If I’m lucky, I might have 20 more years before I find out!  Meanwhile, I have images fresh in my mind of friends who gave me confidence and support when I needed it most, and a personal goal that led to an unexpected career.

One of Lynn's pre-FBorFW comics.

I spent the following two days in Victoria with another friend — about whom I’ll tell you soon.

Lynn J.

Lynn’s Book Review: Becoming, By Michelle Obama

Becoming by Michelle ObamaFor almost 30 years, I produced a comic strip that practically opened my front door and invited everyone into my living room. I received letters from all over the world, from readers who said I was talking about their life, that I was like the woman next door– a friend they could relax with and confide in. This was both an incredible compliment, and an anchor that kept me focused and real. If I may, I’d like to ask my readers to allow another neighbour into their homes. Here is a writer who has done much, much more.

I urge everyone to read Michelle Obama’s book “Becoming.” I think it is one of the most important pieces of literature to come out of the United States or anywhere– because it humanizes all of us. At a time of fake news and cruel, unwarranted attacks from far left and far right, Michelle Obama speaks from the center; from the heart and from a place of normalcy.

Inside all of us is a centered place where we feel balance and strength and a sense of belonging. The wonderful song: “We Are The World” comes from this place. With honesty, perspective, and woman-to-woman candor, she speaks to everyone — without arrogance, reticence or guile. She is an excellent writer who takes you on a most intimate journey. I don’t want to write a review. I want everyone out there to review it themselves. I have a bit more to read before I put this book in a safe but prominent place. I don’t want it to end. It’s THAT good.

Lynn