Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Jack Davis Tribute

I went to The Comic Art Professional Society tribute to Jack Davis at the Porter Valley Country Club on Saturday, Oct. 21.

I had car trouble, and hadn't really read the invitation until that day,
when I discovered it was formal, with jacket and tie required! I'm currently here in LA on a job, and living out of a suitcase full of t-shirts and shorts, which were expressly forbidden at this fancy club. I didn't have time to both fix the car and buy clothes before the 6:30 banquet. I was tempted to give up, but this was a rare opportunity to meet my personal cartooning hero, the legendary Jack Davis! I fixed the car.

As I hobbled toward the ritzy entrance wearing borrowed (stolen) clothes which were too small for me (I couldn't button my jacket or pants), I worried this might be one of those country clubs that excludes ethnic minorities with exposed navels and no socks. I mentally prepared some elaborate alibi about being Tiger Woods' forgotten idiot relative. I needed a name. Sportin' Woods? Anyway, before I could get my story straight in my head, the well-dressed man at the door took one look at the horrible hairy moron shambling before him and said, "You must be Kyle Baker". And he was right.

Fortunately for everyone involved, there were superior and better-dressed cartoonists there, including

Sergio AragoƱes
Paul Coker
Mark Evanier
Chad Frye
Benton and Anson Jew
Mike Kazaleh
Bobby London
Bill Morrison
Paul Power
Scott Shaw! (Don't forget the exclamation point!)
Stephen Silver
Dean Yeagle

And many more! All of them fans of mighty Jack Davis!

As a kid my biggest inspirations were Walt Disney cartoons and MAD magazine. That's what made me want to be a cartoonist. Most of the cartoonists at the event grew up on Jack Davis' work.

It was a real treat to see a display of ACTUAL Jack Davis paintings, including his famous poster for Woody Allen's "Bananas". I spent a lot of time just staring at the paintings, trying to decipher the secrets of his technique.

We watched an educational and inspiring film of Davis at work in his studio. First he did a line drawing in pen, then he added a light source with sepia washes, then added some watercolor hues on top. Every cartoonist watching the film was feverishly making mental notes.

I am often hesitant to meet my heroes, for fear of shattering my illusions. In this case, the man behind the curtain is a true wizard. Jack Davis is exactly like his work. Inviting, friendly, humorous, engaging, and tasteful.

Mr. Davis told us he had just come from a visit to the Disney/Pixar animation studios, and he effusively expressed his amazement at the 3d computer imagery produced there.

Jack told us he was greatly influenced by Walt Disney cartoons, which is why he knows big hands and feet are essential for comedy. I was going to tell him about my current job at Disney, but then I remembered God gave me two ears and only one mouth for a reason. I shut up and listened.

Sergio and Jack told funny stories about their travels around the world. My favorite was the story about their trip to Mexico, and how Jack Davis held an umbrella over Sergio's mother in the rain while she cooked for her son's friends. It was one of many illustrations of what a great friendly guy Jack Davis is. My favorite "Sergio is a great guy" story of the evening was about the time a translator was hired for a public appearance at a venue where it was mistakenly assumed Sergio couldn't speak English. Not wanting to see the translator lose a paying job, Sergio pretended he couldn't understand English for the duration of the gig.

The brilliantly entertaining Mark Evanier was also there, and describes the cool awards that were given. Read about it and see photos here:


Anonymous said...

Wonderful story, and another proof that the TRUE greats are (well, er, almost)ALWAYS very kind and wonderful human beings.

My kindest regard ...

James Robert Smith said...

From everything I've heard about him, Jack Davis must be a very sweet fellow. I have friends who live not far from his home near Sea Island GA and they say he's always happy to speak to fans.

Tony said...

Oh to be but a fly on the wall! Sounded like a great time, I wish I was there! I'm so jealous.