Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I had pretty shitty grades in High School. That is until I woke up one morning of the latter part of my 10th Grade year, walked into the Bathroom and literally looked at myself in the mirror and asked, " Holy Shit! What are you gonna do after you Graduate High School?!" I had no answer. So it was time to quit screwing around, and focus on my School work so that I could Graduate. I did, but one thing was different than I had hoped. I didn't have the grades or the money to pursue Art in Secondary School. No Art School for Tony Harris. This was a MAJOR blow. I , along with my family had always assumed that I would attend some kind of Art School after High School. If for no other reason that I won a LOT of Art Awards over the years, pursued my ability vigorously with ALL of my parents support. But then I became a teenager got mad about everything, and fucked off on School, Art, Family and anything else that mattered. It was really hard for me as a kid. I can't speak for my Brother and Sister, but it was for me. It was also REALLY good. We grew up in a Military Family, moving about every 18 months or so. Sometimes longer periods in one place, but that was about the average. After a while of always being the new kid, and dealing with ALL that comes with that Horse-shit, you learn. you adapt, or you wither and die. So for me, my Art was my refuge. That was the bad part. The good part were my folks, and my home life. It was great. My Dad was Military and worked a lot, but was and is a GREAT FATHER. Mom was the same, AWESOME MOM, stayed home for most of our young lives to raise us, until we became Latch-Key kids during my Pre-Teenage years. But all the while, they supported me, and my Art. Just felt like that all needed saying. Support for a young Artist is so key to their development. Without that coming directly from where you dwell, you have major obstacles in your way.

So looking back now I can see things foggy. NOT clearly. I did NOT read comics and collect them as a child. Unlike most of my contemporaries. I did buy the Occasional Comic from a Gas Station, or Book Store( when they had them, *Thanks Book Nook of Charleston SC!! for having what a 12 year old needed!) Notably The Pocket sized Paperback of Empire Strikes Back from Marvel ( written by Archie Goodwin, who would almost 15 years later become my Editor on STARMAN for DC Comics) and CONAN from Marvel, Illustrated by the AMAZING John Buscema, and Ernie Chan! But i didn't know ANY of that then. I just thought they were cool. No, Indeed I would not really "Discover" Comics until I was 19 years old, and outta School. but , at least I did. I fell into it after moving to Athens GA, post High School( which is where my then Girlfriend, and High School best friend moved to attend UGA). WOW! I think we veered into a History lesson here. But I think you might understand me better as an Individual, among many, i.e. my contemporaries in the field of Comics, if you know a bit about how I arrived here, in Comics. And as I type these words, I realize it is both unlikely, and meant to be, in equal portions that I would make my Artistic home in this Medium. I think maybe that is the benefit of writing about these things , that it makes you recall things. To remember.

I am gonna back up a tiny bit. I did have a small amount ( and by NO means Insignificant) of post-High-School, Art Education. It came to me, in Macon GA in the form of a Local Portrait Artist, and Teacher , named Houser Smith. Amazing man. I met him through the local Artistic, Social circles and was keen to take his figure drawing classes. Didn't have any cash though. So my friends made the Introductions, I showed him my portfolio, and he made me a proposal. He offered me Figure Drawing Classes, bought and paid for in exchange for weeding his Beloved Rose Garden just outside his Studio window. OH! how Houser LOVED his Roses. I, of course, accepted! Best decision of my Artistic life. The most important piece of advice I carry with me( among a million others) and pass onto others from Houser is this:

" The human Body is the most complicated Machine ever created. If you can master Drawing it, you will draw a better tree, a better car, a better dog, and a more precise world view, through educated eyes." It doesn't get any better, or right, than that. But I digress.

So After discovering Comics, and by proxy, Commercial/Advertising Art, I discovered something else. I guess I became wide awake in a way.

I was aware that ART is everything, and everywhere. Sad part is, most people don't know that, or care. From the design of your bedside Fan, to your car, to the Store Signs you pass as you drive down the road, to Product labels, to Company logos, to Medical Instruments, to Machines that make food safe, to paintings, to sculptures, to Movies, to Poems, to Music, to shoes to Cereal, to the internet, to your web page, to your cell Phone, to your car, to your toothbrush, to your Fine China, to your Television, to your Calculator, to you Toilet Bowl, to your House, to your Suit, to your Dress, to your kids Big-wheel, to your landscaping, to your sexual aids, to the Rug the President walks over as he sits down at his desk in the Oval Office, to your paint, to your paint brushes, to your drafting table, to your dogs haircut, to your haircut, to street signs, to storefronts, to diapers and to Dragon Tattoos. It takes an Artist, a designer, ART to make all those things come to life. A vision, an initial thought translated into pictures so that someone else can build it, paint it, print it, drive it, or fly it.

It's hard being a Comic Book Artist. Harder than you think. Yeh, OK, theres the obvious work load. 22 pages a month if you draw a monthly, and if you are doing a mini-series. The Industry Standard is a page a day of pencils, an Inkers are expected, along with Colorists to work far faster than than. Shit travels downhill and those guys have to take giant bites of wandering shit sandwiches on a daily basis.

You know what else is hard about being a Comic Book Artist? What takes you 15 minutes to read takes me 30 days to create. The Artist ( in a perfect world) has to be able to draw EVERYTHING. Did u catch that? Not just be good at drawing cars, or Zombies, or Dildos, but EVERYTHINGA! All of it. The whole damned, God-Forsaken-existence-on-this-good-green-Earth. Cars, Dildos, Coffee makers, pencils, tacks, pop-tarts, TV's, animals, Balls, China, kids, old people, women, men, tables, chairs, toasters, water, hair, babies, cats, spoons, lamps, carpet, hardwood floors, bricks, cups, chicken( the meat, not the bird), Chickens( the birds), Tigers, Lions, AND Bears. Etc............ So you have to be a Renaissance Man. You gotta do it all. And quite frankly( or Frank Quitely, if that's your thing) if you can, you'll be more successful and get more work. A one stop shop, if you will. I think maybe I am a Masochist, cause I love it all. All of it. As fucked up as it is, comics are me, comics are mine, I know it inside out, I feel like I am a part. I OWN this. Ya know?

Next time maybe I'll talk about all my fuckups over the years. Maybe....

More soon~

Macon GA, Aug, 2011


  1. I would KILL for a good teacher. There are quite a few in Savannah, but $30,000+ a year has made this out of reach.

    When's the closest you ever came to giving up? (in regards to pursuing art as a career)

  2. I've enjoyed both of these essays, Tony. As someone who has trouble carving out a good stick figure, I look on what you and other artists do with awe and amazement. Obviously there's a gift involved, but so many years of hard work that nobody sees as well.

  3. Thanks Count! Hey , am I mistaken, or were you supposed to be in Baltimore this past weekend?

  4. You're not mistaken, sir, I was planning on it. But as the weekend started to bear down on us it became impossible to juggle everything and still manage the Baltimore trip, which was disappointing. Hope it was great for you and everyone else, though. Next time...