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My friend, Roy

21 Mar

Every so often in this world, something spectacular leaves us.  That’s what happened last week when cartoonist Roy Doty passed away at age 92.

Roy wasn’t just a good cartoonist – he was on a grander scale.  I could go on-and-on about how impressive his work was, but it all speaks for itself.  If you’ve never heard of his name, I’m pretty certain that somewhere along the line you have seen some of it.  He was everywhere.

I was lucky to know him and actually visit his home and studio where his work came alive in Dublin, Ohio.

At the time of meeting him, I was drawing the cartoons for the school newspaper at Wright State University.  So, like any normal cartoonist, I wanted to show “the pro” my work and get his thoughts when encountering him face-to-face.

I met him via knowing someone that knew him and so forth.  It just worked out well that he also lived only and hour or so away from me at the time.

Like his comics, he was a character.  Very pleasant, nice and honest.  In fact, brutally honest (I’ll get to more of that in a bit).

His studio had impressive drawings that I personally probably would never have the patience for.  Detail after delicate detail of perfected line-work that uses every space of the page in such a magical way, I couldn’t fathom it.  At the time of writing this, his website is still active.  Go explore for yourself here.

2011 Valentine

Above:  A Valentine illustration by Roy that’s in my personal collection.

My work?  He wasn’t too impressed.  But, he mentioned to keep working.  And so I did.

For years after that, we corresponded.

I moved to Florida and during that time, I really tried to get to the professional level I felt I could obtain.  After all, I was fresh out of an internship with MAD Magazine and the school paper.  I thought I was already great.

Little did I know that I wasn’t.

I grew up having everyone tell me how good I was.  So, I believed it.  I became actually cocky with my work and assumed it was fantastic. I was a pro.  After all, I kept hearing it.  But I was hearing it from people I knew – not the pros.

I sent Roy some of my material via USPS to get his thoughts.

Expecting just a note or two at some point, I was wrong.  Roy not only critiqued my work, he hand-wrote a two page letter explaining his thought process behind all of it.  I could tell he spent ample time looking it all over.  He sent me a package.

And the reviews?

Not good.

He ripped it all to shreds.  Explaining why a lot of it was horrible and how it wasn’t funny, badly drawn, etc.  No good words.  When I got it back, I was actually quite upset.  “Nobody has EVER said my work was bad!”

In this critique, he also hand-drew on several of my cartoons what he thought should go there.  How it should look.  Again, he spent some time on this.

Doty Critiques

Above:  Part of the package I received back with handwritten yellow tabs on each page, a two page letter and more.

After letting it sink in and REALLY looking at what he had said in his notes, I deeply thought about it.  And on many levels – he was right.

There’s a saying…

The two most harmful words in the English language:  Good job.

It made me think, improve and become better.  I wasn’t there yet.  I did have a ways to go if I wanted to move toward that professional level.  My work was mediocre and I didn’t even realize it until Roy came along.

Down the line, once I became syndicated online with Universal, I sent him more material.

“Gross” is how he described my line work – compared to his.  However, he liked the material and glad I developed a style.  Yes, he let me know it wasn’t up to his standards.  And it wasn’t.  But he was hoping to see my work go somewhere.

Roy really helped my career.

I think I would’ve wallowed in that cocky cesspool of not improving if it wasn’t for his brutally honest critiques and words.  Knowing that he spent all that time critiquing it, I knew he actually cared, and saw potential.

I get asked by kids, adults – aspiring cartoonist – to review their cartoons.  I critique it, but boy, I just can’t do it like Roy.  I wish I could though.  Many would take it the wrong way and probably hate me for it, but I think it helps.  Too many people say, “Good job”.

Roy kept in touch throughout the years.  I was fortunate enough to receive his homemade Christmas cards around the holidays.  They were something out-of-this world.  Always unique – and fun.

Doty Christmas Card 2007

Above:  One of his homemade cards that required twisting and turning.  A good time trying to read.

When I heard the news of his death, I found myself working at my drawing table.  I didn’t even realize it, but I was paying extra attention to my line work.  Subconsciously, Roy got in there.

So, it’s sad that he’s gone.  His art remains though, and he’ll definitely be remembered.

I’m sure he’s up at that big drawing table in the sky creating those perfect lines.