Monday, February 20, 2012

Tribute to My Parents

It's been a little more than a year since I posted a blog. Last year about this time I was reeling from the one-two punch of losing both parents within a very short span. Now, a year later, it's time to celebrate their well-lived lives of serving others. My mom always made me promise to never draw a caricature of her so this is the next best thing. This was an anniversary card I did for them several years ago.

They were great parents. They set such a good example of giving and taking care of others. When they were still wet behind the ears they eloped to South Carolina when my mom was just 15! (Well, it was during WWII, so maybe it's understandable.) When they returned home they didn't immediately tell anyone they got married so they went back to their parents' homes for a little spell. From reading comments from my mom's classmates in her high school annual, she missed almost every Monday at school so I figure that was a day the newlyweds got to spend with each other.

They really patterned a life of being in love with each other. Some of my earliest memories included seeing my dad come home from work and sweep my mom in his arms like Rhett Butler and waltz around the room.

Toward the end of my dad's life he had to spend time in the rest home because my mom was just too weak to take care of him with the cancer she was struggling with. But it was almost a stone's throw from their house so she was able to visit him almost daily. I took her to the rest home for their last anniversary and we had a nice, quiet dinner together. Even though his memory was almost gone he knew who his sweetheart was. It was a great evening together for them.

A few days after that, my mom fell in the bathroom and struck her head on the lavatory, breaking her neck. Despite her cancer and neck in a brace, she still was more concerned over him than her own plight. In fact, she was determined to outlive him so that she could be there for him. I think that is why she lived well beyond Duke Medical Center's prognosis for her despite opting for no treatments. As he was rushed to the emergency room several times in the last month of his life, nothing could keep her away from visiting him. She cajoled me into driving her over there in neck brace and obvious pain from cancer just so she could be there for her soulmate. My dad was in and out of consciousness but when he saw her he would light up! She leaned forward in her chair to say, "I love you, I love you, I love you," and he'd reply, "I know, I know, I know!" It was a shot in the arm for both of them!

My dad graduated on December 22, 2010, the anniversary of my brother's death. My mom was glad he was finally out of pain and confusion, but you could tell a part of her left with him. Then, a couple of months later, and appropriately on Valentine's Day, she left to join her sweetheart.

I miss them both, but I'm so glad they're out of pain now. And their example of love still remains with me. I guess that is why I am a hopeless romantic. At my mom's funeral the minister said, "If you close your eyes, you might just be able to see them dancing together on clouds to "The Tennessee Waltz." I definitely yabba-dabba-do.

Friday, January 7, 2011

My dad

Well, I had to give it some time, because you grieve, sort out your thoughts, and just need the time to decompress after the funeral. But it's time to tell you about my dad.

After a long, cruel illness, my dad graduated on Dec. 22, 2010. It was also the anniversary of my brother's passing. It's great that they could share the happy reunion on the same date.

My dad was better than Ward Cleaver or Jim Anderson. He was a father who knew best and taught it to his sons. He was a quiet man-- not a flashy athlete like my brother nor a fancy-dancy artist like his "black sheep" son-- just kidding, he was always supportive and proud of my career. In fact, he paid for me to have adult cartooning lessons as a kid. But he was a quiet man who, when he spoke, you knew Wisdom was there. Probably why he became a teacher.

I imagine, in the way honors are distributed up there, he will be on the top, because he had such a quiet, gentle way rather than bravado. Thank you, Dad, for always being there, always being encouraging, and helping me know what is really important.

I love you.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Do we ever arrive? I thought I did in the late 70's when McKinney & Silver called me to do an illustration for a national ad for Barnett Bank. To Bill Kamp I will be ever indebted as Creative Director on that series and selected me as illustrator. Today, he owns his own agency and what a talent. Together, we worked on numerous campaigns for NCNB, which is NationsBank today, Piedmont Airlines, Wonder Bread, Royal Caribbean, Golden Corral, GI Joe, Disney, and NASCAR trading cards, Fannie Mae, and on and on.

But do we ever "arrive?" I think it's much like Jerry Seinfeld lamented to Jay Leno after "Seinfeld" went off the air. We always have that fear that one day the phone will stop ringing. But that's a good thing. It keeps us pushing and not resting on our laurels.

I've been so incredibly blessed with honors beyond my wildest dreams, but I always think, maybe next week the phone will stop ringing. And it keeps me sharp. Keeps me competitive.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Returning to My Roots

At the urging of my good friend Nick Meglin, I am returning to traditional watercolor in my illustration work. I'll still do digital where digital works best. But there's just nothing like the feel of real brush to paper. For this one, I output my rough pencil sketch to watercolor paper as a light sepia line. That gives me a light image upon which to paint. The Epson inks are soybean based, and are fairly water resistant, so there's no muddying of the color by adding paint to the surface. Type and corrections are done digitally, but the original is pristine and a nice piece of art to archive in itself. So now I have good watercolor originals to donate to charities once again!

all images copyright J.Pittman, 2010

Rough sketch in sepia, ready to color.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Manhattan Project

I finished my Manhattan Project recently. No, not an a-bomb, but a cartoon map of NYC with a caricature of Arthur G. Cohen, developer and partner with Aristotle Onassis on several Manhattan building projects. The occasion of this illustration was for Mr. Cohen's birthday and was commissioned by his daughter and son-in-law.

I had a real workout doing the architecture for this one. Many of the buildings are eclipsed by one another in an aerial view, and at the exaggerated scale of the illustration, even more so. So it was a challenge to position each one so that they could display as best as possible.

Illustrations copyright J.Pittman, 2010detail view

entire illustration

Frank Frazetta Remembered

Just got the news Monday that Frank Frazetta passed away. After years of declining health and battling back from multiple strokes, he finally succumbed to one. I'm so glad we in the National Cartoonists Society got to honor him in person about 20 months ago. For a look back at that celebration, see my earlier post at .

Frank was a rare genius in our field. From the age of 8 he was recognized as a prodigy. What he did came so naturally to him that he really couldn't explain the process to you. You'd ask him how he created this or that effect on a particular illustration and his reply was almost as if he'd missed the point of your question. For Frank, it was simple-- he just did it. My last conversation with him had Frank remarking about how quickly he painted a certain piece we were looking at. Kind of like how a kid will say, "Yeah, and it only took me 40 minutes!" The rest of us were so blown away at his mastery, yet what impressed him was the amount of time it took.

He'll certainly be missed, but his impact on illustration will remain. Thank you for the inspiration, Frank, from the rest of us who have to work hard to accomplish what you made look easy.

Monday, February 15, 2010

My parents' wealth

My parents have always taught me good things, but this past Sunday was just another reminder of that. My mom was diagnosed with liver cancer a year ago, so it's a miracle that she's even here today. We went to visit my dad with vascular dementia at the nursing home, and it was a particularly trying day for my mom with him as he was having some difficulty. Yet, she was patient. I kept thinking of that verse, "Love is patient," as I saw her take care of him. And as she was washing up in the other room, my dad started into a tune which was definitely "Amazing Grace" in perfect pitch and yet perfect gibberish vocally. Then I hear my exhausted mom laughing in the other room. What a treat for her to hear his relieved hymn of praise, and a chuckle at the same time of the humor of the situation! The ability to laugh in the face of tragedy is probably a big reason why I am a cartoonist to this day. Man, I have rich parents!