Friday, December 19, 2008

This year's card

Christmas cards past -- 2007

Back to my tree obsession.

Christmas cards past -- 2006

Bought my beloved 1955 Buick Special that year from pal Mike Berry, and just naturally had to work it into our Christmas card.

Christmas cards past -- 2005

This one's a watercolor.

Christmas cards past -- 2004

Christmas cards past -- 2003

Another of my daughter, Haley's drawings, Photoshopped.

Christmas cards past -- 1999

Photoshop enters the picture, so to speak. This may be my favorite of all our cards. Haley's elf drawing seems to capture the magic of the season in a way no adult's drawing could ever do.

Cristmas cards past -- 1998

Zipping ahead in time, I started incorporating Haley's drawings into the card design. I am totally nuts about those beautiful angels. This was our house in College Hill on North Yale.

Christmas cards past -- 1994

Daughter was 1 years old when this one was sent out.

Christmas cards past -- 1993

In the spirit of the season, nostalgia and all that, I thought I'd post some of the cards I've drawn for my family. This one is from the year our daughter was born. At the time, of course, she hadn't arrived yet. She eventually made her appearance on Christmas Eve at about 11:30 p.m.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Friday, December 5, 2008

"Out-Beatled the Beatles???"

That's what the host of this 1966 tv show says about Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs. Very groovy. Wish I could get our band, Pop and the Boys, to work up this kind of choreography. Maybe we could out-split Split Lip! Nah. Never happen.

By the way, Pop and the Boys will be at Rockin' Daddy's this Saturday night from 9:30 on. Come get your groove on with us.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Where are you now, Franz Van?

I'm a bit silly about Christmas. I really enjoy this time of year. Way too much to be a grownup.

One of the things I've always done is collect old magazines. The Christmas issues are my favorite. Somehow in my estate sale combing, I've acquired these old Christmas Ideals magazines. They're full of sentimental over-the-top poems and short essays about the season. But mostly they're full of all sorts of Christmas images. I'm image-oriented, to be sure. Here are 2 of the more intriguing paintings from the inside front and back covers of the 1965 issue. The artist signs it "Franz Van." I love the heavily stylized look of it -- the weirdly tall trees with feathers instead of needles, the fun figures ice skating and the mysterious mountainous setting. It could easily have been a background in Disney's Fantasia. I tried Googling Franz Van with no success. You have to wonder if he may have been an animation artist. Very dream-like image. I wanta go there!

What "liberal media"???

Hank found the Palin vid to be more proof of the liberal media. Says they set up Sarah "You betcha" Palin with the turkey slaughter in the background. I don't buy the "liberal media" line one little bit. Conservative, establishment, big business runs the media in America. The "leftist media" might be the biggest straw man ever erected in the well-plowed fields of American political discourse.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

While Sarah slaughters syntax, man slaughters turkey

Why do so few of her sentences have subjects? Just wonderin' about that. Tryin' to figure it out, gosh darn ya. And lookin' at the guy behind her. The one who can hardly do his slaughterin' job 'cause he's so darn distracted by Sarah. Bet he's thinkin', "Oh, just doin' her subjectless sentence thing."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Another thrilling account of my adventures in the natural world

What a great day Sunday was. And by "great" I mean, of course, practically windless. Just the slightest breeze and sunny skies. Mild temperature. The kind of day that can make a person do things they might ordinarily avoid. Like raking leaves.

So it was that in the late afternoon I ventured forth with rake and bags to relieve the yard of the stress of thousands of pin oak, maple and sycamore leaves which had the audacity to flounce about atop the weeds and grasses (more of the former than the latter) which I like to think of as my front lawn. In the Rockwood area where I reside there are lots and lots of trees. The developers in 1961 had the foresight to plant oaks in every yard. Today we reap the benefits in the form of shade, tranquility, steady home values and of course, leaves.

For the most part I really don't mind raking leaves. I've tried the leaf blowers and the mulching mower route, they have their place but there's a sort of solace to be taken from the calm movement of rake across grass. And God knows I've got the time. The layoff saw to that.

Neighbors strolled by, some stopping for brief chats. A squirrel or two chattered on some of the lower branches, mocking Ollie who was constrained by the backyard gate and reduced to a few taunting barks which seemed to delight the squirrels even more.I filled six 55-gallon bags with leaves and was almost through just as the sun had moved below the tops of trees and houses when I heard the throaty calls of Canadian geese in the distance. I looked up just in time to see a beautiful v-formation of them, maybe 15 or 20. The striking thing about them was that their chests seemed to be blazing as the red-orange of the sunset reflected off their white breast feathers.

I realized that I had just been shown the reason that all those leaves fell. It was so people would rake them, look up at the darkening blue of that Sunday's early evening sky and be regaled by a sunset's reflection off the chests of Canadian geese. There's a reason for everything.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Come see us!

When I'm not studying Eckhart Tolle, here's what I'm doing

A couple of people have asked me lately what I'm up to. (Obviously NOT updating this blog like I should be.)

Wichita Magazine has done some extensive interviewing of yours truly for an upcoming profile. I'm not sure how in the world they'll make me interesting enough to warrant any copy but if Drew Bratcher can't do it, no one can. He's the new editor, fresh from several years as a writer on the well-respected Washingtonian Magazine. I've read some of his pieces for them and am thoroughly impressed. But he's got his work cut out for him on that Crowson story. I'll be launching a new monthly cartoon series for them if all goes according to plan as well, which I'm excited about. All I can say right now is that it involves everyone's favorite rodent hereabouts, the prairie dog.

There is a chance that I'll be working more regularly with KMUW in an as-yet-to-be-defined capacity but probably not including goofy banjo tunes.

One thing I'm very psyched about is the possibility of working in the Wichita schools through the Arts Partners program. As one of their roster of artists I would be doing workshops and presentations for varying age groups on editorial cartooning, the joy of drawing, banjo picking and quantum chromodynamics. Ok, just kidding about the quantum whatever. I've always enjoyed speaking to and working with kids through my frequent ventures as Eagle cartoonist into classrooms.

I'll be appearing at Johnston's Clothiers on Saturday, November 22, from 11 until 2. They've booked me to hang around the store and draw caricatures of hapless customers. I've never done anything like that before so it should be a fun challenge.

On the evenings of November 20, 21 and 22 I'll be accompanying the Newton Chorale in concert for some Stephen Foster tunes, another exciting first. I'm looking forward to blending the banjo with some seriously accomplished vocalists.

I'm also booked for several evenings of Christmas shows as a fill-in out at the original Prairie Rose Chuckwagon, where I'll be replacing one of their musicians who'll be out of town.

My wife Karen, Phil Burress an whoever else shows up will be performing at Watermark Books Cafe this Saturday. Yikes. That's tomorrow. We play from 5 until 7 and it's free.

So those are some of the ways I'm filling my time these days. Plus most mornings I'm appearing on the streets of my neighborhood walking Ollie. Now that's a good gig!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008


You need to watch this video to understand.

Miracles and friends

Sooner or later we are bound to have some cold and rainy weather but so far how can you not be invigorated by these sunny, mild and leafy Autumn days? Ollie and I had another splendid time on our walk a few hours ago. We both spent a good deal of it gazing up at the trees. Ollie was meditating on the likelihood of cats and squirrels becoming immobilized by the sheer force of his awesome dog brainwaves, tumbling earthward into his widely gaping jaws. Apparently his brainwaves were not quiet up to the job as no small furry entities fell from the trees this morning.

What did fall, of course, were leaves. That's what got me looking towards the limbs above us. I think it's a small miracle every time I happen to witness a leaf falling. Really, if you think about it, that leaf has been budding, growing and waving from that branch for six months. What are the odds that out of the 259,200 minutes that comprise a leaf's life, I would be looking at the very minute it turns loose from it's hold on that little limb and spirals to the ground?

When they fall in great bunches it can be harder to surround a leaf's floating journey with the stillness required to appreciate the significance of the event. But when just one drifts down the miracle is easier to recognize.

I was in the mood for such small affirmations on this Monday morning in particular as it was a sad weekend. Our family bid adieu to some very close friends, Randy, Karla, Connor and Anna Scholfield, who left for Colorado on Saturday. While we know that in these times more than ever it's easy to stay in touch with others over long distances, saying farewell is still hard. The friends you make when your and their children are small, can be as close as family and even closer if you're like us and your family is several states away.

So walking by their empty house was an eye-reddening moment. Ollie sniffed at their fence for his dog friends, Mugs and Baxter, left his usual calling card and we went on into the morning. I soon found diversion in the aforementioned leaf spectacle and Ollie tried to mentally-telepath a noisy squirrel to the ground. We love our morning walk and our old friends.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Escaped rhino drill at Japanese zoo

I like the way his ears gently wiggle as he walks.

They don't make 'em like this anymore

Wow. I just love those "shaver" grills on those 1954 Buicks. This Roadmaster is up for bid on Ebay right now. I know I should be paying attention to John McCain on Saturday Night Live right this very minute. He just did his opening skit and all America was watching and I'm an (unemployed) editorial cartoonist and there's no reason on God's green earth why I shouldn't be watching it in order to keep up with all the latest political crap but you've gotta see this Buick.

The perfect color scheme as well. Man. My friend, Tim came over tonight and mentioned it as something I'd most likely salivate over. He was right. I'm voting for that 1954 Buick Roadmaster for president. We don't need a Maverick. We need a Roadmaster.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The have-nots

Morning window post

It was a truly splendid morning for a walk. No wind. That's all I ask most of the time, here in Kansas. Just give us a morning without wind.

Ollie treed a young -- just past kittenhood -- cat and got himself thoroughly revved in the process. Nothing makes his day like a close encounter with a member of the feline class. God knows, if he ever caught one it would probably kill him. God knows but Ollie doesn't. So he keeps trying. The cat business took place early in the walk so he was chocked full of Airedale energy all the rest of the way.

We took one of our normal routes, winding around 7 or 8 blocks, dodging cars driven by folks off to work (work! I remember work!) and counting political yard signs. Looks good for Obama in my neighborhood. One of the things I always do is check out the (non-political) window signs at this one corner house. An older lady resides there and I believe I heard that she was a retired elementary school teacher. She obviously misses the days of having a roomful of little ones to instruct. Now she puts these little signs in her windows, I'm betting they were once put up daily in her classroom, which are riddles aimed at the younger set. Usually she puts the question on one window and the answer in the next. Today's: How do you fix a broken pumpkin? With a PUMPKIN PATCH!

The first few times I noticed these riddles I was slightly taken aback. What the heck is this? Why would anyone do a weird thing like that? Must be a little "titched in the head!" But with time I've come to appreciate them, look forward to them and enjoy them. It's an unusual idea, to entertain passersby, and there's something sweet about it. Probably no more than 8 or 10 folks a day even see the little notices, maybe less. Still she posts them regularly all through the year. It's not really so different from putting up posts in a blog -- a small audience but somehow fulfilling all the same. If I could draw large enough I'd consider posting the occasional editorial cartoon in my window.

Eventually Ollie and I ended up back at our grove of cottonwoods where I like to sit a bit and practice not thinking. Not thinking is harder than you might, well, think it is. We all think all of the time, practically, and most of our thoughts are repetitious and unnecessary. I buy into the view that I'd be better off if I could relax my mind enough to get in touch with my true self, the one that's connected to things like cottonwoods, cats and elderly retired schoolteachers. Ollie's already there but I have a ways to go. Most of the time my true self is treed by my incessantly barking ego.

Then again, there are worse places to be cornered than up in a tree.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Opie & Andy endorse Obama at this link

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I can't help myself

It's an old habit -- drawing editorial cartoons. About Karl Peterjohn. So this one had to come out after reading the story in today's Eagle about the aviation industry's alarm at Karl's candidacy. Karl is a radical and it's good to see that local business leaders are realizing it. The National Center for Aviation Training is a worthwhile and needed government-funded project and Karl's desire to pull the plug on it is shameful for one running for public office in the Air Capital.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

An old Watermark poster

I enjoy doing posters for Karen and my gigs at Watermark books. I believe it's been nearly 10 years now that we've been performing there once a month. It's always the 3rd Saturday of each month. Here's an old poster. Our next date there will be October 18, from 5 until 7. For free!

Missing my old colleagues

I'm adjusting to the layoff but it'll be a long time before I get used to not seeing my old friends at the Eagle on a regular basis. Here's a Gridiron program cover I did in 2006 which featured the "Fairy Tale Princess" herself. Can you spot the other luminaries in this drawing?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Out of the past

Came across this old toon from a Winfield long ago...

Friday, October 3, 2008

Morning meditations with Ollie

One of the more soul-nourishing routines I've fallen into within the last year or so is my morning walk with Ollie, our big goofy Airedale. My alone time has always been important to me. Maybe that's because I was like an only child, my sister and brother being 12 and 14 years older. I barely can recall when they were still living at home with my parents and myself. So I learned to enjoy drawing, reading, watching Captain Kangaroo and fending off voracious lions, giant spiders and crocodiles with my rubber Tarzan knife, usually alone.

I especially delighted in climbing trees. Some summers I swear I was more often in a tree than on the ground. My friends and I built two tree houses. Both were high up in the towering oaks that dotted the Memphis suburb where I was raised from age 9, called Whitehaven. (It wasn't a race thing, the name Whitehaven, I mean. Though come to think of it, it was all white. And it was in the South. And it was the early sixties. Hmmm.)

Frequently I would take a book up into my tree house and sprawl across the splintery planks, swiped from nearby construction sites, for hours on end. I miss tree houses. But I still value my solitude at times and the morning walks provide that. Granted, Ollie is with me but his attention is all focused on squirrels, other dogs and the many places those other dogs have peed. So that's my meditation time.

Near the end of our walk we always veer off into a small green space tucked into a corner of our neighborhood. It's a little playground area that contains a grove of cottonwood trees. I position a chair beneath the largest of those trees, let Ollie run off-leash and I consider that tree.Its limbs have contorted through time and the extremes of Kansas weather, twisting outward, stretching languidly and waving their thousand of small green flags at the frequent gusts of wind. What a wonderful sound those leaves make this time of year. They rustle with an Autumn crispness, the result perhaps of their increasing brittleness as they gradually lose their green to pale yellow. At this early October time some of them are letting go and drifting down to a silent rest on the grass.

For me that tree speaks about endurance. Quiet perseverance. Harmony with the sky and with whatever that sky sends its way. It has lessons to teach us.

When Ollie and I walk by the tree on our way back to the street and towards home, sometimes I brush my palm against its rough bark. That's as close as I get to actually hugging it. I am a proud tree hugger in sentiment, but not quiet literally. Though I have to say that sometimes when I sit in that chair and look up at that old cottonwood, I feel as if it's embracing me. It's one of the best feelings I know.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Ok. You love your dog. But would you do this?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Oh, I get it

So apparently if one doesn't sit down and write new entries in these blog gizmo things, no new entries appear. That's what I was doing wrong!

I just finished today the process of moving 21 years of cartooning paraphernalia from my office at the Eagle to my home. Three carloads. Yikes. I am a bit of a pack rat and this is the price I pay: A basement I can barely walk through and a dull aching pain in my lower back. Maybe I can update this blog a little more frequently from now on.

And right now all of my evenings are taken up with rehearsals at WSU for the musical "Waltzing in Heaven." For the last 12 or so years I've been Ranger Rick in our cowboy band, the Home Rangers. Fellow musicians David Hawkins, Stan Greer and Mike Lee round out the quartet. We do a hybrid of Sons of the Pioneers and bluegrass, a mixture we've termed "moograss." Don't gig more than 4 or 5 times a year and that suits us just fine. Well, as the only member of the band without a "day job," I suppose I have to admit that it suits me a little less fine than it once did.

So this musical was written by Howard L. Johnson, the father of one of the WSU football players killed in the 1970 plane crash that tragically took more than half the team. It runs this Thursday through Sunday. They wanted a cowboy band that was used to playing with each other and I guess we fit the bill. It's fascinating to watch a production like this from behind the scenes, as it were. Literally. We sit on stage the whole time behind the scenes. The students and the instructors at WSU are doing an amazing job with this play. As for the band, well, the banjo player needs to woodshed a bit but overall, not bad.

I just agreed to be interviewed on KSN's early morning show tomorrow (Wednesday) about my cartooning experiences. Whoa. About six hours from now. Better get some sleep. I didn't realize that not having a job could be a full-time job...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Gingerly sticking my big toe into the blogoshere

Welcome to Crowson Blog. I'm a late-comer to the blogosphere. Thought about doing it for a long time but found myself wondering: Who are bloggers talking to? Is it a "dear diary" sort of deal, but posted on a billboard? Is it a note-in-a-bottle kind of thing, where you just toss it into the ocean and hope the right person eventually fishes it out? Is it a Poor Richard's Almanac situation, or more accurately, a Poor Everyman's Almanac? Could it be a manifestation of humankind's deep need to communicate in an age of isolation? Is it ego craving attention?
I don't know. All I know is: Here I am and if you're reading this, there you are. And please know that you're welcomed here.
It's a strange thing, being a newspaper editorial cartoonist who gets suddenly laid off. For years one puts one's work out there in the newspaper, getting the occasional irate reader comment in the form of a letter or a phone call, now and then a compliment as well. Yet that 30-years experience did not prepare me for the response I have recently gotten from readers regarding the end of my Wichita Eagle career.
The comments of encouragement have been overwhelming, to put it mildly. So many warm thoughts from so many folks that I've never met -- even from politicians that I have been skewering for years! It will take me a while but I'll answer every one of those emails, swear to God. And it does look like I'll have a little spare time for such things now.
This reminds me of something, this business of being a kind of public figure who is thrust out of the limelight and then has the privilege of hearing generous remarks from people about oneself. It reminds me, not to be morbid or anything, of that scene in Tom Sawyer where Tom sneaks into his own funeral and gets moved by the eulogies about himself. And it underscores to me how unbelievably fortunate I have been to have had this wacky cartooning job for all these years. How many people work their entire lives, performing their duties much more competently than I ever have, and receive scarcely any accolades for their efforts?
The funeral analogy stops there however. I am not dead, don't even have a cold. I feel pretty damn good and am looking forward to some exciting times and adventures. Got a few emails to answer first, though. Thank you for that.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Test Post

Now is the time.