Happy Father’s Day, Dad
I'm trying to think of just the right card to make my dad for Father's Day.
Now I'm sure that plenty of people think they have the greatest dad in the world, but I know that I do! If you were one of the kids living in my neighborhood when I was young, you may have noticed my father hop on his bicycle on warm summer days and pedal the short distance to where he worked.
Many of my friends' dads carried briefcases and took the train into the city to go to their jobs, but my dad's office was a tiny, one-room building that used to be a tailor's shop in downtown Princeton, New Jersey.
His office was actually his studio, because my father, Henry Martin, was a freelance cartoonist and artist. (He's semi-retired now.) This means he made his living creating and selling original works of art to publications. Most of his cartoons were a single drawing with a funny caption to accompany the illustration, and he liked to focus on the themes of humor in the business world or in family life. With his artistic skill, he provided "spot drawings" for The New Yorker, a well-known literary magazine, for many years. (Spot drawings are small illustrations that accompany the text of a story, and are placed on the top, bottom or sides of the article.) As a struggling freelance artist, Dad was happy to take on any paying job. For example, the owner of a kitchen supply store in town asked him to paint a huge mural on the outside wall of the back of the store. Another time his task was to paint flowers on a tennis backboard. How many dads do you know who could do neat stuff like this? My sister and I thought he had the coolest job in town!
Because my dad worked for himself and did not have to report to a boss at any particular time, it was very important for him to be disciplined with his work schedule. He left our house early every morning to go to his studio, where he would spend the day creating material to submit to different publications in the hope that some would be accepted and published. He kept charts that listed the names and addresses of over fifty magazines and newspapers that regularly published cartoons. When a cartoon was completed, he would submit it to the publication which he felt would be most likely to accept it. If the cartoon was accepted, he would be paid for his work. If it was not, he would send it off to the next most likely magazine.
Sometimes my father brought his unfinished sketches home when he had a deadline to meet. Instead of an easel, he worked on a flat board placed across the front of his armchair. I remember standing right beside his chair, not saying a word, intently watching every single move he made. Looking back, I can imagine how distracting (and annoying!) this must have been, but he never complained. I know now that he had the patience of a saint!
Several years after my first book was published, I followed in my father's footsteps and launched my own freelance career. Something tells me that being Henry Martin's daughter had a lot to do with this decision! By watching my father over the years, I learned firsthand about the kind of commitment and discipline that is necessary in order to be successful at a job. My father's diligence paid off when he became well-known as a regular contributor to The New Yorker, and I am very proud whenever I see one of his cartoons reprinted.
What a great dad I had. Because of his flexible schedule he could always come to school events. Even better, my sister and I grew up in a house full of art materials and books, and we were frequently taken to circuses and magic shows, and into New York City to attend Broadway musicals.
Next month, Dad will turn 75. Three generations will help him celebrate the big day, since Dad is now a grandad, known to his grandson as Poppy.
Happy Father's Day, Dad!