So, I became an on-again off-again jack-of-all-trades assistant to Al Williamson. Sometimes I lettered, sometimes I colored, sometimes I did breakdowns, sometimes I penciled backgrounds and other times Cindy and I just visited and I brought my own stuff to work on. Early on, Al and Cori would put me up in the spare bedroom downstairs where I found complete collections of Hal Foster’s PRINCE VALIANT and TARZAN and Alex Raymond’s FLASH GORDAN clipped from newspapers and bound in spiral notebooks. Over my many working visits, I got to read them all. Talk about an education!
Al had a regular group of local creative types who met with for lunch at the local diner. The tone of these gatherings was often hilarious with everyone razzing everyone else in a good natured way. Al’s ongoing banter with the waitresses, who gave as good as they got, was most memorable. Everyone knew that if Al was razzing you it meant he loved you.
But the best part of working with Al was watching him ink. His hands moved in the most incredible way; rotating the pen or brush from the wrist which is how he got those elegant swooping lines. By the 1980’s, when I was lucky enough to work with him, he’d become so much more than an Alex Raymond clone; having absorbed every great inking style of the last 100 years and made it his own.
I was penciling the ABRAXAS piece above when Al walked by my desk and said “Tell you what, sport– when you finish with that, why don’t you let me ink it?.” Although my figure work wasn’t up to his standards, Al seemed naturally attracted to the organic shapes I used in my pencils. He would ink them in a very relaxed manner; just for the damn fun of it. And the gorgeous textures that flowed from his pen are the indelible record of an authentic master’s performance art. Click on the image to see a larger version and check out what I mean.