Says There Are Loads of Ideas If You Can Tune in for Them
Artist Also Gives Some of His Own History
Winston-Salem Journal (North Carolina), 4/26/1926
Where do I get my ideas? I sit down and tune in and try to catch them as they go past. There are loads of ideas everywhere, but you must be tuned to receive them. Some come from real life direct. Most situations, however, are evolved by putting imaginary characters in possible situations and imagining what the result would be. By trying this over and over, if the wind is right, if the magnetic currents are favorable and the barometer O.K., a usable idea may be produced. If it has enough human nature in it, it is good—otherwise not.
The habit of observation is the important thing, both as regards ideas and drawing.
My Skeezix is five years too old. He is nine years of age and I have to remember back for material from that source. I also must remember a lot of things which didn’t happen but which might have happened. That is one of the fortunate things about human interest stuff. You are not limited to what has happened, but you must not do things which would never happen.
Many ideas are sent in, but very few of them are usable. Many come in in some form of propaganda, which have to be weeded out carefully. A few ideas come from friends’ children.
Yes, some of the characters are real people.
Skeezix is sort of a composite inspired by what I can remember of my own Skeezix, Robert Drew King. Skeezix is not a real doorstep baby, left on a bachelor’s doorstep, though many stories come back to me from people who know somebody, who knows somebody else, who had a maid, who had worked for my wife’s cousin, that such was the case. Or, that I have a baby just Skeezix’s age, or have nine children to draw upon for ideas.
In speaking of stories, one which seemed to become almost simultaneously current in all parts of the country, arose from somewhere last summer. This explains the mystery of Skeezix’s birth by asserting that Walt was shell shocked in the war and had married Mrs. Blossom, who was a war nurse. Skeezix, being the child of that union. Walt, however, losing his memory, forgot the whole affair and is still in ignorance of Skeezix’s parentage. This I heard on both coasts and from many places between.
Walt is a real a character. He happens to be a long-suffering brother-in-law, and the original inspiration for Gasoline Alley.
He kept his car in a private garage, one of a string in the alley, back of his apartment near Sixty-third Street, Chicago. It was the bunch of car tinkerers who were garage neighbors that suggested the characters which have endured to the present time.
Walt (Walter Drew) was taken almost bodily and though he has suffered many fictions and slanders in the strip, still remains good natured and up to date has undertaken no reprisals.
Bill is another character kidnapped from the original alley bunch.
Avery is composite of a series of individuals I have come in contact with.
There are several claimants to Doc.
Mr. Wicker is pure fiction and Mrs. Blossom has been evolved from a suggestion a woman sent in. She said she was a widow and used to sit at home alone evenings and Sunday afternoon, until she got a “flivver” and kept it in a garage in the alley. Then she had numerous offers of help fixing and cleaning her car, plenty of company, and rides in bigger cars.
Hobbies? About everything but bridge and golf. I don’t like cards and gave up golf because I would rather save up my days and half days and get out with a pack outfit on the Arizona desert, or load up the car and hit the road out through the mountains or make a canoe cruise.
My wife usually goes along and has ridden a mule hundreds of miles across the desert and hit mountain trails and many thousands of miles of auto roads. Son Robert has accompanied us on many trips and is comfortable and happy under any outdoor conditions.
As to biography—here goes. Birthplace, Cashton, Wis., but tired of the town and moved to Tomah one month later. High chair, measles and arithmetic there, also higher education culminating in learned essay at graduation from high school entitled “Newspaper Art” It embraced everything I had learned since and much more. Stuck type for Tomah Journal and spent four years in art department of Minneapolis Times. Left to go to art school in Chicago, and Minneapolis Times collapsed one month later. Three years with Hearst but he didn’t know it. Then The Chicago Tribune, Motorcycle Mike, Bobby Make-Believe, Rectangle, Gasoline Alley, Walt and Skeezix.