weekend I attended a memorial service for nationally-known
illustrator Don Punchatz, an amazing man for
whom I was privileged to have once worked.
The memorial was an opportunity for Don's friends
and family to share stories or anecdotes
lovely man with one another. About a hundred
people arrived at the auditorium and, after
about a dozen brave souls entertained us with
concerning Don or his famous Sketch Pad Studio,
I decided it was my turn to speak.
I had a story ready but made the mistake of
coming unprepared and unrehearsed. Compounding
this mistake was the fact that the moment I began
speaking it suddenly occurred
to me exactly how important Don had been to the
most important time of my life, and so my all-too-brief
offering was unexpectedly clouded by a wave of
left the stage to warm applause but very dissatisfied
with myself as, wracked with emotion, I was unable
to say everything I wanted.
This has eaten at me for the past two day and so the following
is what I had meant to say:
In the summer of 1977 I arrived home after my
3-to-midnight shift at the machine shop. My radio
was still on, just as I'd left it, tuned to a
low-powered, left-wing public radio station.
The midnight DJ was interviewing
some strange guy who said he was looking for
artists for his new fantasy magazine. It was
going to the American version of Heavy Metal.
This strange person was Don Punchatz.
As it happened I'd been working on such a project
in my spare time, and the next day I went down
to Don's studio and showed him my meager portfolio.
I was surprised when he hired me on the spot,
though I was to play only a very minor creative
role among my much more talented peers already
in the studio.
I only worked for Don for about five months,
at which time I left to earn my
illustration degree, but this brief period
changed my whole life.
You see, Don Punchatz was the key to a door that
opened onto a vast new world. Each day has been an adventure
and I've met good friends and extraordinary people
purely as a result of Mr. Punchatz's largesse.
Don didn't have to run the Sketch Pad Studio.
He didn't have to hire art students and
take the time to teach them how to be professional
illustrators, but he did. Looking back on what
he accomplished it took the patience of a saint
to juggle all the disparate artistic sensibilities
in his employ and not go broke or insane in the
There's no way of knowing what my life would
have been like had I walked into my apartment
that fateful summer night but there's no doubt
I am the better for it.
More importantly, I think that Don had this same
effect on everyone he met. I know that there
of people out there enjoying the benefits of
Don's spirit and his generosity at this very
minute. I hope they realize it, too.
The magazine was never printed
which, to me, is even more remarkable. It's as though fate had planted
the seed of the idea in his head just to give
him a reason to reach out and help me find a
life that has never been boring.
So, thank you, Don.
Thank you for everything.