I stumbled upon Chipper one day when I was poking around my father’s art and photography room in the basement. I found a stack of published materials advertising a church camp–newsletters, programs, bulletins–and Chipper was everywhere on those pages. I was in awe. My Dad drew that! And I was captivated. I want to do that!
I’m telling you, Chipper spoke to me that day. That squirrel awakened a desire within me. I couldn’t have articulated it then, but I know now that my heart was answering back to Chipper: I want to be able to draw characters that can speak to people just like you are talking to me.
In an earlier life, my father had a career in art and display, but by the time I came along he was a carpenter by trade. From time to time he would create his talking artwork for church projects or to commemorate special occasions for personal friends. Every time he did, his creations spoke to me, and I was entranced with fascination.
I think my father would have liked to have been a professional cartoonist. He used to tell us kids the story of when he took a cartooning class. On the first day, the art instructor walked around the room to assess the abilities of his new students. When he saw what my father could do, he asked him if he was a professional just brushing up on his skills. I could tell that meant a lot to my Dad.
He had more than a talent. He had a gift. And I know it gave him joy to use it. But as the years passed, he used that gift less and less frequently until, one day, he put it away for good.
I don’t know why he put that gift away. I don’t know what happened.
But, to this day, Chipper still talks to me. And one day recently I thought about all the other people my Dad’s cartoon characters could have spoken to if he hadn’t put that gift–and, I suspect, that dream–away. And I cried.
I almost put my gift away, too. But I’m sharing my gift now, and I also wanted to share his gift with you. You see, there are two things I know that I’m not sure my father realizes.
He has a real gift.
He gave that gift to me.
(All images used without the expressed permission of Bud Hamlin.)