Monday, May 31, 2004
Went to the tribute to Don Lawrence who died last Christmas. Christopher Weston read out a history of Don's life, spiced up with memories of his own time as apprentice. I found this an excellent insight into the man's life - from the published artwork it is very difficult to understand what people are like.
Don was a chain-smoker and self-confessed pot head. When Don was talking to Christopher's dad about the apprenticeship, he admitted that he smoked cannabis - not exactly what the father wanted to hear and he demanded his son was not introduced to the evil of drugs. Liam Sharp, an earlier apprentice, didn't have the same trouble! On one occasion, when pulling out drawers to show off artwork, a drawer of drying leaves was brought out - but not for too long before disappearing straight back in again.
I only knew him from his artwork for the Trigan Empire in Fleetway's Look & Learn (an educational magazine for children that ran from 1962-1982). This seems to be common in the UK as in Europe he is much better known, especially Holland where he was recently made Knight of the Order of Orange-Nassau. Don had produced The Trigan Empire for 11 years before being sacked (or resigned, according to the Guardian)- he had the affront to ask for more money when he discovered from his agent that the series was being sold well across Europe. Don wasn't helped in the UK by not having good writers to team up with - some of the stories he drew were great to look at but had poor script to make them worth reading.
His ability to draw from memory was exceptional - he very rarely used references (for drawing the detail of a hand, for example). Even moving horses were drawn straight to paper. Liam did try pointing out that a human ear Don had drawn didn't appear quite right but, after the look he received in return, decided not to comment again.
Towards the end of his life, a botched eye operation and subsequent infection caused the loss of his left eye and the depth perception essential to his work. Being unable to produce work as good as he wanted - and he was very hard on himself and others - dragged him down into bouts of depression.
Don received a lifetime achievement award but only once he had died. Christopher would be handing it to his widow, something that should not have had to be that way. Why did the industry have to wait until it was too late so guilt would force their hand.
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