BY KIRK DOUGAL

Times Bulletin Editor

kdougal@timesbulletin.com

Gerald Strawser says he would still be drawing even if no one else ever saw his work.

Such is his love of the art, a love that began when he was only a small boy of three or four years of age. He laughs at the memory, joking that the drawings probably consisted of stick figures that ended up on the refrigerator.

But his love was not just a child's infatuation as Strawser found out once he was in high school. He took as many art classes as were offered and after his graduation from Lincolnview, he went on to study at Clark Technical College, now known as Clark State Community College, in Springfield, Ohio. In between he worked for about five years in different factory jobs.

Once he had earned his Associate Degree in Business with a major in Commercial Art in 1976, he knew he wanted to work in the art field on a permanent basis. He worked for some of the advertising agencies around Dayton for several years and eventually ended up at Valor Enterprises in Piqua.

It was during his time at Valor that Strawser worked on projects that all of Van Wert County has seen - even if we did not know it was his work. Valor consisted of a world headquarters and nine divisions and Strawser was in charge of the artwork for their advertising. In addition, he also worked on some of Valor's private label contracts, one of which was Radio Shack. At one point his technical drawings appeared in nearly every Radio Shack outlet around the country and included the store in Van Wert.

But as has so often been the case in recent years, Valor moved many of its jobs out of the country and Strawser's whole department was sent to Mexico in the mid-1990's. That led to his move back to Van Wert County.

His love of drawing never diminished, however.

"I just like the creative aspect of being able to come up with something unique," he said.

Strawser has been the editorial cartoonist for The Times Bulletin for the past 11 months and he really enjoys being able to have his work seen again. He understands that editorial cartoons are an opinion piece, much like the editorials themselves, and that not everyone will like what he draws. Lately, he has been trying to make his work with a touch of humor but so many subjects this year, like the high unemployment and loss of the Kongsberg facility, have been such serious events he has not been able to inject some comic relief very much up to this point. Strawser did go out of his way, however, to point out that he never tries to be mean-spirited about any of his subjects, only that he is trying to shed light on the items to start conversations between the readers and in the community.

His process stays relatively the same each week. He watches the news and reads the newspaper in search of what people are talking about and what they think is important. By Monday or Tuesday he usually has it narrowed down to his subject material and has begun a sketch. The amount of time spent on each drawing is determined by how detailed he makes the drawing and if any research is needed. For instance, the recent drawing he created of "The Day the Music Died" involved trips to the library to find photos of Buddy Holly and the others so he could make it as realistic as possible. The whole process usually takes between 2-5 hours for each one and he normally completes them while sitting in front of the television on Tuesday night. Strawser says he rarely needs to start completely over if he does not like the work when it is completed but it is not unusual to refine some details here and there during the creation.

The one thing that has not changed, however, is his love of drawing. From the time when it was stick figures to his days working as a commercial artist to now when he creates editorial cartoons for The Times Bulletin, Strawser has continued to draw and will probably always do so. He laughs though when asked about how much further he would like to take his work.

"Everyone wants to be rich," he says, his laugh booming out. "But as far as I'm concerned, you can keep the famous. No matter what happens, I am happy."