Robert Scott McLaughlin was not only a friend but he was a brother to me. A fellow artisan, philospher, scholar and comedian. His influence will be always in my work. We lost Bob this year (2007) as he lost his fight with diabetes.
Bob was buried at St John's cemetary in Norwalk, Connecticut. It was a gray and cloudy day. The trees were all turning bright fall colors and I was surrounded by his friends and family. When I was asked to place an item in his box for him to remember me by all I could remember was a blue pencil. When I first met Bob he introduced me to the blue pencil as a tool to sketch with. I've been using one ever since.
He was the most unassuming person I have ever met and he was an incredible talent. He worked as an illustrator and designer for most of his life producing animated features and wayfinding systems that contained unique marks and characters. I was lucky enough to spend many years as a friend and collaborator. I owe very much of my inspiration and work to Bob.
I was asked to come to his funeral and give his eulogy. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to do this for my good friend and ally. I give it to you here.
We loved Bob didn't we? He was a good guy. He was all good.
When Pat McLaughlin, Bob's father, asked me to give the eulogy, I could hear Bob's voice say, "What do you want to do that for?!" The truth is, I never thought this daywould ever happen, but I couldn't imagine saying, no. I figure Bob would either really love or really hate what I have to say. So I have a 50-50 shot, which is usually the odds with Bob.
Bob has been my friend since the summer of 1989. My friend Mark Buschbacher rented a room in a house where Bob also was staying in Tempe, AZ. I helped Mark move in. Bob wasn't home at the time but we had to go through his room to get to the back yard. As soon as I walked in his room I knew this guy was gonna be my friend. He had pictures pasted up on his walls of famous comic book art done by artists we both admired, John Byrne being our favorite. It was only a day later and we began to spend time together.
I remember introducing myself as I usually do, very forward and very frank. Bob, very precautionary was a little suspect. But as we began to share our common knowledge and passion for illustration the windows opened wide and the air came freely flowing in.
Soon after I rented a different house and Bob, Mark, Jim and I became roommates. Bob and I started what we called "drawing sessions." We would pick a topic on anything and try to draw a cartoon to that caption. The idea was to think of something as fast as we could. It was great fun. We both aspired in our dreams of becoming comic book artists. Together we would push each other as we created new pieces that we hoped would send us in the right direction.
I have some explaining to do. I know that some people didn't understand Bob's fascination with mythical creatures. I confess, I am partly to blame for encouraging this side of him. You see I also have this fascination. Bob's early days were alot like mine. He grew up playing in the east with the same kind of toys and watching the same kind of tv shows as I did growing up in the midwest. He would spend money on comic books and Mad magazines and Dungeons and Dragons lead figures. So did I. He grew up loving the art work of Frank Frazetta, Berni Wrightson, Charles Vess, Boris Valejo and Neal Adams. So did I. These names probably mean nothing to anyone who has first heard them. But to Bob and I these names were enormous. I knew all these names before I met Bob. They were the elite professionals and Bob knew that.
The ultimate illustrators of anatomy, the macabre and drama. Every painting, every illustration, every sketch we would compare and contrast, debate, and fanatically drool over. We wanted to be one of these guy because there was something in their work that really moved us deep down and it still does like an itch you can't quite reach or a ringing in your ear that only you can hear. So you see, when you go into Bob's room and see his creature collection for the first time knowing this, then you see the bigger picture. It was all for inspiration; his love and fascination with the extra-ordinary in art an sculpting. As a side note, Bob and I had a rule for these toys, that if the hands weren't sculpted just right it wasn't worth getting, but if the character was worthless and HAD cool hands then he bought it on the spot.
Shortly after that we became roommates we gathered our best artwork together because one of our favorite artists was coming to town in Phoenix and we wanted to met him. Arthur Adams, was one of Bob's all time favorite artists. We took our work to him and were really encouraged. We met with other artists over the years. Two in particular Peter David and Dale Keowyn, artist and writer for the revised Hulk comic book. This was incredibly exciting for us because we followed their work for years. Bob created a very large painting of Dr. Strange fighting an enormous mythical beast and I created a large page of Fantastic Four's the Thing fighting Captain Britain. They too gave us frank feedback that encouraged us to keep up with our work.
Over the years we collaborated on many things, pen and ink drawings, wall murals, photoshop illustrations and even kicked around stories. We never pursued doing anything with it together, I think it was because if we had it would become work and then it wouldn't have been fun anymore. The fun was in doing the art together because it didn't feel like work.
Bob's artistic abilities were utterly amazing. When I would haphazardly draw something that looked out of whack, he would strategically place an element in his piece so simply that it became elegant, balanced and considered. He was brilliant at composition and taught me the value of "less is more."
I always tried to do my best work to impress because I fiercely respected his opinion. If he liked it I knew I was on the right track. We spent hours, I mean hours discussing comic book art and how it should be made. All facets of it. He loved gritty detailed well drawn work. Our real heroes were the comic book artists themselves. We dissected so much of the genre that it seemed like we became experts at it. This is why he had such a profound effect on me, and still does today. I lived with Bob until 1992. Four years in all. Our saturdays were so ritualistic that do this day on most saturdays if it's quiet at my house I can feel myself thinking," today is the kind of day I used t go into Bob's room and see what he was working on." then I'd ask him, " do you want to go to the comic book shop and get some food?" He'd always say yes and off we'd go.
One way I could always make Bob laugh was by bringing up his least favorite artist of all time, Herb Trimp. Bob thought he was horrible. If we saw any artwork that was just awful we'd say "yeah, well at least Herb Trimp didn't do it!"
In 1990 Bob began working as a full time artist with Communication Design. He worked along side Maryanne Mollerup, Jim Weingard and Todd Haughton. He began doing what he loved, bringing his characters to life commercially. He created many memorable characters which Maryanne had the pleasure of animating. "Howie Dean," an invisible detective. "Sherman," a 3D explorer, funny fish, a lady riding a camel, an archeologist and so on. He was a natural at creating characters, it seemed like there was nothing he couldn't draw. Each character had a piece of himself in them, it was noticeable especially in the eyes, the hands or the mouth.
In 1993 Bob went to Disneyland with another group of friends. They all got candy necklaces and he made a contest with one of the girls to see who could wear the necklace the longest, which made him giggle the entire time. He loved to laugh at anything absurd and ridiculous. I'll never forget the season that the Simpson's first came on television. I have never seen someone laugh as hard as Bob that year. I know that Bob loved the writers on that show more than any other. It was the best time of the week and we made sure to be there for it.
Bob knew my Mom and Dad, my sister, my brother and all my friends. I made sure they knew him. He was like my own brother and I was so proud to introduce him as my friend. I'd have to say in many ways Bob put up with me. If we were brothers then I was definitely the typical "little brother" always getting into his stuff, trying to spend more time with him than he would want, borrowing things without returning them. But he never turned me away and he always wanted me to keep calling on him even when he acted like he had enough. His sense of humor was contagious. I would do my best to try to make him laugh because I loved to hear that sound. It came from his gut. It was so distinct and explosive. Often times, we would finish each others sentences and then start laughing. It was so much fun to be with him. He had such a unique view on life and loved simple ironies. He lived really simply and that was another thing that impressed me about him. He never let himself get caught up in a trend or a gimmick. He could see right through that stuff.
Bob loved the outdoors, especially camping and hiking. We camped on several occasions. On one of them, we were unpacking our gear and Bob had been going through his things. He put a shoelace around his neck for just a second. He went to grab something else and then we heard him start to scream out, "AAAA, AAAA AAAA." "What, what is it?" we yelled. He thought a snake had gotten on him and was whipping around trying to get it off. That weekend we kept a keen eye for killer shoelaces.
Bob loved all living things. Plants and animals especially. We once took in a stray dog that became Bob's named "Mojo." He cared for her very much. He was kind hearted toward all animals and felt that they played a special part in creation. He took real pleasure in taking care of plants and felt at home pruning and watering them. He understood the value of the natural world and he drew strength and inspiration from it.
Death is temporary. Life is eternal. Whenever there is death, new life comes from it. We see it every year and every season. Eternity is no different.
God; whatever you call him-however you think of him, God is a God of the living not of the dead.
Bob gave us a great reminder, that one day we all are going to be with the great creator. The memory of Bob will live with us forever. We all want to see him again. We can still be with Bob, remembering him and helping him. In our daily routine we can offer up small sacrifices for the memory of Bob and speak with him intimately. We can remind him of our love for him and tell him of our hope of one day being with him in a place where there is no more suffering, just love.
If this sounds like a prayer, then maybe it is. Let Bob hear our little prayers and intentions reminding him all the more how we will never stop loving him, how he lives on in eternity with us. And, one day when we close our eyes and let the sun shine on our face and offer him a prayer of peace, he will be smiling back at us with that twinkle in his eyes and say, "thank you, I miss you too."
Bob, you will always be apart of what I do. I dedicate my work to you and I will never be able to fully repay you. I will tell stories of you to my friends and family. I will make sure to keep your memory alive in my art.
May God Bless and keep you until I see you again.
below is a hand written note Bob left on my door during a night when as his roomate we had a dinner party...
painting by Robert S. McLaughlin ©1992
This is a glimpse of some of my professional and experimental work.
Alot of people ask me about my car.
It's just plain fun. Read about it here.
These are people in my life who have
had a major influence upon me and my
work. I owe them much.