Beyond a shadow of a doubt the most influential person in my entire life. Ray Larson was father, best friend, and role model all rolled into one.
Poppy was born in 1924 ( in the same hospital that I was). Growing up he read and drew a lot and was influenced at Lane Tech High School by a friend of his named Frank Westbrook, who went on to be an art director at J. Walter Thompson Advertising Agency. In 1942, Poppy was drafted into the army and became an M.P. ( he had wanted to be a pilot, but was color blind in one eye). He was shipped to Europe and fought in World War Two.
On leave in 1943
Some drawings that Poppy did while
After the war, he returned to the states. He finished high school. The G.I. Bill allowed him, and others to move forward in a direction that had not been given to previous generations. In 1947 he enrolled at The American Academy of Art where he studied illustration. He finished in 1950 about a month before he married my mother.
Despite being a very talented artist, Poppy never worked in the field. Instead he began working at Victor
Adding Machines. He had actually stopped doing artwork until he left Victor. In 1977, he suffered heart congestive failure. Because he had to take it easy, he found himself drawing and painting on a near regular basis.
In addition to being a superior draftsman, Poppy also was an expert model maker, sculptor, and chief. He would drive down to the lake and spend time sketching trees and birds.
Then he would stop at a house, take pictures of it, and construct a model of the house from scratch. He constructed all the costumes from the Wizard Of Oz for my brother Erik, built a Star Wars ice cave and G.I. Joe fortress for my nephew ( his grandson) Joey, and built a Batcave, a M*A*S*H camp, and Star Wars Skiff for me. His feeling was that he could build better toys for us than the toy companies could, and then went and proved it. He took pride in everything he did, and built it to the best of his abilities.
Poppy used to talk about how difficult it is to get work as an illustrator. I heard, from him and others, differing accounts of why he never worked professionally. I think that what it came down to was personal belief in himself and his abilities, as well as the difficulties that all artists must face: putting your work, and yourself, forward to be judged by the world. That is an extremely difficult thing to do and is, I believe, one of the reasons why there are more people out there doing what they love to do.
In 1994, Poppy passed away due to complications of a brain tumor. My life changed forever. He meant the world to me and left a huge legacy. I knew what would happen if I ever gave up doing what I wanted to. That thought combined with my need to honor him and make him proud determined where my life would head.
Today, May 10, 2011 would have been Poppy's 87th birthday. I still think about him everyday and hope that wherever he is, I am able to make him proud.