From fan to humanitarian: How Asheville web designer contributed to book honoring master illustrator/cartoonist

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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chris_cul-de-sac_richard_thompson_ashevilleChris Sparks is all fan and all passion, and he’s channeled that energy into a remarkable effort to raise money to fight Parkinson’s disease.

It started a few years back when Sparks, of Sparking Design, connected with cartoonist Richard Thompson to help him with a website. Sparks knew of Thompson’s work as an illustrator and cartoonist, most notably on the popular Cul de Sac strip. What Sparks came to learn was that Thompson was battling Parkinson’s, a disease that would end his career.

In 2012, Sparks pulled together original works of a cast of stars in the cartooning world to create a book called Team Cul de Sac: Cartoonists Draw the Line at Parkinson’s. A portion of the proceeds of the book’s sale benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation. At the 2013 Eisner Awards, Sparks was awarded the Bob Clampett Humanitarian Award for his work. His project has raised $200,000 for the foundation.

Now Sparks is back as a contributor to another book honoring Thompson’s lifetime of work. The book is called The Art of Richard Thompson. It is an amazing collection showcasing a most talented artist. Sparks will be selling and signing the book from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Grove Arcade in downtown Asheville on Saturday. Twenty percent of the sale of the book will also go to the Isaac Dickson Elementary School PTO. (The new book is not related to the Team Cul de Sac fundraising effort.)

“It’s the most important art book you’ll ever read in terms of seeing someone’s progression from illustrator to cartoonist,” Sparks told me during a recent interview. “The range of his work is beyond anything people will recognize.”

“One of the hardest part was narrowing down the art. The guy has tens of thousands of pieces of art. How do you narrow that down? You arm wrestle a lot and argue,” Sparks joked. We have a great selection to see a cross section of his work.”

Here’s the Daily Cartoonist on the Thompson book:

This Tuesday “The Art of Richard Thompson” will hit book shelves everywhere. In one word, let me sum up the experience of reading this book: craft. Richard Thompson is a master of his craft – whether it is illustration, caricature or cartooning, his work stands out as something extraordinary. Those of us who have seen Richard’s work, this isn’t new. But this book is more than just a collection of his work. It’s a treasure of information. Within the span of 220 or so pages are hundreds of examples of his work along with interviews with Richard by notable individuals who are well respected or masters of the craft themselves. It’s reading the transcript of a group of master craftsmen talking shop and picking Richard’s brain to see how he was able to create such a diverse body of work. …

Without question, those of us who aspire to be better cartoonists, who love the art and craft of cartooning, are rightly disappointed that Richard’s career has been cut short. Every piece of art featured in the book causes me to pause and admire that what often looks like errant scratchy lines is really a brilliant piece of art. Richard is, in my mind, one of the modern masters whose work will be studied and admired for decades. This book will certainly make it easier to showcase an amazing career in cartooning.

The Washington Post calls The Art of Richard Thompson (224 pages, Andrews McMeel)  “one of the most anticipated art-retrospective books of the year.”

Sparks said he’s happy to be associated with the Team Cul de Sac book, and now the new Thompson tome.

“With Team Cul de Sac, I knew what i wanted to do, but I didn’t know how much work would be involved and I didn’t know how lucky I was to know the right people and get the right breaks and get it in the pipeline,” Sparks said. “Everything just fell in place.”

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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