“I could draw ever since I could hold a pencil, or at least that’s mama’s favorite joke,” says Loren Bobbitt, leaning over the front counter display case at Gardner’s Pawn Shop.
She says her father, local artist Ernie Ross, was a big influence on her desire to draw.
“Some of my first memories are beside him at the kitchen table,” Bobbitt says. “He’d hand me his used-up paint brushes, and the paint bottles that had just a little bit left in them, and paint alongside him, and scribble. It’s just something that we always did together.”
Bobbitt, a Pulaski County native and longtime fan of comic books and superheroes, is talking about her childhood while rearranging several of her own hand-drawn, brightly-colored cards of Marvel Comics characters. She shows her artwork of the X-Men, and has just completed another set of cards commissioned by Marvel, based on their recent film, “Thor: The Dark World.”
The idea is that Bobbitt can either sell the cards on her own, or send them back to a printer, who will insert them randomly into sets of professionally-printed trading cards. If Bobbitt becomes famous and in demand as an artist later on, the original, one of a kind cards will be very valuable.
But Bobbit’s still talking quietly about how she got started. As a child, she says, she discovered sequential art.
“Comic books just came naturally to me. I picked them up in the fourth or fifth grade and got addicted with my first one,” she laughs. “I think it was just a natural thing. I loved the mix of story and pictures. With one picture, you’re stuck making up your own story, and you really don’t see movement. You just have to guess at what they were trying to tell you. When I picked up that first comic book, I was like, ‘Hey, you can tell a whole story in one page with several different little pictures!’ It sounds really goofy, but it just really clicked.”
In particular, Bobbitt says she was fascinated by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, first in their later, colorful, kid-friendly incarnations, and in her teens sought out the original version, drawn in black and white, with darker storylines. An especially happy moment of her life, according to Bobbitt, was meeting the Turtles’ creators, Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird.
“After them, I created my first character, because they don’t have a female in there, which I thought was kind of weird, so I created a female ninja turtle, Rondania,” reveals Bobbitt. “She was actually published in the Southwest Times for the longest time. She evolved. She went from being a ninja turtle to being part of an alien race. I created a whole story around her. At the time I had her on an island in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle. She went from that to being in space, in interplanetary wars. I haven’t done anything with her in years, though.”
Bobbit goes to comic book conventions and has met, to her absolute delight, artists, writers and actors like Alan Moore, Adam Hughes, James O’Barr (“I was a huge fan of him in my teens,” she says of “The Crow’s” creator. He was a great guy”), the late Mike Wieringo and Lou Ferrigno.
She also met one of her idols, who’s now her fiance: Kevin Sharp, a well-known penciller of several comics and Richmond native who worked for several years for a gaming company formerly based in Blacksburg. She approached him – set up at a table of his own, as are many artists at conventions – as a fan, but eventually they grew closer. Though he’s popular, Bobbitt says she has no interest in gaining recognition through him, preferring to be evaluated as an artist on her own merits.
That said, she readily admits she always liked his work and that he’s a big influence on her style, though he’s far from the only one. After rattling off a list of people, she adds, “I see something I like, how somebody draws a nose, I’ll try to mimic that. I see how somebody draws an eye, I’ll try to mimic that. So it’s a blur of several different artists. Adam Hughes, I’m trying to mimic him right now.”
Bobbitt is working towards making comic art a full-time job, but is modest about her talent and realistic about the work involved. “I’m in a midway point. I want it to be my career. I’m striving to be good enough, because in my opinion I’m not there yet,” she says.
Finally she’s also kind enough not to look down on anybody else. When the name of a very famous artist who is often mocked for his style, which some call unrealistic at best, comes up, she demurs, “I don’t think I’m at a skill level to be critical about anybody.”
To inquire about setting up a commission of Bobbit’s work, contact Gardner’s Pawn Shop at 980-1163.