Where do you get your ideas? That is, without a doubt, the question I am asked the most. The No. 2 question would be, “How far ahead do you work?” No. 3 would be, “Do you ever work in just your underwear?” And so it goes, but the first question probably outnumbers all other work-related questions combined. The above classic A&J reminds me of another, older Sunday A&J cartoon, which reminds me of a story. I am sorry, but I don’t have immediate access to the second cartoon, or I would be showing it instead.
The cartoon you’re not seeing also features Arlo and Janis in the yard, gardening. Janis is planting flowers, and Arlo is assisting. Janis is depicted wearing a comfortable knit tank top. As she leans over to plant another seedling, the top gaps open slightly. Subtly, Arlo also leans forward for a more advantageous perspective. Then, he sits back and thinks to himself, “There’s just something about a peek.” Silly, huh? Well, to this day, that remains the most commented upon A&J comic strip I’ve ever produced. People, many of them women, loved it and told me so. Apparently, there is something about a peek.
So, where did that idea come from? From a frame shop, of all places. I had brought something in to be custom framed, and the proprietress, a smartly attired lady, was assisting me. My project was spread between us on her work table, and we were discussing mats. She was wearing a scoop-neck Angora sweater of bright yellow. When she leaned forward to shuffle samples around my artwork, it was clear the sweater had nothing underneath but her. I suppose the ultimate act of gentlemanly sacrifice would have been to look away entirely. I can’t say I did that, but I did the next best thing. I tried to concentrate on the task at hand and pretend nothing was more important than selecting the right mat. Soon, I was out of the shop and gone. It was, in the scheme of things, an absolutely insignificant and irrelevant happening. But I remembered it! And it inspired what is arguably the most popular Arlo & Janis strip ever. Go figure.