As you might expect from a cartoonist, Bob Heim is quick on the draw.
“Give me some initials,” he says.
OK. How about “T” and “L?”
Heim, 78, of Wilkes-Barre, carefully drew a T and an L on a piece of paper earlier this week, then added squiggles and circles and lines and, almost instantly, created the face of a long-nosed fellow who appeared to have a story to tell.
Whatever your initials are, Heim probably can turn them into a fascinating little portrait — and that’s just one of the artistic ways he expects to interact with anyone who stops by the 24-hour “Cartoonathon” he has planned from midnight this morning to midnight tonight in the restaurant lobby at the Genetti Hotel & Conference Center in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
“I work without a net,” he said, cheerfully. Much of what he expects to do will be impromptu.
Stop by and Heim might give you a little art lesson, or sketch a picture for you, or at least share some puns.
If you bid on some of his artwork or decide to make a donation — nothing’s mandatory — proceeds will benefit the Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Pennsylvania Chapter.
Heim chose that charity because he has friends on the board not because any close relatives suffered from the disease.
So why 24 hours?
“I once realized I’d been up for 20 hours,” he explained, and since that was so close to 24, it planted the germ of an idea for an all-day endurance contest.
And why Genetti’s?
“Because it’s open all night; there’s light and security.”
How will he stay awake?
“I’ll get back to you,” he said with a laugh.
A native of the Williamsport area, Heim calls himself a “nocturnal optimist.”
He’s also “a self-taught doodler” and “self-taught cartoonist.”
“My training was probably clouds,” he said. “As a child, I’d look at clouds and see faces and things.”
Over the years he has worked as a commercial pilot, in public relations and as a writer for the former Sunday Independent newspaper. He spent several weeks in Vietnam in 1972 as a journalist, writing about the last Marine Corps tactical unit to serve there.
After his wife, Ruth, died four years ago, Heim downsized into a compact apartment where he has set up a tidy — and tiny — studio.
The place is big enough to hold some furniture, a lemon tree he grew from seeds and many cartoons that attest to the artist’s puckish affection for puns.
Among them, he once drew a little old lady with price tags dangling from her clothes and from the hoe in her hand. She appears ready to work in a garden, in which actual human fingers and thumbs appear to sprout from the “second-hand rows.”
“The year we had aunts” — that’s the cover image of a book he put together in 2004 — shows female relatives invading a house. They’re sitting on the roof, wielding a broom, climbing a ladder and peeking from every window.
Then there’s the executive behind the desk at the firearms company, who is dictating into a hand-held device: “Effective immediately, Marketing will refrain from use of the words Target Market when identifying potential customers.”
Oh, and don’t forget the sketch of the person talking to “Admissions.” It’s probably a hospital, but the person is ‘fessing up to all sorts of things: “When I was 3 I ate a bug. I winked at a sailor on my 13th birthday. I forgot to brush my teeth before a job interview …”