Jan Eliot Contributes 10 Years of ‘Stone Soup’ Originals to Ohio State

Noted Oregonian and long-time “Stone Soup” cartoonist Jan Eliot recently posted on social media about her permanent contribution of 10 years of “Stone Soup” comic originals to the Billy Ireland Museum at Ohio State University in Columbus. The Daily Cartoonist asked her some probing follow-up questions.


TDC: You recently donated 10 years of Stone Soup comic originals to Ohio State. Why just 10 years? Is it ten years of 365 strips?

JE: To ease into it! I’ll be donating my entire collection and my “papers,” meaning all those old rejection letters. The rest will go to OSU soon.

TDC: Why Ohio State? Did you approach them? 

JE: The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum is the biggest and best archive of cartoon art, going all the way back to the great New Yorker cartoonist James Thurber. I had originally planned on donating to my alma mater, University of Oregon, but in talking with Jenny Robb at OSU I realized that if I wanted all my work archived, not just a small portion, the Billy Ireland was the best choice. Their new building is amazing, the archive rooms incredible. My first conversations about donating to OSU were with Lucy Caswell, the wonderful librarian who originally started the collection in the ‘70s.

TDC: What’s the process like to prep them for archive? 

JE: My files are fairly organized, by date in flat files. Each stack is marked with the dates in that stack. I photographed all the drawers for the library and the movers so that they could estimate the size of the project. After that, the art movers arrived and took care of the rest (while I tried not to hover).

TDC: Is there an exhibit in the works? 

JE: Oh, I wish. Maybe someday!

TDC:  Some syndicated cartoonists can’t give away their originals fast enough … others hold onto their entire body of work. Were you one or the other? Or somewhere in between? 

JE: In between. When the Library of Congress asked for strips I was absolutely thrilled. Who wouldn’t want their work preserved and shown in such a hallowed place? I feel the same way about the Billy Ireland. Oh, and I also have several Stone Soup strips in the Kinsey Institute’s Erotic Art Collection. I think that’s a riot.

Lee Salem advised me in the beginning to hang on to the early stuff, and I’ve pretty much followed his advice. My donation to OSU includes my very first cartoon strip “Patience and Sarah,” published from 1979-81. Over the years, I have sold “Stone Soup” originals when requested, and donated many to charity auctions. At this point, I have produced over 8,000 comic strips, so parting with 20 or so every year has been no big deal to me. There is a woman in Illinois who has purchased at least six of the “You Gotta Love August” strips for her lake house. When someone is especially touched by a strip it makes me happy for them to own it.

But I have to admit that watching a full 10 years get boxed up and loaded onto a truck made me a bit wistful. Like watching your baby leave home. And, at the same time, so proud of my achievement and grateful to OSU for offering to house and protect the artwork.

TDC:  Are you still creating pen on paper for your syndicated work today? 

JE: Yup. The feel of pen on paper, the quiet in my studio with no sound but wind in the trees and birds chirping, I find very relaxing and peaceful. Once the artwork is finished the computer comes on, the scanner hums, Photoshop opens up for coloring…I love that part too but it’s a completely different sensation. And the feel of a stylus does not compare to the feel of a Gillott 303 or a good pencil. All due respect to my Cintiq-loving peers of course.

TDC: What’s the worst syndicated comic?

JE: Hahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

Twitter: @stonesoupcomics ?

GoComics: https://www.gocomics.com/stonesoup

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