by Christina Whiting
Even if you’ve never met Lorraine Williams in person, you’ve probably met her cartoon self in print a time or two. Her cartoon series, “You Know You’re in a Small Town When…,” depicts the ups and downs of small town life.
After a five-year hiatus, Williams is returning to cartooning with a renewed focus and a different slant.
“This time, I’m going to incorporate situations that are uniquely Homer,” she said. “The way we dress, the lack of light, tourism, fishing of course.”
The only characters that Williams is sure she’ll bring back from her other series are her husband Darren, her dog Molly, her mother-in-law Joyce, and of course herself.
“I have no problem cartooning about my own joys and challenges,” she said. “It’s only fair that if I’m going to include friends, family and neighbors, I include myself as well.”
She believes it wasn’t so much her particular characters that were most popular before, but the different situations that people could relate to — like hauling water, chopping wood or drinking out of jars instead of glasses.
This time around, Williams’ goal is to be more intentional with her cartoons.
“I’m a different person than I was a few years ago,” she said, “and I’m more intentional in my life in general. I’m sure this will show up in my art.”
Williams was motivated to live more intentionally after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. Amid this time of growing health concerns, she consciously decided to take a break from drawing.
“I was becoming more and more concerned with my health,” she said. “So my cartoons dwindled down until I stopped drawing all together. As soon as my last deadline was done, I took a break. Cancer was in my head all the time. I stopped drawing and nothing was funny anymore.”
When the cancer spread to her lungs, Williams underwent chemotherapy. That was two years ago. Today, she is cancer-free.
“Breast cancer taught me that you have to listen to your gut,” she said. “You have to make decisions without really knowing if you are right and be OK with them. You need to put aside your fears and trust God with the results. Life is lived one day at a time, and no one has all the answers.”
Williams and her husband have a deep-rooted faith. Darren has been the pastor of Refuge Chapel since 2002, ministering non-denominational services to a congregation of about 50 people. Williams leads worship services once a month, and even her church family is not exempt from her cartoons.
“I have a series of cartoons on the church, but I try to stay out of the political arena,” she said.
Williams’ inspiration for her creativity came at a young age, when she met classmate Kathy Perkins in the fifth grade.
“Kathy liked to draw and she played the piano,” Williams said. “Together, we invented characters, drawing and making fun of our teachers and classmates.”
Throughout young adulthood, Williams cartooned for fun. She submitted her comic strips to newspapers, hoping they’d be syndicated.
Williams moved to Homer from California in 1983. While attending the Alaska Bible School, she met Darren. The couple married and moved back to California in 1987 to be closer to family.
They returned to Homer in 1999, when Darren was sent to start Calvary Chapel. Williams set up the piano studio where she still teaches, and began creating cartoons based on life in a small town.
She published two volumes of her cartoons into books. Volume one is out of print, but volume two is available at Fireweed Gallery, Cosmic Kitchen, K Bay Caffe, Land’s End, Spit Sisters and the Homer Bookstore.
Inspiration came easily after leaving the city for Homer.
“Everything inspired my drawings,” she said. “I couldn’t help it. I tell what I see. I was just stating the obvious. That’s my job. I remember a local man coming up to me and saying, ‘I didn’t know we were that funny.’”
Williams appreciates living in a community that inspires her humor and creativity.
“I love how you can walk into town looking like a dog-face and nobody cares,” she said. “Like today, I went to the beach to get coal and got really muddy. I didn’t have time to run home and change, so I stopped at Salvation Army and got a pair of plaid pants. I put them on at the church where Darren was waiting for me. It was the weirdest outfit – it was actually disturbing. But what was more disturbing is that nobody said anything. We went to the bank, to the senior center, all over town and nobody said anything.”
Williams’ cartoons will appear weekly in the Homer Tribune.
Meet your Neighbor shares the story of residents of Homer and the surrounding area. If you’d like to suggest someone for a story, contact Christina Whiting at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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