Since leaving his hometown, former Stanfield resident Richard Florence has been gaining fame as a cartoonist and illustrator. Most recently, he has achieved extra notoriety for his work on the new NBC game show, “Family Game Fight!”
Now living in Westminster, Colorado, the Stanfield High School graduate, said he has good memories of his time in the area. He worked on farms, played with dirt and stayed out until curfew every night. He did not have cable, but he did not need it. He had plenty of friends, and there were even people who would prove influential in his future career.
His grandfather was one such person who left an impact. Florence remembers his grandfather having given him the newspaper every day. The young Florence would turn excitedly to the comics pages after receiving them from his grandfather. Alley Oop was his favorite comic strip, and Florence would learn to draw by tracing the comics.
He was drawing comics before he could even read
Another influential family member was his “crazy aunt,” who was a nude model in Portland in the 1930s.
“She was wild,” he said, but she did communicate her free spirit to him, as well as her love of art. She had a big box of comics that she would share with him. Pogo, Katzenjammer Kids and Dick Tracy were some of his favorites.
He also remembered long car trips with his family, in which he would read Archie comics.
In those early days, he fell in love with the sort of storytelling an artist could do with cartooning. He said, there is no way to do cartooning wrong. It is not the sort of realistic work done by classical painters. The difference is good because he did not think he had the ability to be the next Michelangelo. Making cartoons, he could be himself.
In school, instead of paying attention to classroom lessons, he drew. He drew dinosaurs, then spies, then Batman.
When he was young, he met a boarder who rented a room from his mother. The man shared his comics, underground comics — sometimes strange works from independent artists.
“It was eye-opening,” he said. When he read them, he realized he could say anything in a comic.
When he got a little older, he painted murals and signs around Stanfield. He met his wife, Ginger Florence, at the Umatilla County Fair in 1980. In 1981, he left town for the Art Institute of Colorado.
He published his first comic, “Hap Hazard,” in 1987. It is the story of a bumbling detective, and he still is doing it.
Then he started drawing manga for a Tokyo studio. He drew a 209-page-long story at the pace of 25 pages a month about his poodle and followed it up with a 179-page story on American life.
The Japanese were interested in his stories for a look into a different culture. When, for instance, he drew a drive-in, people thought it was interesting and foreign.
His work life was not all art, though. He worked for a phone company and made money. Art was a side project.
Then, he found a second life in animation. He learned flash animation, and realized that a one-man shop could make an entire show. It was like magic to him.
He started doing commercials for Papa Johns, the Chicago Tribune and other companies. He even saw some of his work in a Super Bowl ad.
“I was over the moon,” he said of his Super Bowl ad. He had made the animation for a video game, but it was repurposed for this other ad. Four million people saw his work, he said, and he could not be happier.
“My overnight success was 14,600 nights,” he said.
Ironically, his biggest professional success came after his massive heart attack 16 years ago. Since then, he has gotten great jobs and awards.
His work for the NBC show “Family Game Fight!,” a show produced by Ellen DeGeneres, is his latest achievement. He has not met DeGeneres, but he does speak on Zoom with people who work for her, and that is just fine with him.
In addition to his animation work for the show, he is drawing a book based on his travels in Germany, where he was born. That work will be around 200 pages.