He draws for the masses

January 18, 2008 7:52:30 AM PST
For more than 55 years, Gerard Baldwin started his drawings the same way."Everybody looks at the eyes first. That's the first thing they look at," said Baldwin.

The Kingwood artist's name isn't well known, but his drawings have been seen for years.

In cartoons, from Bullwinkle to the Smurfs, Baldwin drew them all.

In the beginning, he never expected animation to become his career.

"In my mind, it was always temporary. It was always, 'Just until the world discovered me as a great painter,'" Baldwin said.

Instead, the 79-year-old never left, and he says he accidentally found the perfect medium for his work.

Over the years, Baldwin worked on hundreds of projects. His favorite to date is the Smurfs.

"That was the peak of my career, more than what anybody can ask for," he said.

He still holds onto the old scripts and storyboards. "What is Gargamel's motivation? What is his scheme? It has to be up, basically," Baldwin reads from the notes of a Smurfs script.

From the scripts to the show's classical music, as supervising producer, Baldwin oversaw every aspect.

"To start a job as an apprentice, up through the whole thing, every step of the way. And then to have the No. 1 show in America. That was pretty damn exciting," Baldwin said.

For five seasons, Baldwin led the production and captured the attention of a generation.

He attributes the success of the show to simplicity.

"I think it was just straight, it was good stories. Simple. Nothing tricky. A lot of magic. That's good," he said.

Baldwin most identified with Papa Smurf. Every episode finished the same, with a moral lesson and a happy ending.

"So you don't want to leave them on a downer, ever. I don't want to see that any more. Makes me cry. No way. You can cry in the middle, but you can't cry at the end," Baldwin said.

Baldwin finds no time for tears at the end of his career. Although he says the craft he mastered has become obsolete, he sketches the old characters.

"Let me entertain you," he sings while sketching.

And still brings them to life.

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