Welcome to CLAW: Come for the Art, Stay for the Fez

CLAW understands that fezzes are cool. Photo courtesy: CLAW.

The Cartoonist’s League of Absurd Washingtonians, better known as CLAW, is a Tacoma-based drawing club that is more quirky fun with art than actual organization. But members do wear fezzes, so that adds a little something-something to the effort.

The cartoonist’s league formed simply enough. Flashback to the fall of 2008. The weekly sidewalk chalk competitions known as the Frost Park Chalk Offs were coming to an end as the weather grew colder and wetter. Local cartoonists Elliot Trotter and RR Anderson wanted to keep gathering, so they took their activities indoors. They met for coffee. Those two drew in two more members, Mark Monlux and James Stowe, and just like that, CLAW was born.

Cartoonist RR Anderson gets his pencil on the task at hand.

“We just enjoyed each other’s company,” said Monlux, past CLAW president.

They formed a drawing group and needed a name. Members tossed out the name CLAW and built the goofy acronym later as a way to both call themselves but also leave some mystery as the group defined what they wanted to do.

“We didn’t want it to be just a back room drawing group,” Monlux said.

CLAW members wanted to give back to the artistic community and encourage others to learn how to draw or improve their skills by brainstorming ideas and gathering together to encourage cartoonist and want-to-be cartoonists.

Then came the not-so-secret “secret society” twist to the group when they adopted the Doctor Who-inspired fez and started holding their annual meetings in the Knights of Pythias Hall, the only fraternal order still in operation in downtown Tacoma.

They even created a backstory for their group.

CLAW ceremonies can get a bit unusually creative. Photo courtesy: CLAW.

“With their unruly powers combined, the band sought to establish themselves so that all marks of dis-innovation and anti-creativity were isolated and abused to destruction while harnessing humanity’s last breaths to welcome in our future robot overlords,” the group’s history regales.

Regular events now include “Open Swim” group draws at King’s Books on the second and fourth Wednesdays of each month and other art. There are also some spin-off drawing-related groups that have surfaced, such as the Freelance Fandango that meets at Treos Coffee every Monday and “Epic Sketch” on Google Hangout for people around the world to do group draws in cyberspace.

“We just get together and screen share what we are doing,” Monlux said. “It’s just a way for us to sit down and draw with other people.”

The next public gathering will be “Captain Picard Day Art Show and Festival” from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on June 16 at Destiny City Comics. The CLAW gathering will celebrate the body of work by the world’s favorite Star Trek legend with drawings, contests and prizes.

CLAW President Mark Brill shows off a latest work during Tacoma’s Wayzgoose festival. Photo courtesy: CLAW.

Current President and Keeper of the Semi-Sacred Box of Things and Props, Mark Brill, is the senior-most member of CLAW’s Council of the Four Eyes. The gaggle of misfits turned inner-circle officers includes James Stowe, Steve Garvin and Larry Erhardt. Brill hopes his reign will bring more members and further promote community arts in general and in drawing, specifically.

“That is what it was intended to be in the first place,” he said. Draw one, draw all. All hail our Robot Overlords.