From her early days messing around with crayons and paper, Debra Sifen has been drawing as far back as she can remember. And when her dad started reading her "the funnies" as a little girl, her love of comics was born.
"I even have a letter from Charles Schultz thanking me for a drawing of Snoopy I sent him when I was 4," Sifen tells MNN.
Drawing under the name Goldylox, Sifen is now known for her comic, "Hair of the Dog," a quirky look at the inner musings of canines. Dogs, of course, play a starring role as they reflect on daily life at home, out and about, and sometimes even with cats around.
Classically trained in graphic design, Sifen hoped to one day get a job at an advertising agency or Disney, but instead worked in layout and ad production, eventually creating cartoons for a newspaper. After a time, she quit her day job and, with the help of her husband Reid, began writing and illustrating children's books.
The couple created several books together and Sifen illustrated a few books for other authors. She drew some editorial cartoons for magazines and then decided to homeschool the family's three children, occasionally bringing out the papers and crayons for birthday cards and party invitations, she says.
But she was determined to write her own comic strip. As her kids grew up and she had more time, Sifen first created a strip called "Seaweed's Oasis" about a seaside bar and grill owner and his dog, Seaweed.
"Writing comics is a bit like therapy, but always with a funny angle," she says. "I like it when people are happy, and comics have always been a comfort to me. I thought maybe in the internet age I could spread a little sunshine and comfort with cartoons."
The character of Seaweed inspired Sifen to continue with the canine angle and "Hair of the Dog" was born. Of course, her own dog Sammy helps with ideas.
"Philosophy is always just around the corner when you take your dog for a walk," she says.
Perhaps people enjoy strips like Sifen's because they like imagining that these are truly a dog's innermost thoughts.
"Let's be realistic. These are my innermost thoughts," Sifen says. "Dogs think about food and dogs think about the pack and survival. I've just intertwined our human innermost thoughts with the dog's loyalty to our well-being and assume the dog thinks and feels as we do."
Sifen continues, "I know dogs help us on our journeys. My dog has definitely helped me along. When we are with our dogs, we are completely aligned with who we are. And laughter helps us to accept who we are, so it's a good mix."
Sifen insists she has no favorites when she draws.
"Each panel is funny to me as I'm drawing it," she says. "Perhaps some are more timeless than others. I don't really have a favorite. I love them all! At Hair of the Dog there are no runts of the litter."
In addition to the comic strip. Sifen is continuing work on a children's book series with her husband and one of her adult sons, Joey. A Georgia native, she now lives in Canada.
"A little call of the wild is good for any artist. My midlife has also led me to study the violin/fiddle and I must give my dog credit for sticking with me on that squeaky venture as well," she says. "My life is basically: Wake up and be thankful, walk and play with the dog, feed the pack, make some music, do a little yoga and draw, feed the pack again!"
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