Besides juice and cookies, blood donors at D.C. drive received cartoonists’ original art


Cartoonist Eric Gordon, who works at a local non-profit in DC, draws a portrait of a blood donor in exchange for her donation. (Liz Vance)
November 7, 2013

Elizabeth Brewer was pleased with the sketch of her dog — an ink-drawn caricature of the real thing, based on an iPhone photo she showed cartoonist Jake Warrenfeltz. “I’m going to frame it,” she said, “and hang it on the wall.”

Warrenfeltz donated the sketch to thank Brewer for giving blood Saturday morning at Cartoonists Draw Blood, a drive sponsored by the D.C. Chapter of the National Cartoonists Association and the American Red Cross. Co-sponsor Seekers Church, near the D.C.-Takoma Park line, provided the space for the event.

“It was an interesting twist on the blood drive. It’s not often you get a work of art for giving blood,” said Brewer, who came from Arlington County to participate. “You usually get a sticker or something.”

The event drew more than 30 donors on Saturday, surpassing the Red Cross’s estimate of 25, according to Steve Mavica of the American Red Cross of the Greater Chesapeake and Potomac Region. Most participants made appointments ahead of time, intrigued by the prospect of receiving a sketch from one of the 12 area cartoonists who donated their time and art to encourage participation in the drive.

During last month’s government shutdown, the American Red Cross had to cancel all scheduled federal-employee blood drives. Although local blood supplies weren’t directly jeopardized, because the organization can tap into national stores when needed, Mavica said that the Red Cross relies heavily on voluntary individuals and organizations.

“Without the help of people and organizations like these local cartoonists, it would be impossible for us to meet the needs of area patients,” Mavica said.

Carolyn Belefski, co-chairman of the D.C. chapter of the National Cartoonists Society, organized the event after a discussion with fellow co-chairman Teresa Roberts Logan about sharing its members’ gifts with the community. The chapter has about 10 members who live in and around Washington and meet regularly for community and fellowship. The chapter sponsored the drive, but many of the cartoonists who volunteered are not members themselves. They heard about it through a call Belefski put out to other cartoonists’ groups, including the DC Conspiracy, a larger collaborative of D.C. area cartoonists.

“I wanted to do something with the community to let people know that there are cartoonists out there in the area,” Belefski said. “D.C. isn’t necessarily known for that — it’s the politics-and-power city, but at the same time, there are so many talented artists in the area who would love to draw for people. . . . It’s our way of giving back. To say, ‘Hey, you donated blood: Here’s an awesome cartoon for you.’ ”

The cartoonists’ presence prompted Brent Allen and Allison Wielobob to attend the event with their children in tow: Catie, 8, Ben, 6, and Maggie, 3. Allen and Wielobob hoped it would provide a lesson in the importance of charitable giving. As the family walked from their nearby home to the site, the parents discussed the importance of blood donation with their children: “We talked about the reasons people would give blood, why it’s important to donate,” Wielobob said. “It’s good for them to learn about it.”

While their parents were giving blood in an adjacent room, Catie and Ben watched cartoonist Steve Loya sketch his “splotchmonsters” — drawings of creatures superimposed on small watercolor paintings. “This is fun!” Catie said, showing off a dolphin she adapted from a watercolor Loya gave her to sketch on.

“We’ve been having a blast. Talking, drawing, and hopefully helping people in the process,” Loya said, noting that many of the cartoonists were donating blood as well. “You have the whole gamut of talents here: portrait sketcher, representational comics, figurative. . . . Everyone’s kind of doing what they love.”

In a portrait by cartoonist Jay Payne, Marta Smith’s face is grafted onto the body of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. “I foster rats for Small Angels Rescue, so you could go a lot of different ways with that,” said Smith, who also lives nearby. “But he did the Ninja Turtles, because they have their rat [sensei] mascot, of course.”

“We’ve been doing some portraits, but I’ve also seen some crazy monsters and Halloween stuff,” Belefski said. “But it’s really just delightful things that you can take home, a memento that lets them say, ‘I donated blood, look what I got!’ ”

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