Tuesday, October 13, 2015


it’s been two hours and my heart is still racing with adrenaline. I was driving north on I-81 when a few hundred yards ahead a kid in an old Toyota came careening across the center grass median and slammed into a sedan in the fast lane.

I saw spray of steam and smoke coming from the kid’s car (i call him a kid because he had two big Kicker sub woofers in his back seat and a thin build). The other car was 100 feet down in the ditch on the right side of the northbound lane… Each car had to have been nearing 80 mph, with a total force of 150+mph when they hit each other.

I put on my flashers and hopped out of my car - grabbing my small first aid kit, and a two foot 3/8 driver extension I had in my trunk… Both items were not the tools for the job. The first aid kit had burn ointment and band aides, the socket extension bent like a boomerang when I tried to use it to pry open the driver’s door.

The kid was sideways in his seat, with his back to the driver’s door, airbag deployed and seat slammed forward. He was breathing labored… then that stopped. I put my hand on his neck to check for a pulse.  I couldn’t feel any. THEN he took a deep labored breath. I could tell he was broken up inside. No blood anywhere.

I stroked the side of his neck where I felt for a pulse, then lightly patted his head saying “You’ve been in an accident, we’re trying to get the door open. Everything will be ok…”

I had no idea if it would be.

With three of us working on the door - we couldn’t get it open. I jumped around to the other side of the car and was able to release the driver’s seat slider, so his chest was off the steering wheel. Nothing else would budge… not the seat angle lever or door. He was stuck until the real Emergency Responders arrived. I prayed the car wouldn’t burst into flames.

More commuters trotted up on the scene. I knew I was at the limit of my abilities. As I returned to my car I saw the other car down in the ditch. The folks viewing that vehicle were just standing there… it must have been obviously a futile situation. I continued to my car to move it out of the way for the Police, Fire and Ambulances.

An hour later, I asked one of the VDOT workers how the kid was doing. He said they were trying CPR on him, but it didn’t look good. The ambulance drove off, but not at any speed… not a good sign.

Another hour later, They waved us on after sweeping all the glass, metal and spilled oil. My car wouldn’t start. I had left my flashers and headlights on the entire time. My battery was dead.

I’m feeling a bit inadequate right now. My pry bar didn’t work, my First Aide kit was strictly for boo-boos, not accidents, and my presence of mind was such that I didn’t think to shut off my lights. Thank you to the VDOT worker that gave me a jump from his battery pack.

God bless the two families as they have to deal with the tragic loss of these two people. I know I’m going to hug my wife and kid when I get home.

Oct 14
Wednesday's Northern Virginia Daily:
"Two people died and a third was injured in a three-vehicle accident Tuesday morning on Interstate 81 in southern Frederick County.
Sgt. F.L. (Les) Tyler of the Virginia State Police identified the fatalities as Tyler Scott Marshall, 19, of Wardensville, West Virginia, and Kathleen Haugen, 54, of Florida."

I'm sorry I couldn't help you, Tyler. I hope you're at rest. Kathleen, I'm so sorry this happened to you. I hope both of your families find peace in this tragedy. 

November 6
I've spent a few days planning and executing a small Dia de los Muertos cigar box memorial for Tyler. I downloaded a few pictures of him, his wife and daughter from the web. When I attended his funeral, they played a number of songs he loved, like Pink Floyd's "Wish You Were Here", and a selection his mother chose, Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Simple Man". Both selections were appropriate and hauntingly sombre in that setting. Since I had to teach a class at the Shenandoah Arts Council on the Day of the Dead traditions, I used this opportunity to create this box. I hope to give it to his family, but it's going to be very awkward to approach them.

The guitars are cut out on my bandsaw, shaped and painted with enamels. The Martin Acoustic is out of Red Oak, and the Gibson SG is out of Maple. The box is roughly 12" x 12" x 3".

Monday, September 14, 2015

This Old Desk

This old desk wasn't the most expensive item in the shop when new in the 1890s. In fact, it was mostly machine made with cheap pressed hardware and box nails holding the pigeon holes in the writing area. It was made out of red oak with dovetailed poplar drawer backs.

The story goes that during his teenage years, my father worked for a local farmer in Kingwood, New Jersey. This was the 1930s, and he labored hard for whatever they would give. He saw this desk was being discarded (or sold), and he bargained with the farmer to buy it. After buying it, he had to get it home... So he carried it for three miles.

He trudged past the property where the local New Jersey Bund was teaching children of German decent how to Goose-step and wave Nazi flags. He carried the desk until his back went out. This was the first of many times he would injure his back.

Dad went off to college in Chicago and Connecticut, with his desk stored at home. He ventured to Alaska, and eventually back to New Jersey to start his family. That same desk would become a fixture in our home as the children grew, eventually handed off to the older boys to help with their studies, landing in the boy's room in the basement - becoming my place to draw and paint.

One day in the 1970s, I got curious. The lion's head pull on the slant top was staring at me from my bed... What was he hiding? I found a screwdriver and pulled the lion from the oak writing surface. Inside I found a note!

"Congratulations, You have the same curiosity I had. It is March, 23 1965. The Gemini capsule is orbiting the earth. -- Mark Zdepski"

My older brother Mark had place a time capsule inside. I was opening it over 10 years later. He was in Alaska working as a Geologist on the oil pipeline.

This old desk got abused by my studio habits... Cadmium red and yellow smears, spills of India ink and multiple scars from Xacto knives. Each year getting trashed a bit more.

My younger brother James took the desk with him as he built his home and family. The desk found its way from the upstairs to the garage as it fell further into disrepair. Twenty-five years later I got the phone call.

"You want that old desk?"


So I traveled to the Delaware Valley and picked it up. I was able to shoehorn it into my Nissan to get it back to Virginia, but just barely.

I spent 2 days washing and scraping, gluing and screwing, lightly sanding and waxing to get it into a stabilized situation. This desk has little monetary value, but it does have family history. I've fixed it to the point that it should make it through another 50+ years of service.

Now serving my son Nikita, as he starts his first year of high school and adds his own stories to the desk.

and yes, I've added a time capsule of my own:

"For my father, Stephen Zdepski, who carried this desk three miles on his back. For my brother Mark, who wrote a time capsule about the Gemini Astronauts. For the years of service this desk gave me as I prepared for Art School, and for my son Nikita, as he begins High School. Much Love, Paul Zdepski - Sept 13, 2015"

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Lecture: Printing Your Own Mini-Comic

SATURDAY, July 18 2015: 1 until 2: Printing Your Own Mini-Comic - I will be giving a talk on how to print your own Mini-Comic with both lo-tech and high-tech options. I'll even give you a link to a Word doc for an 8-page "Signature". You can just replace the panels with your own and print! Come to the Shenandoah Arts Council, 811 South Loudoun Street in Winchester VA to spend an hour with Paulie Z, winner of the 2011 SPACE prize for best Mini-Comic at the Small Press Expo!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Nixon, Ladd and Chicken Little

A tale of three friends: One of my best friends had portrait of Ex-President Richard Nixon hanging over his pillow above his bed - FULL SIZE knock-off of the official presidential portrait. I thought it strange, since it was the late 1970s, and public opinion was such that he was considered a disgraced president.

My other close friend had a poster of Cheryl Ladd stepping out of the water. This seemed more appropriate for a pubescent teenager with girls on the brain. Although quite unique, since the crowd was generally hanging the famous portrait of Farrah Fawcett in the Red One-Piece.

I can't remember anything on my walls beyond a map of the world, a few hotrod pictures and a 1968 blacklight Anti-war poster saying "Chicken Little Was Right".

One friend went on to become a police captain. The other became a successful salesman. I'm not sure how any of these images influenced the outcome of our trajectory.

I do know I haven't been very Pro-War.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Travels With Eric - Personalized Illustration

Travels With Eric, illustration by Paul Zdepski

Travels With Eric
Digital Illustration, 10" x 17"
This is a birthday present to an Medical Doctor who's a fly fisherman, born in Portland Maine, went to Tufts University, did his Medical Internship in San Francisco CA, taught at Harvard, loves Lake Winnisquam NH, has 6 kids and 3 grandkids, met his wife in Trenton NJ, lives in a small town in Virginia, loves gardening, has two dogs, one black, one white, loves traveling to Europe...
Won a bunch of swimming trophies, a past president of Trout Unlimited VA, loves bonefishing in Abaco, Bahamas...
oh, and he's very proud to be born Jewish (Star of David around Stork's neck)... I think I crammed it all in there.
Trying to keep the retro feel.

Another Satisfied Customer!!!

"Paul !!
The print was a huge hit. It made me look like a hero, and it was all you. This was an "all weekend" party and my brother in law said yesterday "my favorite part was the gift from you"
My nieces husband that doesn't really react much about anything went on and on about how great it was.
Thank you so much.
You are very talented and that was appreciated by my entire family in helping us present the most perfect gift.
Thanks again.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Monday, May 11, 2015


My buddy Michael (a Swede) has picked up an old prospector's term and made it his own. I catch him on the gamer site, Twitch, which streams live play from people all around the world. Michael is what I'd call a humble gamer. There is no pretense or trash talk about how great he is, or how awful someone else has played. He's just there to experience it all.

I am struck by the way he will open a game he has never played... no clue about what the "official play guide" says. He just starts going whole-hog. When he gets stuck or killed "TARNATIONS!" in a Swedish accent reverberates. His gaming channel is stocked with videos of him crashing and burning, but all the time laughing about it all. No attitude, just honest gaming fun. LanokirX is his name, and Tarnations! is his game.

American Heritage Dictionary TARNATION:
tar·na·tion (tär-nā′shən) New England & Southern US
The act of damning or the condition of being damned.
Used to express anger or annoyance.

As a disclosure, I play a couple of games, but not as a gamer. I'm just an old dude that loved them from the Colecovision days. I think twitch has opened my eyes to where the gaming culture and art form has grown.

As a point, I try not to spend too much time online, but having LanokirX steaming in the lower left-hand corner of my screen as I'm working on a project is like listening to a radio show. The guy cracks me up.