Hes known to many as RR Anderson, which stands for Richard Ryan. RR, he said, is a cool Internet handle but his family and friends call him Ryan.
Since 2007 when his weekly Tacomic debuted on the blog site feedtacoma.com, Anderson, 33, has built a cult following of locals who check in to see who he has blistered that week (and be relieved that it isnt them).
The day I interviewed him, Anderson had skewered News Tribune publisher David Zeeck for the way he portrayed the papers new paywall for digital access.
But Andersons creativity goes beyond the cartoon (www.holisticforgeworks.com). He is one of the founders of the Friday Frost Park Chalk Off in downtown Tacoma. His free library, the Central Tacoma Free-Radical Media Exchange, in the alley behind his home tries to fill the gap for the recently closed Martin Luther King Jr. branch library nearby. He is a contributor to the Tacoma Makes playing cards project, and his garage contains the American Museum of Alaskan Entrepreneurship which displays his eclectic collection of finds ranging from his grandfathers Russian sword to a 150-year-old anvil.
Anderson is currently working with his wife Darcy, Spaceworks Tacoma and other artists to create a store called Tinkertopia to collect and resell discarded parts and pieces for arts, crafts and sculptures. Anderson is also a prolific commenter on local websites under the screen name NineInchNachos.
I spoke to him in the central Tacoma home he shares with Darcy and his son, Max.
Q: Do you live on Anderson Street because your name is Anderson or is your name Anderson because you live on Anderson Street?
A: A little bit of both. We were house-hunting and it seemed to make sense it was divine providence.
Q: How did you end up in Tacoma?
A: It was exactly in the middle between Juneau, Alaska, and Sunnyvale, Calif., where I went to college. It seemed like a good place to locate. Its not as closed off as Juneau and I had a lot of relatives in the Shelton, Bellevue, Seattle area. I slugged it out on the airport rampway for a while, throwing luggage and packing fish into the bottoms of airplanes. Eventually I got a graphic design job in downtown Tacoma.
Q: Web design was your day job?
A: Yeah. It put me going to downtown everyday ... when the buses were healthy and thats where the Frost Park thing kind of started up. On our lunch break a bunch of us, like Kevin (Freitas) at Sitecrafting, we heard they were gonna put a fence around Frost Park which was kind of the thing to do ... so we started meeting there at lunch to show people were using the park. Then we were looking for a reason to be there so I brought chalk one day and we started the chalk competition.
Q: And that led to the creation of C.L.A.W.?
A: We noticed that a lot of us were cartoonists who were enjoying the chalk so we started the Cartoonists League of Absurd Washingtonians. So that kind of crawled out of the ooze of Frost Park. We are a fez-wearing secret society of cartoonists. We meet every year for the end of the world ceremony at the Knights of Pythias Temple downtown. But we also meet publicly every fourth Wednesday of the month for Open Swim. We gather at Kings Books, where we have art games and competitions and try to make each other laugh.
Q: When did you start doing Tacomic?
A: In 2007. Kevin Freitas, who started Feed Tacoma which is a blog aggregator he wanted to start doing political cartoons, just as a feather-in-your-cap kind of thing because newspapers are laying off cartoonists left and right ... I kind of do it as an underground cartoon. So I take the lower road on a lot of issues. But its been a lot of fun, making enemies and making friends.
Q: Something Ive seen you write is that Tacoma as an arts scene needs to get past the point where everyone says everything is really good, where never is heard a discouraging word.
A: It kind of goes back to (arts writer) Jen Graves leaving The News Tribune and going to The Stranger and that big, sucking vacuum left in its place. All the artists know each other so its awkward to give criticism or critique anything for real because then you become hated and Why do you hate that guy? Hes so nice. Well, he can be nice and still draw like crap. So its always discouraging, the state of arts criticism in the City of Destiny. I think its an issue of population. Add more people and then it doesnt get so personal.
Q: Not that getting laid off is a good thing but youve started several different topics with, When I got laid off. Is it the mother of invention?
A: Pretty much. When you have a steady paycheck, you fall into a routine and drift through day to day and then something catastrophic happens and you have to think in different ways. Its been fun and exciting and scary all together.
More questions from the interview, and Andersons answers, can be found at blog.thenewstribune.com/politics