I woke up this morning to an email from DarkZel’s mother, bearing the sad news that Zel had been killed – back in May – hit by a bus as he crossed the street. I’ve been trying to collect my thoughts since I read the mail earlier this morning and I want to speak without the detachment of time, while the shock is still raw, so I’ll speak from the heart.
Internet friendships are strange beasts. You touch minds and personalities with people that you have never actually ‘met’, and yet they can still affect you very deeply. I do my best to be friends with everyone I work with. It’s not necessarily very professional all the time, but it makes work easier where people can get on and make allowances for each other. Sometimes making friends with people is difficult, with Zel it was easy. He really was a lovely guy.
I first met Zel back in 2006 when he was twenty and still going through his education. He worked on Hentacle with me, on ‘Three’s An Orgy’, but later worked on many other projects and produced some clip art. We’d joke that the money from the work he did for me kept him in ramen noodles. I always like it when the pittance that I can pay makes a big difference in someone’s life and helping Zel through his education and out the other side, watching his art improve and a young man grow and pay it forward – as he was in teaching English in South Korea.
I always had more confidence in Zel than he had in himself. I saw a lot of my past self in him, the quiet social outcast with the weird interests and the awkwardness. The frustration he felt in getting people to understand the art he loved. The lack of confidence. Yet I find out, with his death, that he was as well loved in his other community – the furry community – as he was with me and the people who bought the games that he illustrated.
His work for me is still earning money. I don’t know what to do with it yet, but the ongoing clipart money will either go to his family, to a charity that his family chooses, or I’ll form some sort of ‘ramen scholarship’ to help out other struggling art students having to choose between art supplies and food.
I’ll keep you posted and I know many of you will miss this talented young man and his art, as much as I am going to.