Coal Ridge hoops relight artist’s fire

Joelle Milholm
Glenwood Springs Colorado CO
Dave Smedra

PEACH VALLEY ” Dave Smedra needed inspiration.

Despite an art degree from the University of Colorado, he hadn’t drawn in a long time.

That was until the Coal Ridge boys basketball team and its coach Mike Cox rekindled his passion.

Roused by the Titans’ play and a love for basketball, Smedra picked up his pencil and began drawing single-set cartoons about hoops to put on fliers advertising upcoming Coal Ridge games.

“Dave and I were sitting on my porch this fall, brainstorming,” Cox said. “We were talking about ways of getting people into the gym. He said he had a few ideas and, a few days later, brought me the turkey cartoon.”

The drawing featured three turkeys, with one being a official, one a player and one a coach. The ref is on the phone with the player and the coach is noticeably upset. The caption read: Coach Turk is a little upset that the ref keeps calling fowls on his team.

A funny joke, a good visual for a poster, and Smedra and Cox had found what they were looking for.

“Couple days after that and a couple more and I knew we had something special,” Cox said.

Since then, Smedra’s drawn about 16 cartoons and has no plans of slowing down his sketching.

“I haven’t drawn for years and (my wife) Beth always said you need to get drawing again and all my kids say you need to draw again and I have never had a good reason to, but this has really worked out well. I really enjoy it,” said Smedra, whose son Andy is a starting guard for the Titans. “I love it. It is the most fun I’ve had in a while.”

Smedra works for a pump company, installing water wells, among other things, and has made a living previously in irrigation and construction work and sales. He grew up in Glenwood Springs and was a Demon in high school. It was there he saw some good teams that got him hooked on the game. He even gets his ideas as a spectator in the bleachers of basketball games.

“I just come and watch the games. The kids are so inspiring. I love watching coaches. I get a kick out of watching coaches,” said Smedra, who played drums in Glenwood’s band in high school. “When I grew up in Glenwood watching coach (Bob) Chavez and coach (Harlan) Spencer, and all those great basketball teams they had there, I just got used to watching great coaches, and Mike definitely fits into that role.”

From turkeys to a serious sketch of a Titan handing a ball to a small child to revealing the truth of what Leonardo DaVinci’s Mona Lisa’s smirk was really about (turns out she a player on the Coal Ridge girls basketball team and has Titan shorts and basketball shoes on), Smedra is loving it now that the artist in him has come back to life.

“It’s really a nice break to come home from work and just sit at the drawing table,” Smedra said.

He says it takes him a few hours to complete each and he goes through a rough draft before producing the final copy. With each, his skills get tuned more and more, especially when he is in the zone, cracking out a few cartoons in a row.

“They come in spurts. Some nights you get a bunch of ideas and sit down and start drawing,” he said. “Some days I’ll turn out four or five.”

The only thing he enjoys more than creating the cartoons is watching his son and the Titans play.

It’s been an exciting sight so far, as Coal Ridge is 4-1 and puts on a high-action performance on the court.

“He’d live here if he could,” Smedra’s wife, Beth, said right before tip-off when the Titans demolished Hotchkiss 74-41 on Dec. 21.

Cox and Smedra are having so much fun with the cartoons that the two are in cahoots about making a book. Smedra says they would need about 50, so he knows he’s got a lot of work to do.

There are no plans of stopping when basketball is over, either, as the duo hope to continue turning out cartoons for more Coal Ridge sports ” making Smedra a multi-season artist.

While it all started with trying to get a few extra fans to the Coal Ridge basketball games, Smedra’s cartoons have delivered so much more along the way.

“I just know we are going to have a lifelong friendship and tons of ‘toons to keep us laughing,” Cox said.

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