LCC Web master writes, illustrates and builds book
By Cathy Zimmerman
Nov 14, 2006 - 07:33:03 am PST

In all the offices at Lower Columbia College, full of all the cartoons, quotations, framed credentials and other signs of intelligent life, Dave Mielcarek's space pops the mold.

The Web master has crammed his tiny cubicle with stuffed animals, plastic dragons and posters and comics of his own design.

"Most people look around for awhile, then they talk," said Mielcarek (mell-CARE-ik).

"This is my love," he said, pointing at a wall of original comic strips. He swivelled towards the computer on his desk. "This pays the bills." Mielcarek, a 39-year-old father of three, has been drawing "since I can remember being alive," he said.

A mild, boyish guy who brushes off his sophisticated programming skills, Mielcarek's job keeps him hopping -- and at home, "the kids are first." He has to tuck his art, including watercolor painting, cartooning and sculpture, into spare moments. At break time, he opens his sketchbook. In the car waiting for piano lessons to be over, he draws.

'Well, the baby's green'

He calls it doodling, but it's not aimless.

This week, he unveils his most ambitious work. At a book signing Wednesday, the self-educated programmer and artist will share 30 handmade copies of his children's book , "Time for the Mind." The tale embodies his philosophy: Be imaginative and inventive. Don't worry about money and conformity. Paint the baby green.

If you go
What: Dave Mielcarek showing and signing his book, "Time for the Mind."
When: 2-4 p.m. Wednesday, and again Saturday at the LCC Bazaar
Where: Lower Columbia College Book Store, in the Student Center (use 15th Avenue entrance).
How much: Each book is $15, but there is a limited supply. Mielcarek may take orders.
To access Mielcarek's ideas on Web design, fun and games and a site for new authors, visit
People see his artwork in "Time for the Mind" "and they say, ‘Well, the baby's green,'" Mielcarek said. "Well, Dr. Seuss didn't color things the usual way. ... "Kids like silliness. ... It brings their minds alive."

In rhyming text, Mielcarek tells of a big green infant who discovers sounds, stories, the world around him. When his friends become fixated on video games, he breaks free.

Mielcarek wasn't content to send off his work or self publish. He has printed it on shiny, heavy stock, made hardback covers, and sewn the books together himself, using a sewing "machine" he made for that purpose.

The project has consumed two years and $2,500, he said. "I used the best paper; I bought an industrial printer." He has only 30 books to sell, but he can make more to order.

In the meantime, Mielcarek is working on a book, a fantasy for adults about the evolution of dragons.

For this one, he created a language, "Atlantian," with its own alphabet, as well as a program that will translate English into Atlantian. He has drawn some of the maps -- "I really love graphics" -- and completed a 44-page prologue.

The dragon epic "will be as long as ‘War and Peace,' " Mielcarek said amiably. "It will take me 30 or 40 years to finish."

Free spirits

Mielcarek and his wife, Diane, are free and kindred spirits who married in Las Vegas and started their lives together in a small trailer. They have named their children --- Camden, 13, Ryan, 9, and Narina, 6 -- with the trademark Mielcarek flare. Apart from each other's view, he wrote down possible first halves of a name and Diane wrote down endings. Using only those syllables, they had to come up with a name in each case.

As for the family's 19 pets, including seven feral cats, the kids did the honors.

"Those names are mostly circumstantial," their dad said. A stray dog rescued from outside a Subway sandwich shop, for instance, is named Meatball.

The Mielcarek household is freewheeling, but not wild.

"We have rules," Mielcarek said. "One hour of screen time Fridays and Saturdays, a half hour on weekdays, if your work is done. They can choose TV or Nintendo Game Cube.

"The rest of the time, they have to be doing creative things. We say, ‘Go in the kitchen, do something. If they totally mess up the kitchen, food supplies are cheaper than an Xbox. ....

"They take a blanket and a chair and make a fort." Every night, he and Diane read to the kids. "They have to read to us, too. Adventure, magic, science, anything. They choose what they want."

When their children's friends come over, Mielcarek said, they might be taken aback but they quickly adapt.

"They start going through the house and the yard, and pretty soon, they have a blast." When kids tell him, "But I can't draw," he hands them a sketch pad.

"Pretty soon, they're drawing." Television and computer games are keeping children "from becoming social and tolerant," Mielcarek said.

"Reality is social -- you have to collaborate, to discuss things. Kids and adults have lost that. ...

"I'm watching these kids get addicted to computer games. They're losing their imagination."

Another thing he teaches his children, Mielcarek said, is that every one has a role to play, that "nobody's better than anyone else."

"I have a highly respected job," he said. "I think a person who's loading a paper machine at the mill is just as important. Who's going to be able to go to the bathroom without that paper?"

Helping other writers online

On the Web site Mielcarek created to help other writers, he manages to turn even a non-traditional phrase on its ear. Instead of advising that artists get out of the box, he says, "There is no box."

At, he provides "a jumping-off place for clients, free stuff, a Web tutorial and Web lessons." The site has roused phone calls from the East Coast, he said. Writers can post samples of their work there, and others then e-mail critiques of it.

Mielcarek has done logos, cards and branding. Of the Web sites he designs for clients, one is especially apt: For a company in Wilsonville, he did the Internet portal for its Family Fun Center.

"I don't have any preconceived ideas or templates," he said. He must design for outside clients in his own time, and they all come by word of mouth. "I got swamped a few years ago and I had to back off."

His time may be limited, but there's plenty of food for the mind on his Web site, including Mielcarek's "Quote of the Minute." On Monday morning, it was from Henry David Thoreau: "Distrust any enterprise that requires new clothes."

Sounds like visitors can come as they are to the book signing.