Beyond the Emerald City!

2022POTS-aLong-time Watusi readers will recall that my characters and I spent a great deal of time in the Land of Oz for an extended comic adventure. While I haven’t completed making the revisions to that online comic for its print edition, I do have an opportunity to showcase some of the work from that epic alongside other Oz-inspired artwork this fall at Playhouse on the Square!

Made up of a selection of comic pages from my story, along with other Oz-inspired artwork, my “Beyond the Emerald City” show will be on display from October 14-December 28, 2022, in conjunction with Playhouse’s staging of “The Wizard of Oz”. That fortuitous timing (pointed out to me by someone else, since I had totally missed the opportunity it presented) was just too good to pass up, even if it meant completing work for the show on a tighter schedule than I’d have liked. Pushing deadlines can work when it comes to publishing comics online, but my paintings need time to cure before varnishing! Still, it all came together, and has made for what I think is a really satisfying show.

When I decided to make a comic set in the Land of Oz all those years ago by bringing my talking dog Watusi & his friends into interaction with Oz characters & settings in the public domain, I didn’t realize just how much fun I’d have playing in that sandbox! While I was familiar with the movie, once I read the later books in the series I came to have a real fondness for its wide cast of characters and an appreciation of L. Frank Baum’s world-building skill. Plus, those books are darn fun to read, chock full of wordplay & puns, much of which is still clever and humorous over a century after they were first written! Rereading illustrated editions whenever possible, I especially appreciated the design sensibilities of original Oz artist W.W. Denslow, and found his work to be an inspiration for my own treatment of the characters. Much like Baum’s written descriptions of the cast, they were so well designed visually that there was no need to “update” them! If you ever get a chance to read a color reprint of the original Denslow-illustrated edition, with its whimsical character designs and luscious two-color spot illustrations and full-page plates, you’re in for a treat! The second Oz artist, John R. Neill, had a more refined illustration style that I didn’t connect with as easily as with Denslow’s cartoonier art, but his lanky characters certainly influenced my take on Jack Pumpkinhead…

Admittedly, this show– a fan art love letter to the novels– is more comfort food than a palate-expanding meal … but sometimes mac & cheese is just what one needs, isn’t it? My hope is that viewers will find the work in this show an intriguing first step into (or a happy reminder of) the wide, wondrous world of Oz beyond the Emerald City! Like in my treatment of familiar Oz characters and settings in my own story, I hope this show has enough “Ozzy” touches to bring joy to those already familiar with Baum’s novels and piques the curiosity of those who aren’t … yet!

If you’re in the area, you are invited to join me for an artist reception from 5-7 p.m. on the play’s opening night, November 11th, 2022.

“Foxtrot” ala “Duke”

foxtrot with border

After I included this image as part of my recently added Art and Illustration page, I decided to post a copy to give it a proper home here, too. I originally did this back in 2011 for Joel Pfannenstiel and Greg Smallwood‘s short-lived “Visual Audio Club” blog, in response to their challenge to translate my favorite album’s cover.

When looking through my favorite albums, a lot of them didn’t have covers that inspired me … but then I hit upon doing Genesis’ “Foxtrot” album (Paul Whitehead, 1972), the best of their 5-member era, in the style of their “Duke” (Lionel Koechlin, 1980), the best of their 3-member era.

It’s “Draw Crabby Day”!

DrawCrabby

When Tom Cherry declared today “Draw Crabby Day”, I was excited by his choice. I’ve long loved Patrick McDonnell‘s expressive ink line in his daily “Mutts” comic strip, and this was a great chance to study his technique more closely. While I tried to turn it into a “Draw like Patrick McDonnell Day”, too, my character designs just don’t yield the same charm as Patrick gets with Earl and Mooch!  Thanks for a fun challenge, Tom!

(While you’re here, be sure to check out my “20 questions” interview with Tom Cherry)

“Railroad”

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing my friend Jovarie Downing perform this wonderful song of his, and it inspired me to republish this piece I did based on it … which has to sustain me until he records a version of it:

RAILROAD

This piece dates from a collage course I took back in 1997 taught by Lora Jost. While I really enjoyed the class, and would like to incorporate collage elements into my work, I don’t think I’m wired right to be successful with collage– I always find it easier to draw what I need than search it out. Maybe it would be easier to find images to use via the internet … except that seems kinda like cheating to me. Still, I was really happy with how this piece turned out. Lyrics to the great Jovarie Downing’s song “Railroad” are © 1997 by Jovarie Downing. Used with permission.

It’s “Draw Dollar Bill Day”!

DrawDollarBill

The one-and-0nly Tom Cherry has designated today as “Draw Dollar Bill Day”! Dollar Bill was a mainstay supporting character in Marvel’s The Defenders comic, and I remember him fondly from his “Defender for a Day!” scheme from issues #62-64. Since I’ve been reading through– and enjoying immensely– Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus recently, I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between these two bearded hucksters! I broke out my brush to ink this one since I’ve got a project on tap that I want to ink with a brush; looks like I could use the practice!

As always, thanks  for the challenge, Tom! (And, no, I haven’t forgotten about Tom’s “20 questions” interview– it’s still on the way, I promise here!)

“One Day at the Book Burning”

On Day at the Book Burning; Mixed Media, 2013The Lawrence Public Library’s Banned Books Week trading card series is back for another year! For my entry this year I tackled another dystopian classic, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Prescient digs at reality TV and social media aside, this book didn’t speak to me as deeply as Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four does … perhaps because, in a move that no doubt sent Bradbury spinning in his grave, I only listened to it on audio! At least it made for a good company while I crafted this piece! However, it does lend itself naturally to the topic of book suppression. Particularly so after I learned that Fahrenheit 451, perhaps the most famous anti-censorship novel of the 20th century, was itself bowdlerized by Bradbury’s own publisher! “Some cubby-hole editors at Ballantine … had, bit by bit, censored some 75 separate sections from the novel,” wrote Bradbury in the restored 1979 edition, which had “all the damns and hells back in place.”

While I only half-jokingly told my then co-worker Mary Pawlowski that I was going to steal the collage technique she used on her 2012 entry, it turns out I kinda did– thanks for the inspiration, Mary! It was a fun change of pace to work on a piece for its purely visual aspect, and not be as concerned with panel-to-panel storytelling.

Starting today, you can pick up the first of the seven winning Banned Book trading card designs for free– just stop in the library and ask for your copy! A new card will be available each day during Banned Books Week.

It’s “Draw a Powerpuff Girl Day”!

lumpkins2013

The amazing Tom Cherry has designated today as “Draw a Powerpuff Girl Day”! While I never really watched their show, and don’t have an affinity for the characters, a quick search found this fun little villain of theirs– Fuzzy Lumpkins! Of course, I did the drawing and then realized I forgot to include any of the characters from the theme …  so I threw them all in! Thanks for the challenge, Tom!

Look for a terrific “20 questions” interview with Tom coming here soon!

It’s “Draw Mr. Mind Day”!

MrMind2013

It looks like Mr. Mind in getting in the mood for this week’s They Might Be Giants show in KC by rocking out to his favorite tune! Enjoy the official video for “Doctor Worm” here.

My friend and Double Dip co-conspirator Tom Cherry is at it again, declaring today “Draw Mr. Mind Day”! This wicked worm plagued Captain Marvel and the rest of the Marvel Family, most notably in 1943’s epic “The Monster Society of Evil”. I really love the Marvel Family of characters, and miss reading new stories featuring them. While I enjoyed the original Fawcett stories, the pre-Crisis stories put out by DC, and Jerry Ordway‘s fantastic 1990’s run with the characters, they’ve fallen on hard times since then. I’ve never understood why DC can’t seem to make better use of the characters, who are so much more than the mere Superman Family clones they’re treated as.  Sadly, they’ve lost all of their unique flavor by this point, and “Shazam!” is pretty much unrecognizable in both form and tone from the character’s lighthearted origins.

Fortunately, I can always reread the back issues in my collection…