I had the strangest mix of experiences the other day, collapsing together not only my interests with my four-year-old daughter’s, but we also ran a technological gamut in order to assemble the experience’s various components.
We began with a walk through a local antique store, and for the first time my daughter seemed ready to explore the shelves for something of her own to covet and purchase. When we discovered a pile of Jack and Jill magazines from the late 1960s/early 1970s, I was attracted to the great illustrations, and my daughter was looking at all the interesting puzzles and mazes. As a kid, I was always a Ranger Rick kind of guy, since I was interested more specifically in animals and nature, but this particular Jack and Jill issue from May 1969 may have converted me. We bought the above copy, and two other Jack and Jills.
When we got home, my daughter, having noticed my interest in this particular issue, asked me to read about the picture on the cover. The cover story is something of a self-interview of Walt Kelly and the history of the Pogo comic strip, told through the eponymous opossum, Pogo. In addition to a somewhat detailed, high-level summary of the plate-making and printing process, full of toxic chemicals like zinc and asbestos and all, the article taught me a few things: the strip originally focussed on a little boy and Albert Alligator in a fiercer form, with Pogo playing a smaller role; the comic spent six years in books before it became a syndicated newspaper strip in 1949; Kelly created over 150 different characters for the strip; and on May 18, 1969, NBC aired a cartoon of all these wonderful critters, in a story about celebrating whatever your favorite holiday is, any time of year.
Our interest was peaked. The future has arrived, so I pulled my phone from my pocket and searched for “Walt Kelly Pogo animation”, and sure enough, this wonderful Chuck Jones-directed story popped up right at the top.
So: my daughter and I wandered through an antique store, found a musty, 43-year-old magazine, read about the history of a newspaper comic strip that was once made into an animated cartoon, which we looked up and watched on my phone, and we both loved every second of it all. It was a far better weekend outing than I expected.
Getting a little personal here, but whatever. This guy. Michael Whelan. I got his art book from my parents for Christmas when I was 11 and it blew my little prepubescent art brain. I spent hours looking at the book, copying his paintings as best I could with my #2 pencil on copy paper. In the process he became a part of my creative DNA. Over the years other artists were spliced in and Whelan faded to the background as I discovered Mignola, Moebius, Miyazaki, Otomo, Shirow, Leyendecker, Wyeth, Watterson, Wendling, and many others.
But when I saw Michael Whelan recently got a brand new website (that showcases his best works of Sci-fi, fantasy, horror and everything in between) it aroused that old fondness for his work from deep down. I had forgotten how much he inspired me as a kid and helped me set my course to someday be a professional artist.
Go take a look around, some of it is getting a pinch dated, but the majority it is still as fresh as when the paint dried.
I’m glad I found this today, was just the inspiration I needed, and a reminder of my creative upbringing.
Just curious, who’s in your early creative DNA? And have you looked at their work recently?
Congrats to Leo Espinosa for his first piece for The New Yorker. It’s perfectly lovely, and I couldn’t believe it hadn’t happened sooner! Click through for more info on his process for this piece, including sketches and colour explorations.