Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Patrick McDonnell

This is a little scene on the wall of my workroom. I am posting this in honor of Patrick McDonnell, the creator of of my favorite comic strip, Mutts. http://muttscomics.com/ The picture in the right center of this collage is a rendition of his character Millie as Gertrude Stein by Picasso. McDonnell has often paid homage to other artists of all kinds in this way in the intro panel of his Sunday strip. If you are not familiar with the strip it is about companion animals - dogs and cats mostly. You also get to know their owners (Millie belongs to Mooch the cat, here seen peeking over the back of her chair), the local butcher, vet, neighborhood kid and squirrels and more.

I simply love Mutts (and Patrick McDonnell as a consequence). I have almost all the books and I've raised my kids on them. There is such warmth, sharp humor, wholesome cultural references, especially in the first 10 years of his work on Mutts. I've been so glad to be able to raise my kids on this strip. So many wonderful values come across. Not just the obvious ones like don't put pesticides on your lawn - bad for doggies and kitties, and if you want a pet go to the Humane Society, but also wonderful embedded messages about friendship, community, love of and connection to nature - even if you live in the Jersey suburbs where the strip takes place. (He has single-handedly changed my image of New Jersey.) They have been very comforting books when I have the blues.
On the right: Mooch the cat and Earl the dog napping together in yin/yang. Below them is a contemplative kingfisher on a flowering tree branch. Below: they hang in my workroom with Georgia O'Keeffe, Walt Whitman, some old quilts and a folk drawing depicting a Siberian fishing village scene.

So last Saturday I had the very rare opportunity to meet one of my favorite artists. Patrick McDonnell was giving the commencement address to the inaugural class at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction (see my previous post). His speech was warm, humble and wise. I got to meet him at the reception afterwards in the midst of the wonderful eclectic creative work of the graduating class (link). I readily admit I was quite star struck. I was glad to get to tell him how much I appreciate his work and the values that come across, "..like, it's good to be friends with eccentric people." At least I got a laugh out of him and his wife with that one. I was really gushing. It was kind of embarrassing but not something I was able to control at the moment. He and his wife were very gracious and though I was not really capable of much normal conversation, we did get through how was your drive? are you from the area? are you staying at the Hotel Coolidge? http://www.hotelcoolidge.com Eventually he said, "Do you have a piece of paper? I could make you a drawing." I am sure he was thinking, I've got to put this woman out of her misery. I pulled out the notebook that I keep all my ideas and notes for my business and found a blank page and this is the result. He said, "You can color in the leaves green if you want." *Swoon*

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