Here’s a picture I did of Theo and the other characters from SNitLoE in the style of local cartoonist Theo Ellsworth. Consider it my modest tribute to this awesome artist.

I actually got to chat with Theo Ellsworth over burritos last weekend when we were both in Washington for the Olympia Comics Festival. Even though I was bumping elbows with much more famous comics artists during the festival, none of them intimidated me so much as Theo. I feel as though in this candid photograph of the two of us you can actually see the nervousness in my facial expression and posture.

Why would this be? Festival guests Larry Gonick and Paul Chadwick are both excellent artists, but I basically understand how they got that way. They practiced a lot, studied the works of artists they admire, probably read a few instructional books on art or storytelling, or got pointers from fellow cartoonists. By contrast, Theo’s artistic process is completely opaque to me. If his comics are to be believed, he basically gets inspiration by delving into some weird interior mental zone and meeting a bunch of thoughts incarnated as fantastical creatures.

This might be why meeting him in person was so intimidating – anyone else who’s met him can tell you that Theo has about the gentlest, least intimidating personality you could imagine. The cognitive dissonance comes from knowing that his mind is nevertheless capable of concocting bizarre mystical visions, and may be doing so at any moment. As he was talking to me, was he imagining tassled antlers springing from my head or little monster-men driving on my shoulders in tiny cars?

Even though I’ve spent the past year honing my “craft” by studying the Masters, and even though I have a long-standing aversion to the “Vesuvius” school of creativity – i.e. the muse strikes you and you simply spew out its inspiration on the page, there’s something I still seriously admire about this kind of self-taught, highly personal/intuitive creativity.

When I was a younger and less technically schooled artist, I loved putting little weird things in my drawings, cramming every inch of a picture with whatever quirky idea struck me at the time – sometimes without even knowing what to expect would come out of my pencil. I sort of miss that now!

(By the way, don’t take any of this to mean that I don’t think Theo’s work is also technically very good – it is! Nor is all of it psychologically ponderous – it can be very lighthearted as well.)

(Also, just so you don’t think I’m an obsessive fan-boy, I named the character Theo long before I had ever heard of Theo the artist. It’s a coincidence, I swear!)