Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Mr. Pig Visits . . . David Heatley!

Summer is finally here, folks, and after a long winter in the Enchanted Woods, I've put on my traveling pants and hit the road for a vacation. But it's not all play and no work--I always make sure to schedule in a few studio visits on my travels. First stop: Queens, New York!

I'm about to meet David Heatley, illustrator of the hilarious OTIS DOODA series. He's giving me a tour of his studio!

Oh, someone's opening the door. . . . Hi David!

Welcome, Mr. Pig! Come in.

What's that hanging on your door?

My son Sam loves monsters, so my daughter Maya and I made him this tote out of recycled plastic shopping bags. We were at an art class at the Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens—which, if you've never been, is absolutely fantastic—and while we were there we saw an avant garde dance performance. I love my borough.

Wow! Your studio is full of interesting art and objects. Where to begin?

How about my desk? I actually built it for myself using a solid door and house paint. I feel like I can do anything in this 15 square feet nook: writing, drawing, design, music, animation, carpentry, alchemy, etc.

Whoa. What's THIS?

This is the fabric wall. I'm hoping eventually it'll be covered with a thick layer of fabric strips about a foot deep. Then you'll be able to run at it full force and bounce right off.

That sounds like fun. What does this machine do?

That's my band saw and woodworking tool cabinet. I worked in carpentry shops for a few years in my early 20s and I learned a little bit of just about everything: electrical, tile work, sheetrock, cabinet-making, spackling, painting, counter top laminating, etc etc. I'm not great at any of it, but I'm pretty handy because of it. And it runs in the family with my uncle and cousins and my grandfather on my dad's side.

This is a sculpture that I made with my friend Dana Lyn for her band "Yeti Camp." Those are little yetis. It was supposed to be an album cover, but never got used, so now it just hangs on my wall, intriguing anyone who visits.

Those yetis are mesmerizing. Tell me about these framed pieces. 

Above artwork is by Marc Bell, a crazy good cartoonist / acquaintance of mine from Canada. Apparently he lives or used to live on Heatley Avenue in Vancouver, which blew my mind when we first started corresponding. Below that is my The New Yorker cover which ran around Valentine's Day 2007. I've tried for the last seven years to get a second cover to run, but no dice. Hell, I'll take one! Most people don't even get that.

Hey, I recognize these guys. I had the pleasure of interviewing Otis Dooda on my talk show, Mr. Pig Live! He called me nosy. Can you believe it?! Now tell me more about all the items in your personal space.

Well, that's an Otis Dooda wooden figure standing next to a Doodle Dude. I could have been one of Santa's elves. I just love making these things.

My daughter Maya and I made these little guys based on two characters she invented: Edsel the Boring Stick and Dolly the Daily News. The idea is that Edsel thinks he's boring but really interesting things keep happening to him while Dolly thinks she's really interesting, but she's really dull. We had all kinds of plans for comic strips and stop motion animation videos starring the two of them. Might still happen some day.

This is a guitar I got from someone in high school (which I painted red last year) and an amp I got from my neighbor Mike. Bass was given to me by the aforementioned Dana Lyn. I had a lot of fun recording all those songs for the Otis Dooda: Downright Dangerous soundtrack using mostly these two instruments and some mixing help from Sanford Livingston. It was usually me just singing my heart out all alone at 2 or 3 in the morning throughout a lot of last winter. Just like the crazy person I am. Not sure if that soundproof foam does anything, but it looks cool!

That's my drafting table. I drew most of both Otis books there. I generally don't look through the magnifying glass on the light. I'd feel too much like a dentist if I did.

And over here is more artwork by cartoonists I know and admire, collected over the years. 

This Chris Ware original page from Jimmy Corrigan is probably my prized possession. Lucky for me, I actually traded some artwork to get this in the mail back in 2002. Chris drew Jimmy Corrigan's mom here and then decided to cover it with a word bubble (something he does throughout the whole book). This was going to be the big reveal, but he decided to stick with the face covering motif. Anyway, he told me if I peeled the sticker away, I'd be the only person besides him in the world to know what Jimmy's mother looks like. I'm no fool, so I did it and took a picture. 

Fascinating! Can we see it?
Sorry, Mr. Pig. That picture isn't ever going on the internet. But I can show you this. . . .

Butterfly by Maya and Turtle by Sam. 

Stunning! Artistic talent clearly runs in the family.

Here's a collage that my wife, Rebecca, made me back in high school when we first started dating. I'm still amazed by this thing every time I look at it.

This is a postcard from Robert Crumb. I've met him in person a few times now. Last time I saw him he told me that when I wrote him a long letter (in response to this postcard), I forgot to put my address on the letter itself which was "very unprofessional." Apparently I had only put it on the envelope, but he threw that out right after opening it. He wrote me a letter in response to my last letter that was several pages, but wound up throwing it out because he couldn't find my address!!! Ahhhhhhh!!!! I should try writing him again, but so far I haven't.

This is probably what started it all: a drawing by my older brother Raphael and myself around age 6 or 7? He had an imaginary band called Jackoe and the Red Deamons (somewhat like Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem I guess). Members included Pirl, Skinny Sticks, Leaper, Babus, Josoe, and Bad Man. I draw Jackoe's bass playing brother Johnoe and I think some of the balloons. 

Sigh. If only Jackoe and the Red Deamons were still touring. . . . I'd go see them.

I spend way too much time staring at this thing. I should give myself "screen time" limits like I give my kids so I don't get "swirly eyes." My friend Sarina says if you stare at a plant periodically it reduces eye strain. Gonna go try it now. . . .

Me, too. Thanks for the incredible tour, David! Your studio sure is cool.

My pleasure--and thanks! Enjoy your summer, Mr. Pig.


Meet David Heatley

David Heatley drew all the pictures for Otis Dooda: Strange But True and Otis Dooda: Downright Dangerous, both by Ellen Potter. He also created the book's soundtrack. A new EP of songs about Otis Dooda: Downright Dangerous just went up this week! To listen to them, click here.

When not writing songs or playing with Legos or daydreaming, David makes art for magazines, books, and websites all over the world, including The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Nickelodeon Magazine.  

To see more of David's work, visit his website,

About the Otis Dooda series

by Ellen Potter; illustrated by David Heatley
Feiwel & Friends (March 2014)
ISBN: 978-1250011770

Otis Dooda is starting out at a brand-new school. He would love to make a good impression, but life in Tidwell Towers is never that easy. With his disgusting seatmate, the possible impending alien invasion, and the introduction of his new nemesis, Sid Frackas "The Greatest LEGO Genius Who Ever Lived" (a title Otis thought was his!), things are getting downright dangerous!

by Ellen Potter; illustrated by David Heatley
Feiwel & Friends (June 2013)
ISBN: 978-1250011763

"Heatley strikes an apt balance between cartoony and creepy in his b&w artwork, and Potter has a firm handle on both Otis's self-effacing, drily funny voice and her audience's love of Legos, bizarre plot developments, and bountiful scatological humor." --Publishers Weekly 

"There are plenty of poop and fart jokes, and the black-and-white illustrations add a graphic-novel feel. Give this one to fans of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Captain Underpants series." --School Library Journal

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