‘Calvin and Hobbes’ creator BILL WATTERSON: On painting a portrait of ‘Cul de Sac’s Petey


Original art by Bill Watterson for Team Cul de Sac (for Richard Thompson of "Cul de Sac"). 6" x 8" oil on board. (Bill Watterson)

Since “Cul de Sac” creator Richard Thompson announced the launch of his Parkinson’s fundraising project in January, more than 100 cartoonists have signed up to contribute orignal art to Team Cul de Sac’s book and auction.

Among the more head-turning contributions has been the oil painting recently donated by “Calvin and Hobbes” creator Bill Watterson — his first public art in nearly 16 years. The work is portrait of “Cul de Sac’s” 8-year-old aspiring cartoonist, Petey Otterloop.

Comic Riffs recently caught up with Watterson to learn more about his portrait and how he decided on Petey:

BILL WATTERSON: I was reluctant to goof around with Richard’s creation, so I had trouble thinking of an approach that interested me until I got the idea of painting a portrait.

I thought it might be funny to paint Petey “seriously,” as if this were the actual boy Richard hired as a model for his character. At first I intended to do the picture in a dark, Rembrandt-like way to accentuate the “high art” of painting vs the “low art” of comics — the joke being that the comic strip is intelligent and the painting is idiotic — but the picture went through quite a few permutations as it developed.

I found it interesting how the comical distortions in a cartoony drawing become freakish and grotesque when they’re depicted more three-dimensionally. (You sometimes see this in computer rendering and animation.)

Anyway, by the end, I wasn’t sure whether the painting came out funny or creepy, but I hope it’s intriguing somehow.

The result surprised me, so I enjoyed it.

Writer/artist/visual storyteller Michael Cavna is creator of the "Comic Riffs" column and graphic-novel reviewer for The Post's Book World. He relishes sharp-eyed satire in most any form.
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