Hey! I know it’s been a while since I posted something (but then again I highly doubt ANYONE visits this blog anyway) so here is a commission my friend Allison Jornlin recently requested of me.
Allison, for those of you who might not know her, is a paranormal researcher located in Milwaukee who has been investigating hauntings and other strange phenomena for over 20 years. The image above is not even the first illustration she commissioned of me (sheesh great self-promoting skills, RPJ!), below is the first one I made for her Youtube channel:
Allison gave me total freedom with the image, and the only request was that she wanted Mothman featured in it, because last year she was actively investigating a lot of recent sightings involving the (in)famous Fortean fiend –most people would prefer to call it a “cryptid,” but I’m not most people (sorry, Loren!). I wanted to give the piece a fun-but-eerie Scooby-Doo kind of vibe, so I chose a dark alley inhabited by a couple of stray cats capable of perceiving the ominous presence looming over brave Allison.
Incidentally, this is also a sort of “OG” Mothman because it has feathery wings like a bird, instead of leathery ones like those I used for my “Keel it with Fire!” t-shirt; this more closely resembles the early descriptions of the entity lurking over Point Pleasant in the 1960’s.
After that, Allison asked me to do another illustration for her; this time she was a bit more concrete in what she wanted to see: she gave me specific instructions about the background she wanted –a very characteristic landmark of the Wisconsin skyline, I’m told– and she wanted a ghost instead of ole “Mothy.” I was happy to comply, but I stuck with the Scooby-style I had used for the first commission:
As you can see, instead of crisp black lines I went for a ‘softer’ look with other types of brushes. And if you’re a fan of the Scooby-Doo series you might recognize the ghostly guy on the right as one of the green ghosts that were featured in the episode “A Fright Night is no Delight.” I was very happy with the end result, because I feel it shows a noticeable level of maturity in my skill levels as an illustrator.
So, getting back to the image featured at the beginning of this post, a few weeks ago Allison contacted me because she wanted to request a new commission, but this time instead of ghosts and winged humanoids she wanted a UFO theme –yes, I know Mothman is closely linked to the UFO phenomenon, and you know my ideas about the similarities between close encounter cases and ghost apparitions, but let’s not get side-tracked here…
Allison was interested in knowing if it was possible to switch the green ghost of the last commission and replace it with an alien. Luckily I had kept the originally TIFF file I had created with Autodesk Sketchbook with all the layers intact and separated, so deleting the ghost was not that difficult. Since I didn’t want to mess with Allison’s caricature and I had given her a subtle green glow coming from the ghost, I suddenly had an Eureka moment and decided that instead of your typical (read: BOOORING) gray alien, I was going to stick with my Hanna Barbera roots and do a little homage to a beloved character from my cartoon-saturated childhood: The Great Gazoo!
Gazoo, for those Millennials whose idea of a ‘classic’ cartoon goes no further than South Park, was a character that appeared in the later seasons of The Flintstones. His origin story is that he was the ruler of some distant planet that had been exiled to a backwater world–meaning Earth, duh– as punishment for his crimes, and he would only be allowed to return once he proved he had reformed himself, by way of helping some of the primitive ‘dum-dums’ –meaning Fred and Barney– using his superior intellect and extraordinary powers.
In some ways, Gazoo was a bit of a cheap shot in trying to capitalize on the UFO craze that was sweeping over America in the mid 1960s. But the reason I still love this character so much is because he’s nothing but a space-age version of an Irish leprechaun, granting wishes to Fred and Barney by simply snapping his fingers. So in many ways this little green man with the oversized head (and an even more oversized ego!) was ahead of both the Ancient Astronauts theory, the ‘Prison Planet’ concept and Passport to Magonia!
Not only that, but in the Flintstones world the only adults capable of seeing Gazoo are just Fred and Barney, whereas the rest of the inhabitants of Bedrock (their wives included) think they’re crazy. The Flintstones children (Betty and Bam-Bam) are also perfectly capable of detecting Gazoo’s presence, as well as Dino and other animals; so, again, another great nod to the ‘rules’ of Forteana from a cherished piece of 1960’s pop culture.
With that in mind, I sought to add my own little twist to Gazoo by using the bug eyes of gray aliens, the oft-reported two holes instead of a full nose, and showing him glowing with green radiation. In my mind, perhaps the pointy-nosed version of him we saw in the original cartoon was just a ‘projection’ he used in order not too scare the dum-dums too much! I did keep his original wardrobe, of course –how else would you recognize him, otherwise??– and just added a bit of realism by making his helmet very shiny like polished metal. This, by the way, reminds me of the old Indian cases in which a hairy creature with sharp claws and a helmet like that of a police trooper was terrorizing the slums of Delhi. I’m just a sucker for those odd out-of-place little details…
To conclude, I’m happy to report that Allison was once again happy with my work. So, in case you yourself are interested in acquiring your own piece of original artwork, you can contact me at: absurdbydesign[at]gmail[dot]com, or leave a comment on this blog post.