Procreate for Comics: My Learning Curve.

The Procreate iPad app is a great bargain. It cost $12.99 in the U.S. It was under $10 when I got it in 2020, half the price of my monthly Photoshop subscription. Procreate is intuitive. It comes with lots of crisp tutorials, but I wasn’t able to teach myself to the point that I would want to share my work. I found a class that helped me a lot.

In January, 2022, I enrolled in an online course in Udemy called Procreate Solid Foundations. The teacher, Simon Foster, is based in Manchester, England. The class has 18 hours of video tutorials. Simon, pictured below, is affable and knowledgeable.

I recommend this course for anyone just getting Procreate. If you do a search for Udemy coupons you can often find this class on sale for $20 or less.

Lately, I’ve been drawing a comic strip for the Sunday HaHa. The Sunday HaHa offers free comics ever Sunday by children’s book creators, including the page’s founders Mika Song and Jen De Oliveira.

95% of ‘Small Word Rat and Big Word Rat’ is done in Procreate. It is easier to refine the type in Photoshop, so I haven’t given up my Adobe subscription. I’ll share some images here to give you an idea of my process.

I begin, as always, with pencil and paper. Then ink. Above is the very rough ink over the even rougher pencil sketch. Below is the finished strip for the Sunday Haha.

Here is how I do the lettering. First I letter the text, then I draw the speech bubble around it on a separate layer. I spill white into that bubble, then rearrange the layers so the text on top. I added the “?” to the text before exporting the final art.

I drew a dozen “Small Word Rat and Big Word Rat” strips before I realized the little bird should have a name. It needed to be short enough that Small Word Rat could say it. She is a Wren named Jen.

Not only am I getting a feel for Procreate, I’m getting a feel for the characters. If someone uses small words it doesn’t mean they are are unintelligent. Both Small Word Rat and Big Word Rat are clever. They understand each other most of the time. Sometimes we need Jen to ask for a bit of clarification.

I hope to do more strips to the Sunday Haha. Meanwhile, I’ve posted more Small Word Rat and Big Word Rat on my website See you there.

The Ducky Mr. McCloskey

Mr. McCloskey’s Marvelous Mallards -The Making of Make Way for Ducklings is a sweet new children’s picture book by Emma Bland Smith with art by Becca Stadtlander. As a McCloskey, I find it fascinating. This is a great book to pair with a read-aloud of Robert McCloskey’s 1941 Caldecott winning book about ducks living in Boston Public Gardens.

As the subtitle explains, it is a book about the making of a classic. I like the fact the Stadtlander’s cover art uses the same forest green as the original.

Robert McCloskey came up with the germ of his most famous story as an art student in Boston observing a duck family in the park. By the time he got to working on Make Way for Ducklings he had moved to New York City.

From “Make Way for Ducklings.” © the estate of Robert McCloskey
Becca Stadtlander’s idea of Robert McCloskey sketches.

That man could draw. In the days before Google images, illustrators in New York City would go the New York Public Library’s picture collection for photo reference. I am old enough to remember doing this myself. Robert McCloskey took his research a step further and visited the Museum of Natural History to draw from taxidermy specimens. Finally, he decided he needed to get some real ducks as models.

Robert McCloskey with his ducks on the subway.(detail) Art by Becca Stadtlander

Robert McCloskey drew his beloved duck illustrations with a litho pencil on zinc plates. They were printed in a sepia-toned ink. Becca Stadlander’s full-color illustrations are done in gouache and colored pencil on watercolor paper. Stadtlander’s art does not resemble Robert McCloskey’s work, but it evokes a midcentury charm appropriate for the story.

Emma Bland Smith’s story emphasizes Mr. McCloskey’s determination to perfect his craft. She also describes how a good editor contributes to a book project. May Massee of Viking Press is credited for her crucial role in bringing McCloskey’s book into print.

What Wine Goes with Duck?

Speaking of editors, I am certain Emma Bland Smith is familiar with my favorite story about the creation of Make Way for Ducklings. Believe it or not, Robert McCloskey fed his ducks red wine so they would slow down and be better models. Amazing story, but no editor would allow this episode to appear in a 21st century kid’s book. The red wine story can be found in Gary Schmidt’s definitive 1990 biography, Robert McCloskey, which Bland Smith credits as a primary source.

Art by Becca Stadtlander

Spoiler alert: Robert McCloskey did not eat his ducks. His downstairs neighbors complained about the constant quacking and water from his overflowing bathtub. He released them at a friend’s country home. Full Disclosure: I received a review copy of Mr. McCloskey’s Marvelous Mallards -The Making of Make Way for Ducklings from the publisher, Calkins Creek, an imprint of Astra Books for Young Readers. Astra bought TOON books this year, so my Giggle and Learn series is also published by Astra.

Hey McCloskey, What’s in a name?

The McCloskey Coat of Arms

Robert McCloskey is not related to me. He was born in 1914 in Hamilton, Ohio, around the same time my McCloskey grandparents immigrated from Donegal, Ireland. Way back in 12th-century Ireland we likely had a common ancestor named Bloskey O’Kane, but we are not closely related.

Make Way For McCloskey

Growing up in New Jersey, I learned about Robert McCloskey at the Elizabeth Public Library. Librarians took my library card and invariably remarked, “McCloskey? There’s famous author named McCloskey.” I knew that already because I was a vain, perhaps delusional, child.

I would look up my own name, Kevin McCloskey, in the card catalog. I liked to imagine I had written a book, but suffered from amnesia and had forgotten about my own great work. I’d find Robert McCloskey’s many books when I looked up my name.

From Mrs.Fitz’s Flamingos © Kevin McCloskey 1991

Somehow, Robert McCloskey inspired me. If one McCloskey could write a book, so could I. This groundless idea stuck with me for life. In 1991, I published my first children’s picture book, Mrs Fitz’s Flamingos. It, too, is a book about birds in the city, but I never thought to fill my apartment with flamingos.

I do school visits. Kids ask, “What made you want to become and author and illustrator?” I tell them my silly, superstitious idea based on finding the name McCloskey in a card catalog. I ask them their names and repeat them back. Sometimes I can blurt out a writer with their name: Garcia; Song; Johnson; or Singh. Other times I tell them to look their surname up on the internet. They will surely find an author or artist with their own name. And for some of them it might prove a lucky charm.

McCloskey Varnish label from the collection of Daniel C.Kirk, author and illustrator.

Lastly, the I want to share a this old paint can label. McCloskey Varnish has nothing to do with me or Robert McCloskey. But I was taught in school every essay needs a good finish and McCloskey varnish makes a wonderful finish!

P.S. I sent a copy of Mrs. Fitz’s Flamingos to Robert McCloskey c/o his publisher, Viking Press. Months later a I received a note from the great Robert McCloskey, his return address simply was Deer Isle, Maine. He wished me success from one McCloskey to another.

CLOUD TOWN, a Ripping Good Graphic Novel!

CLOUD TOWN. available wherever books are sold.

Daniel McCloskey, the creator of the new graphic novel Cloud Town, is my son. That’s my full disclosure. So, take what I say with a grain of salt. Daniel is a genius. I write kid’s books for TOON Books, so some might assume Daniel learned to make graphic novels from me. Not so.

Images from Daniel McCloskey's Graphic novel Cloud Town
Dan and me in my Kutztown, PA studio.

I taught illustration for 30 years at Kutztown University. Daniel was never in my class. In fact, he never studied illustration, precisely. But he has always been a storyteller and image maker. When he was 12, Dr. Tom Schantz gave him keys to Kutztown University’s animation studio. Dan made wild stop-motion animations. He studied printmaking at Kutztown University with Evan Summer. Then he studied writing at Pitt and spent a formative semester in Tokyo studying manga at Temple University Japan.

From Failing to Quit © Daniel McCloskey

If you want to know about his Kutztown years, the Comics Beat published Dan’s 6-part autobiography. You can read it here: Failing to Quit.

The pages below will give you an idea of what Cloud Town is all about. His publisher, Abrams Comic Arts, calls it a Young Adult title, but old adults have enjoyed it, too.

©Daneil McCloskey, 2021

Bill Boichel of Copacetic Comics, Pittsburgh, summarized Cloud Town‘s plot: “Hold onto your hats and get ready for 220 pages of non-stop, high-school-oriented, manga-inflected, duo-tone comics action!  It’s a new school for Cloud Towners, Pen and Olive, and that means new friends, new enemies and new challenges, not the least of which is helping to protect Cloud Town from gigantic monsters that come through “The Rip” (as in, a tear in the fabric of reality, a rending of the space-time continuum) by learning to pilot a giant-size android known as a Care Corps Storm Catcher all while managing family responsibilities and shredding the town.”

Example of Lettering and Onomatopoeia

Cloud Town is 224 pages long. More pages than my last 5 books! Dan did everything in Cloud Town: story, pencils, inks, lettering, and coloring. He is a master storyteller and deserves a black belt in onomatopoeia! BOOSH!

Big sister Zoe (left) had custom hats made for Cloud Town’s launch at Mission Comics, S.F.

Dan lives in Oakland, CA. He sometimes works at Mission Comics in San Francisco. He spent the month of June doing an East-Coast mini-tour. He signed books at Phantom of the Attic in Pittsburgh, the Cecil County Children’s Book Festival in Maryland, Firefly Bookstore in Kutztown. I got to join him on a road trip to the American Library Association Convention in Washington, D.C. We had a blast.

Dan is now back in California. He got to sign a stack of Cloud Town at San Diego ComicCon. Want to know a secret? He is working on a sequel.

Daniel Signing at the ALA Convention, Washington,D.C.

“McCloskey’s debut graphic novel is a story of compatibility and divergence as two friends explore and adapt beyond the confines of their relationship and their own self-imposed limitations. . .Weirdly and unexpectedly wonderful.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“McCloskey’s detailed art does a great job of emphasizing the emotional highs and lows of high school and mech combat. The gritty, textured look makes the characters and settings feel real and helps create a seamless transition between reality and the more fantastical elements of this adventure.” ―School Library Journal

Cloud Town is now available at over 150 libraries worldwide and wherever books are sold. Visit if you want to get in touch with BeanCan Dan. He is happy to do school and library visits, virtually, or in real life!

Little Monarchs @ Artists’ Alley

all art © Jonathan Case 2022

I met Jonathan Case and his daughter Dorothy in Artists’ Alley at the American Library Association Annual Conference, Wash D.C. The conference was back in-person. Masks and vaccinations were required, so it it was a different Artists’ Alley. Odd, but felt safe and far better than a virtual conference. Artists can apply for a free Artist’s Alley table if they donate an artwork to the ALA scholarship fund.

Jonathan is no stranger to comics. He won an Eisner for Green River Killer, and worked on Batman ’66. His new book, Little Monarchs, though, is a labor of love.

Little Monarchs is a wonderful young adult “natural science fiction” graphic novel. Set in 2101, 10-year-old Elvie is on a mission to save humanity with the help of a medicine created by monarch butterflies. Like the fictional Elvie, Jonathan’s daughter Dorothy is 10 years old. 

He started the book 10 years ago. “I was going to be a Dad,” he said, “and was worried I didn’t have any practical skills, so I came up with a MacGuffin to do a book set exclusively in real locations.” He spent a lot of time outdoors. “I learned things about foraging, knot-tying, star navigation.” These survival skills inform the graphic novel set in a future where almost all mammals are extinct.

Survival skills in Little Monarchs

Jonathan camped along the monarch butterfly’s migration path to research the book. All the actual locations are re-imagined in the 2101 future. Pictured below is of one of Jonathan’s backcountry campsites.


The science in Little Monarchs is grounded in reality. The project even got technical support from The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. The Xerces Society is a world leader in the battle to save monarch butterflies. Reviews have been stellar and the book earned a Junior Library Guild gold seal.

©Jonathan Case 2022

Little Monarchs is a remarkable book on so many levels. The premise and artwork are fantastic and young readers will find it thrilling. Available everywhere books are sold. Or visit and he’ll send you a packet of milkweed seeds with your book order to help save the monarchs.

all art @ Jonathan Case 2022

P.S. I was at ALA’s Artists’ Alley assisting at my son Daniel McCloskey’s table. He was sharing his debut graphic novel, CLOUD TOWN. I’ll write about that next time.


 AMAZONA- a graphic novel, by Canizales

Review by Kevin McCloskey 1/23/22

Translation to English by Sofía Huitrón Martínez
U.S edition, Graphic Universe, Lerner, pub date: April, 2022

The graphic novel Amazona, like Disney’s animated musical Encanto, takes place in Colombia. Two stories of refugee families forced off their land by violence could not be more different. Encanto‘s giddy Madrigal family sings about their refuge calling it a ‘casita,’ or little house. Their house is more like a casona, a mansion, so saturated in Disney-color the rainbow seems redundant.

The “casita’ from Encanto ©Disney

On the other hand, Amazona is a starkly drawn graphic novel. It is mostly black graphite pencil on rough white paper. Ink washes and spots of color are used sparingly to reflect a very different take on the refugee experience.

Amazona, detail. © Canizales

The artist Canizales was born in Cali, Colombia. In his story an indigenous refugee family is relocated to a dilapidated casita in a Cali slum. Andrea, the young heroine, describes her new surroundings: “In the place where we live now, and forgive me if I don’t call it home, you’ll find: my sisters and brothers . . .My cousins and aunts and uncles . . .My neighbors, grandmothers, and grandfathers . . .And boys and girls who lost their own families. A total of thirty-eight people sharing a 600-square-foot space. The place is divided into two rooms with no windows, a bathroom with no door, a kitchen, and a patio.

© Canizales

Canizales now lives in Majorca, Spain where he is a professor of illustration and an award-winning author/illustrator. Most of his artistic output consists of early reader picture books and bright bubbly board books. While his board books would not look out of place in a Disney store, Amazona is clearly a passion project. It is fiction, but based on real people and places. Canizales pledges a portion of the book’s profit to aid indigenous people via Resguardo Indígena Nasa de Cerro Tijeras.

The storytelling has tremendous momentum. I intended to simply glance at the review pdf that came my way, but I read it in one sitting. Canizales’s tale is an important story, not a pretty one. There is racism and violence, including an attempted rape. While the vocabulary is deceptively simple, Amazona is not a children’s book. It is a graphic novella for adults, including mature young adults.

detail from Amazona © Canizales

I admit there were plot twists in Amazona that I found hard to believe. – Latin American magic realism? However, Amazona undoubtedly delivers more insight to the Colombian refugee crisis than Encanto. Hundreds of talented artists, writers and colorists are credited at the end of Encanto. Don’t get me wrong, Encanto is a great entertainment product and I appreciate full employment for artists, but it is not food for thought. Encanto was never intended to build empathy with the poorest of poor.

Amazona detail © Canizales

In contrast, one artist, Canizales, born in Cali, Colombia, created Amazona. Sure, he had editors, art directors, and in the case of the U.S. edition, a wonderful translator. Yet, Amazona is basically the act of a single focused imagination, a single hand. Amazona is an extraordinary achievement, worth the journey.

Albert & Lots of Other Things

Albert and the Whale: Albrecht Dürer and How Art Imagines Our World

by Philip Hoare Pegasus Books, NY, 2021, 304 pages.

There is some achingly beautiful writing here. I will read anything about Durer and the sections about Durer’s life and work are wonderful. Other parts seem to be very personal digressions. On several occasions the narrative stops so that the author can take a swim in a harbor, river, pond, or fountain. David Bowie is referenced obliquely several times as the starmen. I have no clue what the starmen has to do with Durer.

Greyhound by Albrecht Durer Wikimedia public domain image

There are wonderful descriptions of dogs. O.K., Durer did love dogs. Musings on the poet Marianne Moore’s bed partners and her move from Greenwich Village to Brooklyn struck me as odd. After several pages we learn Moore wrote poetry about Durer and whales. Durer’s face is described as a face on a train, though there were no trains in Durer’s time. My loss, but I have never seen anyone who looked remotely like Durer on a train, even been on a train in Nuremberg.

Self Portrait Albrecht Durer, oil, 1500

Speaking of dogs, there is a legend that Durer’s dog saw his master’s self-portrait and licked the face on the canvas.

Hoare declines to use quotation marks. It is hard to tell if he is paraphrasing or musing on what he imagines an individual might have said. I know Durer loved typography, but the typography here is peculiar. The text changes fonts when referring to the city of LA. “LA” is several points smaller than the words in the sentence leading up to it.

Melancolia, copperplate print by Durer 1514

This book will be released in paperback this year. The hardcover edition has many welcome illustrations throughout. The illustrations help to explain details in the text. The black and white printing is fuzzy, even as Hoare rightly praises the extraordinary precision of Durer’s prints. The 8 pages of color plates at the end of the book are nicely printed. They are referenced in the text by plate numbers, yet are printed without captions or numbers.

Dog From Durer’s Netherlands Sketchbook

Despite my misgivings about the digressions, I look forward to reading more by Philip Hoare. To give an idea of his writing style – here he is describing his aged and beloved pet dog, Tangle: “That summer he struggled to keep up with the young dog inside of him, the dog he knew, the dog beneath my skin. He led us through the woods hung with moss to a shallow pool and gently lowered his body. We heard him sigh.”

It is true pleasure to read such evocative prose. I just wish more of the prose had evoked Albrecht Durer.
View all my reviews

Omair Ali Makes His Marks

Omair, You landed a job as an illustrator. Congrats!

Q: What exactly is is your job description?

Little Red Riding Hood drawn from a Muslim perspective ©2020 Omair Ali

I’m an illustrator/designer with the in-house publishing department at American Reading Company. We create literacy curriculums for K-12 readers. I design and illustrate books about various subjects ranging from non-fiction (science and history) to fiction (fairytales and fantasy). I really enjoy working here because it combines my passion for art and education.  Also, so much of my work revolves around social justice through educational equity. I get to create books that highlight diversity, and I also get to learn really weird science facts which is a fun bonus.

Personal work, Omair Ali

I started working here around the time the Corona Virus pandemic hit the states hard, so I’ve been working remotely for almost a year at this point. In fact, I worked for about a week in office before our company decided that it was time to go remote. 

Q: Are there images you can share? 

Science book illustrations by Omair Ali for The American Reading Company

Q: How did you feel about Kutztown University’s Communication Design Program?

I think KUCD was overall a beneficial experience, and I look back at it fondly. At first, the program felt very demanding, especially as a student coming from community college. But after a semester or so of adjusting, I began to develop relationships with my classmates and instructors. My coursework wasn’t any less labor-intensive, but the community of students and instructors in the program provided a lot of resources to encourage me.

Omair Ali and fellow students pitching design at KU Designathon ,2019. photo; K. McCloskey

At KU I finally felt like I was among my tribe, working alongside other talented artists, gaining insight and feedback from professionals. It all felt right to me. I felt confident in my choice to be a graphic artist, and KU helped me feel like I belonged.

I returned to school in my late twenties after spending my early adult years working hourly jobs and living paycheck to paycheck, and battling my share of personal demons. I had to address why I wasn’t living up to my full potential. Part of the negative feelings I had toward myself came from my history with education. I was a terrible student when I was younger, and very self-destructive. So, one of the steps toward beginning the journey to self-love was pursuing something I have always been passionate about. So, when I finally made the decision to return to school I was determined to make the best of it. 

Meat-Flavored Cereal, Packaging Design Project by Omair Ali.

I tried to take something of value from every class I took, from foundation courses all the way to the senior seminars. I believe in having an open mind, especially in an academic environment. I mean, if you’re gonna pay for school, you may as well take it all in. 

I think school is not for everyone, and it certainly doesn’t guarantee that you’ll land the job of your dreams. But for me, it was important, because I needed the structure and the discipline to build confidence in myself. I walked out of Kutztown with a great portfolio, thanks in large part to KUCD. But, I also credit the curveballs life threw me; they allowed me to adjust my perspective about self-improvement. 

Q: I wonder if you felt discrimination at KU?

I wasn’t ever really overtly racially discriminated against while attending Kutztown. There’s a level of soft racism you sort of come to expect in areas that are predominantly white. By the time I had entered KU I had a pretty strong sense of situations to avoid, and I was used to often being one of the few people of color in spaces that lacked diversity. So, things like being asked to model for added diversity were typical, for instance, which I was usually fine with (depending on the person asking of course). 

By the time I was at KU, I had a lot of experience navigating social awareness and how to deal with bigotry. I had also developed a much stronger sense of duty to speak out against discrimination of any kind simply by merit of dealing with it so much as a kid. I was in middle school around the time of the 9/11 terror attacks and it pretty drastically impacted me.

© Omair Ali

I’ve struggled for years being afraid of coming across as a monster, or some kind of extremist because of all of the negative connotations with being Muslim. As I mentioned, I was used to being one of the few minorities among large groups of white people, often feeling like I didn’t fit in. But, I also largely did not feel like I belonged within the Pakistani or Muslim communities, either. My passion for art didn’t fit into the mold of the model minority and I was a deeply emotional, chubby, introverted nerd, and that sense of isolation molded my perspective. A lot of my artwork while in school revolved around addressing the relationship I had with my identity because it seems so intimately linked to my journey through school.

Q: What are you working on currently?

One of the illustrations I provided is from a book I’m working on called “Sleepy Yet?” about a kid who visits his grandpa’s farm and tries to trick him into letting him stay up past bedtime.

Q: What is your dream illustration project?

My dream project would be to do a graphic novel in the style that weaves between my stories of growing up, and the videogames, movies, comics, and other media coinciding with those different periods of my adolescence.

Last Question: Where can people find more of your work? 

Instagram. I share artwork regularly on my primary instagram @owair and my ongoing personal project @breathe.owair.

JOEY STRAIN, Illustrator, still in College.

I bought a copy a new kid’s book illustrated by Kutztown University student Joey Strain. The Little Wolf Who Howled at the Moon is written by Dr. Curtis Herr of the KU English Dept. Not every college student can illustrate a high-quality hardcover children’s book, but Joey pulled it off with distinction.

Art © Joey Strain, detail from The Little Wolf Who Crooned at the Moon

I wrote to Joey to ask about the project. Below is our lightly edited Q and A.

Q. What drives you to keep making art outside the classroom?
A. Everything. Experiences, people, thoughts, feelings. It’s what is most important to me in my life. I have to make art outside of the classroom because if I did not I would not be happy.

The Garden Party © Joey Strain

Q. How many zines did you make before making a this book?

A. Well, I actually did not really make any narrative-based zines before my first children’s book job. I, of course, created a lot of illustrations that told a story in the broad sense, but no actual well thought out stories. I always played around with creating characters and jokes since I was a kid, and even used to make small comics about a dinosaur named Yogurt back in 5th grade, but never really made zines in the pure sense of what they are even to this day. I have made some art book zines that are really just illustrations with no words, but that is it.

Fishy © Joey Strain

Q. How did the “The Little Wolf who Crooned to the Moon” come to be?

A. The book came to be in a pretty unexpected way, I think. In my English Comp class during freshman year, my professor, Dr. Curt Herr, asked me what I was interested in doing in life during a review of one of my essay drafts. I said I wanted to illustrate children’s books. He asked me to send him some of my artwork and told me he was working on a book at the time with an illustrator already, but might be interested in doing another children’s book. He ended up loving my work and eventually bringing me in to illustrate the book he was working on – “The Little Wolf Who Crooned to the Moon.” After almost 2 years of book-related meetings in his office and then over FaceTime during the pandemic, the book finally came into fruition after lots of collaboration . It was a long process being my first book and I made a ton of mistakes along the way from start to finish, but I learned an absolute ton of information in the process.

Joey Strain at Kutztown University, 2019, foreground, with Josh Larkin.

Q.Why did you choose Kutztown U?

Self-portrait at the Creek © Joey Strain

A. I ended up at Kutztown after taking a year off from education after graduating high school. Originally, I planned on attending University of the Arts in Philadelphia, but due to financial issues I had to take a year off and work full time. Kutztown University sounded like it had a pretty neato program and I really dug the classes that were offered in the Communication Design program. It was not my first or second choice, but in the end it was where I belonged. I have met amazing folks along the way that have really impacted my art and thoughts. A fella like me wouldn’t have made it in the big city anyway. I truly enjoy being in a town that’s mostly fields and farms, and being able to take a short walk or drive and being able to experience nature and calmness.

” The Pajama Goblin’s Nightly Parade” a Kutztown U Illustration class project © Joey Strain

Q. Do you still work at an art store?  Does the job help you stay creative in any way?

I do still work at an art store, Michael’s Arts & Crafts in the Reading area. Been there over three years now. The job absolutely makes me stay creative because I do not want to be there forever. It’s a lovely gig for the most part, but it definitely drives me to keep making art so I can eventually build that passion into a viable enough career that I don’t depend on my Michael’s paychecks to live. Being a Custom Framer/Personal Designer there is great and I love framing art for a living, but by the end of the night there when I am cleaning up after customer’s messes in the store on my knees scrubbing dirty toilets, I know I need to push myself to get this illustrator career to work out.

“Huzzah, The Tree Festival Cometh” Illustration class project © Joey Strain

Q: One of your classmates at Gov. Mifflin High School was the artist Amos Lemon Burkhart, who tragically died in 2018. Was he an influence on your work?

Yes! Here is an image of one of Amos’s pieces I bought from him back in high school.

Art by Amos Lemon Burkhart

Amos was a great friend and the only other person I knew who was as interested in being an artist. He was always my biggest inspiration and I was always pushing myself to keep up with his seemingly endless talent and skill. 


More of Joey Strain’s colorful work can be found on his website. Also find him on instagram. The Little Wolf Who Crooned at the Moon can be ordered at your local indy bookshop. I got mine through Firefly Books, Kutztown. You can get the hardcover or Kindle edition at Amazon. Joey has an Etsy shop where you can buy prints and books.

More about the life and art of Joey’s friend Amos Lemon Burkhart can be found at:

Queen’s Gambit : Season II

Totally bogus Photoshop image by Kevin McCloskey

Walter Tevis, the author of the novel, The Queen’s Gambit, was my creative writing teacher at Ohio University in 1970. I don’t know anything about the origin of the Beth Harmon character, alas. I do recall Prof. Tevis spoke about his earlier novel, The Hustler. He insisted that he created the character of Minnesota Fats from many characters he met playing pool. He was angry when a pool player assumed the Fats name after the success of the book and then film.

Walter Tevis, 1970. Drawn from memory, Kevin McCloskey

I have one memory of Walter Tevis from 1970. He invited the class to his house near campus at the end of the semester. It was lovely old Victorian house. We were met by a woman at the door who told us to sit in the living room. Tevis came down the stairs with a six-pack of bottled beer. Back then Ohio had beer with lower alcohol content that teenagers, 18 and up, were permitted to drink. It was called 3.2 beer.

Prof Tevis asked, “Who wants a beer?” Stunned silence from the class. Then Tevis said, “You have to drink it. I’m an alcoholic. Can’t have this in the house. ” So I had a beer or two to help him out. We read our stories. I ‘d written one about a pinball machine made in China called the Red Lantern. When the ball hit a precise number of bumpers and flippers a chimed sequence unlocked a hypnotic trigger in the player turning him into an assassin. Prof. Tevis said really enjoyed the story.

He had an amazing life, hanging out in poolhalls from Kentucky to Okinawa. He made me wish my life was more interesting. After I left college I read his sci-fi novels Mockingbird and also The Man who Fell to Earth, which became the cult David Bowie movie. I loved Mockingbird. I think I wrote him a letter and sent it to Ohio University. I now see he had left Ohio University by then to move to New York City.

Title page, Queens Gambit, 1983

I’m reading the The Queen’s Gambit now. The writing is sharp and differs in some ways from the Netflix series. No spoilers here. The first edition author bio notes: “In 1978 he left his teaching position- with some trepidation- to start writing again… The Queens’ Gambit derives from an obsession similar to that which produced The Hustler, but deeper and older. Tevis learned to play chess as a seven-year-old in San Francisco and still plays as a class C player- in his fifties in New York, when not writing.”

Tevis would have been 49 years old when he left his teaching job Ohio University for NYC. He died of lung cancer at 57.

Like fictional Beth Harmon, Walter Tevis appeared on the cover of Chess Life.

Seniors Shop at 6 a.m.

I was lucky enough to do The Cartoonist’s Diary column for a week (June 15-19) for The Comics Journal., TCJ. com. I call the series “The Wide World of Kutztown.” It’s all about my take on the pandemic in the tiny college town of Kutztown, PA. It has been going viral by my standards. 300 plus people liked Tuesday’s strip. Maybe so many people are at home and online.

The Comic Journal notes “A new Cartoonist’s Diary begins, with Kutztown’s own Kevin McCloskey clocking in for a look at his mailbox, his fertilizer, and his missing mailman!”

Here is an earlier version of a segment of a one of the diary strips. I will be posting some more comics here when I can.

Artwork © Kevin McCloskey 2020
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