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Letting Go to Grow Artistically

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of reading Happyloo: Friends, Foes, and Fun by my friend Mark Mariano. A colorful and playful comic book filled with characters like Tickle, a friendly turtle, and Meatsauce, a gentle yet dim-witted bulldog who loves food, Happyloo first ran on Mark’s website from June 25, 2008 to January 19, 2009.

Though written for children, the comics appeal to adults too! I really admire Mark’s use of color, his simple yet lovable illustrations, and the ways that he can communicate emotion without the use of words. As a writer, I was extremely inspired by Mark’s storytelling. His characters are memorable, and the situations are quirky and imaginative.

Each chapter or installment teaches a simple lesson: play fairly, don’t litter, and keep your bedroom clean are just a few of the lessons that children can learn from his instructive and encouraging comics.

As someone who loves stories about artistic process, I really appreciated Mark’s History of Happyloo at the back of his book. Happyloo was born in the late 90s, when Mark sketched a concept for a wacky town with an extensive cast of characters.

Mark writes: “I took the advice from my peers. I did MORE studying and MORE research. I further developed my skills as a cartoonist and I completed this book. I thought about redoing several stories in this book because my art style changed. I decided to leave them all the way they were. I like the fact that I can see how I grew as an artist.”

I find Mark to be a true inspiration. When I was in college, I wrote a lot of poetry. On my hard drive, I have digital folders filled with poems in Word documents that no one has ever seen. In fact, most people that didn’t know me in college don’t know that I ever wrote poetry because I ended up pursuing a graduate degree in fiction, not poetry.

I am thinking about compiling the best of these poems and sharing them with friends and family. What good are they hidden on my computer? I actually spent a good part of yesterday reading through all the poems, and I hate about 80% of them. I’ve matured and changed a lot over the past five years. However, at least 15 poems still resonated with me – I’m going to arrange them, but I’m going to resist editing them in any way.

Personally, I think any artist who can feel comfortable with his or her early work is a brave soul. I have always admired poets and writers who compile their early work, especially if the work is not as “good” as the work that their fans love the most. No matter what your craft, are you embarrassed by or proud of your past work? How do you separate it from yourself? And how do you use it to help you move forward and evolve artistically?

You can buy Happyloo and other merchandise by visiting Mark’s online store.


  1. I keep all my old work. Whether it’s music I recorded on the four-track as a teenager or comic books I drew when I was seven. Revisiting them takes me back to my frame of mind when i created them. It’s a time machine.

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