Artist of the Week: Matthew Mewhorter of Cancer Owl.

Posted on Posted in Be Enlightened.

 

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This week’s Artist of the Week: Matthew Mewhorter of Cancer Owl brings us artwork with an important message.

BYMG:  How did you get started?

MM: I actually began drawing obsessively in the third grade, out of jealousy, because I wanted to have the classroom attention that my classmate Mark was getting. After I took the crown as the “best artist” in class, I couldn’t stop. I knew this is what I wanted to do. I wanted to do comic strips and children’s books when I got older. I’m lucky to be doing both.

Cancer Owl started as a suggestion from my therapist to begin art journaling my journey with cancer. I began doing that a little, but it picked up steam last March when I had my surgery to remove my cancerous tumor. In the hospital, I had this urge to draw myself as an owl. For one, I have always loved owls—such fascinating birds; but secondly, it seemed like drawing myself as an owl was a fun way of taking my personal story to the public. I also wanted to give cancer patients and survivors the voice we deserve: honest, uplifting, heartbreaking, hopeful, and unapologetic.  I wanted to tell the truth about life with cancer in a way that can actually grab people’s attention, whether it makes people uncomfortable or not.

 

BYMG:  Who or what influences your work?

MM: Cancer Owl is influenced not only by my story, but also the stories of my fellow young adults fighting cancer.  I mean, cancer patients and survivors are cool as hell. Many of my comrades in ailment have a wicked sense of humor, and tend to be blunt about having cancer, the nastiness of treatment, and facing death. I was talking with a fellow rectal cancer survivor who lost her anus, and we had a hilarious conversation about her “phantom butthole”, similar to an amputee suffering from phantom limb syndrome.

Artistically, I was first influenced by Jim Davis’ Garfield and Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes. They made me fall in love with comics. I also was in love with The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and anything by Maurice Sendak. As time went on, I became highly intrigued by the work of Salvador Dali, Basquiat, and Ralph Steadman. And in more recent years I allowed my style to become more honed and influenced by graphic novelists Craig Thompson and David B. And there are so many writers, thinkers and stand-up comics, but all of my influences encourage me to tell the truth, no matter what.

 

BYMG: What’s the big message you want readers to take away from your work?

MM: That cancer is not only okay to talk about, but also a condition where we can find humor and hope.   I want cancer patients and survivors to say, “Yes, that’s exactly how I feel” or “that’s what it’s like!”. And I want non-cancer types to get a deeper understanding of what we go through, and can improve how they approach others with cancer. I strive tell the WHOLE truth about having cancer, and that includes other people’s really poor attempts at being comforting. Cancer Owl is not meant to be cheeky or comfortable. I believe humor is one of the best ways to tell the truth about life’s difficulties, and comics offer a powerful, humorous snapshot that delivers an entire thesis in a thing that’s read in seconds.

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BYMG:  Do you have a particular time of day that feels the best for you to create? A specific space? Or do you just get to it when and where the mood strikes?

MM: Well, between battling cancer, being married, working full time still as a therapist, and having the most awesome two-year-old on the planet, it’s been a bit tough getting that dream routine that we artists are encouraged to have. That said, early morning’s been best time. That or I’ll moonlight on a weeknight and on the weekends. The night is when most magic happens though. But all of my comics are coming from my regular art journal chronicling my experience with cancer.

 

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BYMG: What is your process like? Do you typically finish a piece in one day, or take breaks and come back to it?

For Cancer Owl, if it isn’t therapeutic for me when I put it in my journal, it won’t become a comic. Because if it isn’t therapeutic for me, then it won’t be for others. So, I journal my ideas as they come as a form of self care, then the creations all get sketched, inked and colored digitally on my Wacom tablet, Photoshop, and Manga Studio 5.

 

BYMG: Favorite creation so far this year?

MM: Well, at first, I thought about my comic about running at 6 in the morning, despite cancer treatment. It really struck a chord with my fellow cancer people. But probably my favorite creation isn’t released from my sketchbook yet. That work is a longer narrative, where cancer is actually given a face and a body, and I describe the odd love/hate relationship I’ve had with my diagnosis so far.

 

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BYMG: Where can our readers connect with you and find more of your work?

MM: Cancer Owl is still very new. There will be an official website any day now. But I wanted to share my stuff as soon as possible, so you can enjoy Cancer Owl in 3 different ways:

 

Follow me at on Tumblr.

“Like” me on Facebook.

Follow @CancerOwl on Twitter!

 

 

 Thanks, Matthew!

 

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