GRAPHIC NOVELS

The Art of Nothing: 25 Years of Mutts and the Art of Patrick McDonnell

ComicArts: Abrams. Oct. 2019. 240p. ISBN 9781419736766. $40;. COMICS
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McDonnell is perhaps most well known for his warmly witty, animal-centered comic strip Mutts but has also authored children’s books and collaborated with conservationist Jane Goodall, poet Daniel Ladinsky, and spiritual teacher Eckhardt Tolle (who provides this book’s introduction). A true master of the medium, McDonnell ably conveys emotions with a few pen strokes and creates mood with subtle colors. His strips also slyly reference the grammar of comics and the history of art and design. This volume, published for the 25th anniversary of Mutts’ debut and a sequel to a 2003 monograph, displays McDonnell’s art lavishly. Designed to explore the artist’s process, the book includes numerous sketches and paintings as well as published strips and art. The text is spare but insightful, as McDonnell touches on his inspirations and influences as well as his various works. Rounding out the book is commentary from the great Lynda Barry, to whom McDonnell penned illustrated letters about his life and art.
VERDICT This gorgeous volume celebrates the brilliance of McDonnell and pure cartooning. Animal lovers, the artist’s fans, and connoisseurs of art history will enjoy.

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