The work of Southampton painter and Dan’s Papers contributing artist Michael Paraskevas appears on this week’s cover. It’s titled “Dew Drops at Dawn” and it also appears in Paraskevas’s new children’s book Mr. Moon, which was just released by Crown Books. Paraskevas shares that “I was a big fan of the Apollo moon landing program and this book makes me recall that thrill.”
Paraskevas continues, “I’ve lived in Southampton for 30 years. I had a gallery in Westhampton Beach but we closed it after my mother passed away a few years ago. It was just better with her there. We had so much fun. Maybe someday I’ll open it up again. Right now I’m enjoying married life and traveling when I can and keeping my weekends to my family.”
What would you like to tell us about your new book?
A while back I found these small round canvases in an art store and I bought some to paint them as beach balls for a series of beach paintings I was working on. My mother saw the canvas and suggested I paint a moon…a moon to hang up in your home. I sold a ton of them at our gallery over the years. I still have one hanging in our living room. My wife loved these little moons and two years ago she told me to write a book about the moon.
The paintings for the book (shown above and on the next page) took a while. I did them all on the computer, which opened new ways of working for me. I’ve since switched back to painting with real brushes.
This is your second billionth cover for Dan’s Papers. What about Dan’s Papers and the East End continues to inspire you?
Doing Dan’s Papers covers has given me a chance to try different things and to experiment a bit. I’m currently working on a Thanksgiving cover and an annual Christmas cover.
I know artists always talk about the light and I never bothered with landscapes but I’ve been to Iowa (that was like a trip to the moon) and I decided to paint landscapes from out here and Iowa. It was an art-changing experience. I got to ride a combine and harvest corn. The food is cheap…and life is sure quiet. It was different. I’ll show the paintings soon.
In addition to your many projects and your weekly “Green Monkeys” strip in Dan’s Papers, you create original cartoons every week for Dan Rattiner’s colorful stories. Do you have a particularly colorful story about making these on-demand works?
Dan and I have a wonderful creative relationship. I don’t tell him how to write and he leaves me alone with the cartoons. My mother always wondered where I got my ideas. Dan writes with such a great style I think we just meshed together well. Like Martin and Lewis…or Abbot and Costello.
My beautiful wife Maria will sometimes contribute ideas now. She’s very funny. She has a good ability to digest a story and think visually. My mother was good with words… Maria thinks in a more visual way. Maria has saved my you-know-what from time to time when I’m stuck.
A while back Dan kept writing about the Big Duck and all the trouble they were having. I could have done a book of cartoons just about that Duck. I was frankly fed up with trying to keep it going and I pleaded with Dan to find something else to write about.
He didn’t. He does what he wants.
What are the basic conceptual differences for you between creating a cartoon, a comic strip, a book, an animated piece?
It’s all the same. It starts with me staring at a blank piece of paper, or lately it starts by staring at the computer. Dan’s cartoons are dictated by his writing of course. The Green Monkeys? I have no idea. Sometimes I work far in advance but the past few months it’s been a stream of conscious comic in some ways. Sometimes I pick a topic and it writes itself. I hope people think it’s funny. The Green Monkeys has a long history and I could write a book on the torture of development we went through on a Green Monkeys television series with Disney and even a feature film with Paramount. Someday the Monkeys will live in animation. I’m always hopeful. They are such lovable and fun characters.
Maria and I are working together on a number of animated ideas. The business is seriously nuts. The book business is a little more easy to handle. I’ve been writing more and more since my mother passed away. I never knew how hard it really was. There’s a lot of staring at a blank piece of paper and throwing stuff up on the wall to see what sticks.
I have a book I’m working on about a kid who hates everything. Try selling that one. I have more. Tons and tons of them.
How has the internet and its attendant technologies impacted your work?
I love the internet. I love to research reference ideas for paintings. It sure beats life in the old days when I would go to the library for hours to find reference material for illustration jobs.
I draw Dan’s cartoons on my iPad Pro now. A truly marvelous piece of tech. I can even travel all over the country and still get Dan’s cartoons and The Green Monkeys strip finished.
I’m working on something with one of the writers from Toy Story… oops am I supposed to say that? Too late. Wait till you see this animated series.
Where can readers view more of your work?
New work can always be seen at my illustration page michaelparaskevas.com. There’s an email at that site if anyone has questions. I’m around. Do any readers have ideas for a Dan’s Papers Christmas cover? Email me.
I sell paintings out of Messina’s gallery and jewelry store on Main Street in Westhampton Beach. Animation projects and art can be seen at paraskevasstudios.com.