Month: July 2015

Help cute doggies like this one and get to know a remarkable LA-based artist. Read on.

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How cute is this guy?
I am honored to introduce you to A. Morkus Dog – writer and canine extraordinaire. He wrote this book with his mom, LA-based artist Deborah Reilly.
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This book made me and my son laugh out loud. He’s a great writer and 20% of the proceeds from his book, The Collected Writings of A. Morkus Dog go to Animal Rescue Groups. So that’s pretty cool! Entertainment and animal rights in one. I like it!
Let’s hear a little more about Deborah. She’s written a lovely piece based on questions I sent her a few weeks back. She’s so cool and so talented, and we are going to have coffee soon. How lucky am I? Can you say inspiration?
Deborah and her sweet little dog man.

Deborah and her sweet little dog man.

Hi Marissa,
I am so happy you and your son love the book! I am so thankful for the feedback and this interview.
I am an artist, writer and teacher. I teach Art at an elementary school in Brentwood and Saturday mornings at the farmer’s market at Virginia Avenue Park in Santa Monica. I was born and raised in Montana and have a BFA in drawing from MSU Bozeman. As a kid I was often at the kitchen counter drawing from comic books that we had around the house.
Deborah has done work for Will Smith and Queen Latifah.

Deborah has done works commissioned by Will Smith and Queen Latifah.

I loved to draw. I wasn’t a ‘natural’ artist though, so I gave up Art and did not pick it up again until I was 25, living in San Francisco. I started where I let off with Crayola watercolors as a way of dealing with insomnia. It was wonderful to understand that the images I saw in my head could be brought on paper I just had to go abstract before I could go real.
Art has been an evolution for me over the past 20 years. The Collected Writings of A Morkus Dog is my fourth children’s book but the first inspired by Mork. Mork came into our life via a local rescue group called Love Leo Rescue. It was love at first sight for me and the love continues to grow. I grew up with dogs but Mork is the first of my own and I am smitten. I hope that comes across on the page. He is such a charismatic guy.
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Other books are:
Starchy & Husk in the Green Boot in Soup Caper
Starchy & Husk in Swoosh, Whoosh, Swish What was That? Starchy & Husk are a potato and corncob who fight crime in rhyme.)
Cock A Doodle Que Pasa? (which has not gone into production)
I paint, draw, collage but usually with no idea in mind as to what it will be. The Abstract Expressionists have been a big influence in my creative journey. I am a process artist and figure it out as I go along. When I began illustrating my books it was a challenge as the words were written so the pictures had to match. My previous books were collage which I love. I cut up my old sketchbooks and make art out of ‘mistakes’.
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With Mork’s book I had to take a different approach, the world I created on paper is much like that I envisioned in my head. It was about those blue lines and Mork’s image on paper, it didn’t need much else. Most of the pictures in the book are drawn from actual photographs. As a teacher it is important to me that young artists and readers see work that is not perfect or computer generated. I like my work to be relatable. All images and text are done by hand.
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I was planning to write the third story for Starchy & Husk but then came Mork and that just turned everything upside down. The inspiration for this book comes from him! He is just such a funny dude. From the eyebrows, those pleading, inquisitive brown eyes and cocking his head from side to side as thought he is really listening to you. One day he put a pen in his mouth and sat by the door and just looked at me…not much more needed to be said. I was encouraged by a few colleagues to write a children’s book about Mork and so I did.
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After adopting Mork I became captivated by the rescue community and wanted to do something more. I’d like my wallet to match my heart in what I can give. Watching videos of animals being rescued always left me in tears. 20% of the net profits will go to animal rescue groups like Hope for Paws, The Sat Project, Love Leo Rescue, The Vieques Humane Socity etc… It is important to me that I become a part of the solution. We travelled to the Domincan Republic last fall and I picked up a travel tip from a good friend of mine. She always has food for the stray animals so as we vacationed on the lovely beaches we fed the animals in need. it felt so good and sad at the same time.
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I  grew up with dogs and had always wanted one of my own. My boyfriend and I decided to take the plunge and adopt. I contacted a local animal rescue group called Love Leo Rescue and told Sasha what we were looking for in a dog. A few weeks later she was at Downey Shelter and found Mork. Sasha tagged me in a photo and that was it, love at first sight. We fostered him for one night and called Sasha the next day and said Mork had found his forever home.
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There are so many things I love about this little dog and I hope that is conveyed on the page. How he amuses me, makes me smile and laugh and how he burst my heart wide open! He makes life better. I remember writing to Sasha a few days after we adopted him, saying that I couldn’t remember life before Mork, and I still can’t. We are kindred spirits and have many of the same personality traits.
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Many of my students have asked “Did your dog really write this book?” to which I reply, “Well, no, not really but if he could write I think this is exactly what he would say.” And I believe that to be true.
Writing children’s books is kind of like coming full circle for me working in a format that was such a part of my childhood. I aim to write books that both parents and children will enjoy. This book is great for toddlers, early readers and for anyone who loves dogs.
What inspires Deborah and A. Morkus…
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As a kid I loved Dr Seuss, Maurice Sendak and Eric Carle and of course the Madeline series. David Shannon and Ian Falconer are contemporary favorites. I love humor and am a fan of David Sedaris and Amy Schumer. Some of my favorite books are: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont and The Little Prince are my Art Bibles. Anne Lamont is so honest about the creative process and The Little Prince encouraged me that you are never too old to create. Favorite painters are Joan Mitchell, Helen Frankenthaler and Francis Bacon and Louise . I love how every art movement is a reaction to another.
 
There are so many great influences it is hard to cap it to a few. 
 
Thank you Deborah and A. Morkus! The two will be travelling this summer and writing and arting about their adventures! Please follow them! A. Morkus Dog.
Also July 8-10 Hale Arts on Main Street in Santa Monica is having a $100. art sale. Deborah will have 3 paintings available and yes, all work will be $100.
xo!
Marissa