By Erin Marton
He may go by simply one name, but Wayno’s portfolio is full of complexities and depth that may surprise the average purveyor of cartoon and comic art. Wayno’s work is nationally recognized, and his client list impressively includes Nickelodeon, Rhino Records, National Geographic, The New York Times and The New Yorker, amongst others. However, he calls the ‘Burgh home, and we’re certainly glad he does!
We recently sat down for a chat with the local icon to learn a little more about what influences him, his work alongside Dan Piraro of Bizarro fame, and what the future has in store for the illustrator.
CBSPittsburgh.com: Tell us a little about your background. What inspires you now from your past experiences?
Wayno: Except for a couple of drawing classes, and some training to learn Photoshop and basic web design, I’m a self-taught artist. I’ve been drawing all my life, and have always had very strong opinions about what I like and what I don’t like (don’t we all?)
In general, I enjoy art that shows evidence of a human hand, with imperfections intact. I avoided digital tools for a long time, out of fear that it would make my art look too sterile. I’ve since learned that a determined artist can bend most tools to their will.
One of the most inspiring people in my life was my maternal grandfather. He gave me the nickname Wayno (I assume to make my given name sound more Italian). Although he spent 50 years as a laborer in a steel plant, my most vivid memories are of him taking time to enjoy the things he liked. He’d read the New York Times cover to cover every Sunday, and he shared coffee with me, although my cup contained more milk than coffee. Both of my Italian grandparents worked very hard their entire lives. When not working, they loved to share food and drink with people. I recently realized that my appreciation of good food, my daily coffee intake, and my habit of reading the Times every day (and doing the crossword puzzle) all came from time spent with my grandparents.
CBSPittsburgh.com: You have a broad range of projects. What have been some of your favorites?
Wayno: One of my favorite projects was the Weird Tales of the Ramones CD box set. I’d been a Ramones fan forever, and the Art Director, Hugh Brown, put together an amazing package for that set. It was built around a hardcover comic book featuring the work of 25 cartoonists. In addition to comics pages, I did caricatures of the four original Ramones for the disc labels. Most of the contributing artists attended a release party in Los Angeles, and it was great to be part of that group.
Being selected as Animal Friends‘ Honorary Artist last year was another very gratifying experience. I created a set of images of illustrations that their in-house graphics team used for all materials related to the 2010 Black Tie & Tails fundraiser. My artwork appeared on t-shirts, billboards, notecards, gift bags, programs & advertising, and was used to create custom lighting for the event. Several pieces of mine were also auctioned. Last year’s event raised over $400,000 for the shelter, and it was an honor to be a small part of that success.
I also always enjoy working on beer labels for East End Brewing Company. Scott Smith [the owner] and I have fun cooking up ideas, and then wondering if the Federal authorities will approve them.
CBSPittsburgh.com: Music seems to be a strong influence for you, and you have done a lot of collaborations with musicians. How important is music to your work as a whole, and what musical artists inspire you the most?
Wayno: Music has always been a great interest of mine, for as long as I can remember. I always have music playing when I work, and all my life I’ve been something of a musical explorer, on the lookout for things I haven’t heard before.
I have a great love of classic jazz and be-bop, blues, R&B, punk rock, Brasilian music, 1960s Italian soundtracks, exotica & lounge music, etc. A few of the artists I listen to the most are Louis Armstrong, the Kinks, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Captain Beefheart, the Pixies, Tom Waits, and Johnny Cash. I’m a huge fan of Homer & Jethro, who were best known as cornball comedians, but backed up their countrified parodies with absolutely top-notch musicianship. Also, my wife and I both love the music and culture of New Orleans, and try to visit the city as often as we can.
CBSPittsburgh.com: Tell us a little about your collaboration with Dan Piraro and Bizarro.
Wayno: Bizarro was my favorite daily comic before I ever met Dan Piraro. In early 2008, he appeared here in Pittsburgh to emcee a ToonSeum event. Prior to his visit, another cartoonist filled in for a week while Dan took a short vacation. Upon meeting him, I brazenly said that next time he wanted to take some time off, he should hire me to sub for him. He recently told me that he was thinking “Who is this guy? What nerve!”
However, Dan is a very nice and generous person. He told me that he had only had one guest cartoonist during the Strip’s 25-year history, and politely suggested that I could send him some joke ideas, as he does use gags from other writers. I emailed a couple dozen sketches to him, and he liked quite a few. Three weeks later the first of my gags appeared in Bizarro.
After becoming more familiar with my work, Dan asked if I’d be interested in assisting him as the colorist for his daily panels. I spent a few days in his studio learning his technique, and I started coloring the Monday through Saturday panels in February of this year.
And, in May of this year, I finally got the chance to fill in as guest cartoonist, which was a real kick. We’re currently planning another weeklong stint for this fall or winter, and I’m working on new gags in between other projects.
Working with Dan is very much a collaboration. We often speak by phone or exchange multiple emails editing the dialog or art for a gag. I learn something from him every time we team up on a comic. I always post my Bizarro gags on my blog, and usually discuss the collaborative process that led to the finished comic.”
CBSPittsburgh.com: File Under: Pop (2009), “animaliA Astrologica” (2008), “Stubble and Smoke” (2008) and “Squaresville” (2007) were very popular local exhibits of your prints and work. Are there any plans in the works for another exhibit?
Wayno: I have the idea for a new exhibit in my head, and am gathering reference material and making preliminary sketches for a new themed exhibit, but I haven’t started on the paintings yet. I think I’ll probably have to schedule an exhibit somewhere. That will provide a deadline to get me moving on the actual work!
CBSPittsburgh.com: What are some other upcoming projects that we should keep our eyes out for?
The ToonSeum is planning an exhibit featuring my work with Dan in early 2012, tentatively titled Bizarro: Piraro & Wayno. It will include original art, sketches, and background information on many of the pieces.”
CBSPittsburgh.com: What inspires you locally? In other words, how does Pittsburgh contribute to your work?
Wayno: I’m continually impressed by the talent and creativity of people in and around Pittsburgh. We have an active community of cartoonists here. I’ve been making an effort to meet with people at local design, advertising and creative studios, and it’s energizing to see what they’re doing. There are terrific chefs offering a wide variety of great food, excellent coffee shops, and interesting new businesses springing up, like Mind Cure Records in Polish Hill. Encyclopedia Destructica publishes gorgeous hand-crafted books. We have terrific musicians here too – In fact, I’m overdue to dine at the Gypsy Café and hear saxophonist Don Aliquo at his regular monthly gig. The quality of art, food, drink, and music available to us is a reflection of the area’s strong work ethic.
CBSPittsburgh.com: Where can someone find more information about you and your projects? (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, blog etc)