This page of my blog presents a variety of projects, puppets and artwork that I've created over the years which didn't quite fit into any of the above pages, however, I'm still quite proud of these things and wanted to post them "somewhere" online, so this is that place! Enjoy! :)
A fun and messy paper maché art project:
This is Witchiepoo, a paper-maché project that my siblings (Shannon and Steven) and I made when we were kids in the mid 1970's for a Halloween decoration, under the direction our very creative and artistic mother Peggy. We built her in several stages using a large mixing bowl turned upside down to make each half of her head. The bowl was then covered with strips of newspaper that we dipped into the paper-maché paste. We did this twice over several weeks, allowing each half to dry completely, and then the halves were attached together with more paper-maché. Finally, the face and hat were added. It was a fun process because we got to get our hands messy in the paper-maché paste. Once it was all dry we all shared the job of painting Witchiepoo. It was a team project from start to finish.
I was about three years old at the time, so Witchiepoo is almost like a second sister to me! She is appropriately named after actress Billie Hayes' character from the "H.R. Pufnstuf" television show, which was very popular at the time. A page of this blog is dedicated to Sid and Marty Krofft, producers of H.R. Pufnstuf and many other puppetry TV shows that I grew up with: http://mikeyspuppetryblog.blogspot.ca/p/sid-and-marty-krofft.html
Our Witchiepoo traveled with the family as we moved to Milton, Ontario in the late 1970's and then back to Ottawa in the early 1980's. She lived in my mother's closet making seasonal appearances at Halloween for at least two decades until the mid 1990s when it became evident that Witchie deserved a permanent spot hanging up in our puppet workshop. She's been there ever since! :)
My mother Peggy always encouraged my siblings and I to enjoy doing art. Whether it was painting, cutting shapes out of construction paper and gluing them onto something, getting our hands messy doing paper-maché, making cut out figures from an egg carton, or drawing and colouring our own pictures, my mother always kept us busy and having fun with art projects. This is when I learned to appreciate creativity and making art, and have continued doing so ever since.
The Adventures of Spike!
When I was 13 or 14 I made up my own cartoon character named Spike, also known as the Spikester. From grade seven to grade nine (1987 to 1989) I drew Spike as often as I could. He was somewhat of an alter ego for me. The above drawing is from 1987 and was made as a doodle on the cover of my textbook which had been wrapped in brown paper.
Spike was an adventurer and did everything. I have drawings of him fighting a dragon, falling off a cliff, parachuting, surfing, skateboarding, and on and on. In fact my classmates used to tease me about drawing Spike so often, though they always enjoyed seeing what he was up to next. In grade seven my homeroom teacher decorated the classroom with several of my Spike pictures, where they remained for the school year.
This is a painting of Spike from 1987. It was done on a large piece of construction paper, 23.5 inches wide by 17.5 inches high. I have no idea why I chose to paint this particular scene. Perhaps Spike needed a break from his adventures? He certainly looks happy sitting in his rocking chair directly in front of a door while up on a balcony. I wonder what would happen to Spike if someone opened that door? He might need some wings! I like the bright colours in this picture and find the figure of Spike is one of my best images of the character from that time.
This drawing of Spike dressed as a cowboy is from August 1987. It's coloured with pencil crayon.
This is a fabric illustration of Spike dated October 11, 1987 on the back. It was made on a 12 inch wide by 16.5 inch high piece of corrugated cardboard that I covered with white fur fabric. Spike's face is made out of several pieces of fabric and glued down onto the background, as are the letters. Why I needed to make a fabric picture of Spike's face on white fur fabric, I haven't a clue? I think it was just the idea of making my own fabric puzzle out of Spike's face that interested me, as I really enjoyed doing puzzles when I was a kid. In any case I've always liked this piece just because it's so weird.
Here's another of my cartoon character from around that time, Poingo Pig! He's one of the first cartoon characters that I created and used to draw for my own amusement. This drawing is from 1987 but the character was created in the early 1980's several years before Spike came along. Unfortunately I have few drawings left of Poingo though I used to draw him often, just as I did with Spike. I even made a paper-maché model of Poingo's head at one point.
Poingo was a comical villain with a lot of ambition but he never did anything right. He drove around in a purple stretch limo that had dragon wings on the back, which is seen in the above drawing. Poingo was always defeated by his heroic nemesis, Captain Roger Ray Beam, and also caused problems for Spike. The character is also seen on a large poster sized drawing featuring Spike (shown below).
This poster illustration from 1987 is 20 inches wide by 28 inches tall. It shows Spike during many of his thrilling adventures. Poingo Pig makes two appearances in this poster. On the right he's seen driving his purple limo accompanied by his side kick, a small rat character who's name I've forgotten. He's also driving the big rig truck with Spike hanging precariously onto the back. The comic book pages shown on the left side were from an actual comic book that I made about Spike, which unfortunately I no longer have.
This 1988 drawing shows Spike running away from his nemesis Cockroach, who had a purple Mohawk. This is Spike's usual outfit, a pair of red shorts, a white T-shirt with black trim on the neck and sleeves, and a pair of white high-top sneakers. He's definitely a product of the 1980's!
I had designed a very distinct logo for spike's T-shirt, which is the same one he's making with his lasso in the above cowboy picture. In 2003 the TV station TNN changed their branding and called themselves Spike TV. I found their logo was all too familiar!
Here are two examples of the Spike TV logo. As you can see it uses an oversized, dramatically looping "S" and an upwards tilted "E", and the word is presented as a black signature style font on a white background. Hmmmm? Where have I seen that before?
I've always wondered if someone from my school who saw my Spike drawings somehow ended up in the United States at TNN when they were rebranding. It seems a bit far fetched that his would happen, however one of the station identification commercials had also shown a hand with a spray can spray paint the Spike logo on the wall. The arrangement was identical to the one I had included on the large poster of Spike shown above, which had been hanging up in my grade seven classroom in 1987 along with my other drawings. One fluke of coincidence is uncanny, but two? Somebody should be cutting me in on this deal! It seems that one of the following two scenarios occurred: Either someone liked my work and copied it, which is both flattering and frustrating, or at 14 years old I was ahead of my time and inadvertently designed the logo for a multi-million dollar TV network that wouldn't exist for another 15 years into the future of a new millennium!!! :)
In any case, it's fitting to point out that today Spike TV has an entirely different logo, which allegedly was designed in the early 1970s by a ten year old from Australia. :) Okay, I made up that last part. The kid was from Holland...and he was nine... allegedly! Hmm, I wonder how much it costs to rebrand an entire TV network? That can't be cheap!
This sketch of Spike was done on my birthday, Nov 16, 1996, when I turned 23. I hadn't drawn a picture of Spike since High School. My artwork had improved while I was studying Animation in college, so I thought it would be amusing to revisit the character again.
Obsessed with Muppets!
During my childhood I had become a huge Muppet fan. In the early 1980's around the age of nine I started a collection of Muppet memorabilia which has been growing ever since. The above photo was taken on April 8, 1988 at the Muppet Stuff store in Toronto. It's funny to note that I'm dressed exactly like my character Spike (shown above) with red Adidas shorts and a white shirt that has a black trim! Alas, no Spike logo on the shirt, but if my feet were in the photo I'd likely be wearing the high-top sneakers! :)
I created an entire blog about my Muppet collection called Mikey's Muppet Memorabilia Museum. It features 40 years worth of Muppet collectables including Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, The Muppets, Muppet Babies, Fraggle Rock and anything else that Jim Henson had to do with! Here is the link: http://mikeysmuppetmemorabiliamuseum.blogspot.ca/
An unfinished drawing that I made of Jim Henson and the Muppets, circa 1989.
Of course being a fan of the Muppets I drew many pictures of them. This is one of my favourite drawings of Animal, made in 1991. It's drawn free hand from a photograph (no tracing). I added the legs and drum, and the background with Animal's name turned sideways.
Rob the Slob and other "retired" puppets!
In the late 1980's I built a second version of Rob the Slob. This was the very first puppet that I made using new fleece fabric that I purchased at a fabric store rather than using old clothes. This version of Rob the Slob was used in several shows including Phantom's Christmas, The Case of the Snowman Toppler, The Chocolate Chip Cookie Boy, and A Space Oddity. He was also going to be in an unrealized show that was tentatively called The Baseball Mystery. Though I'd rather not mention this, his shirt says "3rd Class Theatre" which I very, very briefly thought would be a good name for my puppet show company. Unfortunately I had already used T-shirt paints to put the name on his shirt, so it stayed there. When I took this picture in the early 1990's I posed Rob's arm up in an attempt to hide the name! The company name we used instead was simply "Mike Artelle's Puppets" until 1997, when I chose another really bad company name! :)
This is Mr. Noodlehead! I built this puppet in the late 1980's. Mr. Noodlehead is a balding nerd with a big nose and two buck teeth who likes bowties. He's the original geek before geek was cool. My Aunt Nancy made his awesome crochet sneakers! I once performed with Mr. Noodlehead at the Ottawa Super Ex during a youth talent show. He later joined Bruno the Dog (shown below) when I performed on television for CJOH TV's Homegrown Café. I find it interesting that in the late 1990's, a decade after I had created Mr. Noodlehead, the Sesame Street TV show introduced a character called Mr. Noodle. The character was portrayed by an actor rather than a Muppet.
Here are some stuffed toys of my puppet characters that I made in the 1980s. Shown here are Mousie Mousie, Rob the Slob, Mr. Noodlehead and a Pterodactyl. The first three are 8 to 9 inches tall, and the Pterodactyl is 4.5 inches tall.
I have several other "retired" puppets, though I'd rather not post pictures of them. They are retired for good reason! It's one of those unfortunate things that can't be avoided, puppets simply wear out. Fabric and sponge are not meant to last very long, 15 years at best. Sad but true. I've even surprised myself and discarded some of my earlier puppets or recycled the fabric if it was still useful. However, being as sentimental as I am about my puppets, I miss them all. Puppets have a way of becoming a part of your family, especially if their characters are developed and familiar to you. Years ago I recall reading about a native tribe that didn't put faces on children's dolls as they believed doing so would give the doll a soul. There is certainly some truth to that logic!
Here are some more retired puppets, made during my teens...
More artwork from my mid teens...
Though I'm not very good at it, I like playing the drums and had a set at one point. These next two drawings are of the drummers from bands that I liked. Above is Steven Adler from Guns N Roses, and below is Tommy Lee from Motley Crue.
This drawing is my version of the DC Comics superhero Nightwing, and was made in 1991.
Here is a collage that I made featuring the DC Comics superhero Hawkman. It's undated but is likely from 1991. The different Hawkman images are taken from panels of the comic books, hand drawn (not traced), and I designed the layout myself. Hawkman has always been one of my favourite superheroes but unfortunately he has often been lumped in with DC's supporting background characters. I'm glad to see that he's being featured more often these days as a main character. To heck with Batman, bring on the Hawkman!
Artwork from my 20's:
The above drawing was made in February 1995 when I was 21 and is the only time that I ever attempted to do a realistic self portrait. At the time, I was studying Animation at college and this was a homework assignment for the life drawing class. It took many hours to create and is a little wonky in some places, such as parts of the mouth and nose, but I'm happy with it.
I was quite slim back then. Not sure why I took my shirt off for this drawing, it just seemed appropriate at the time. Being a shy person this was a bit out of character for me, as I did so despite knowing that I'd have to bring the drawing to class the next day where all my classmates would see it. That turned out not to be as embarrassing as I thought it would be. Actually, I'm quite proud of this one. Now that I'm much older, I'm glad to have it as a memento of my 20's.
This is the very first drawing that I made of Hornz the Cow dated Nov 2, 1996. Notes on this sketch clarify that because Hornz is a male cow he doesn't have an udder, only female cows have udders and give milk. That's good news. It would be utterly strange if Hornz had an udder! The puppet version of Hornz has normal human legs (jeans with biker boots), rather than cow legs as shown above.
Though I'm a shy and quiet person, my artist's ego is alive and well! The above character designs show different outfits for a cartoon version of myself, which I drew just to be silly. I think this picture is a lot of fun. Note that I put the word "normal" in quotes! :) This was drawn in the late 1990's when I owned a motorcycle. My plan was to use this character for an original story called "Biker Dudes and Dragon Riders" which has yet to be completed. I have a lot of stories in my head that I'd like to get finished some day, and this is one of them. This story involves several dragons and would make an awesome picture book. I need to get busy!!!
Puppetry organizations and museum work:
In 1997 I co-founded the Ottawa Puppetry Club along with a small group of local puppeteers. The OPC was a not-for-profit organization operated by volunteers with a mandate to host puppetry workshops and teach members about how to make and perform puppets. The OPC operated from 1997 until 2011, and for the majority of those years an annual variety show was presented.
Several guest puppeteers did workshops for the group such as Noreen Young, Bob Stutt, David Powell of Puppetmongers Theatre, John Nolan of Rag and Bone Theatre, and David Smith of David Smith Marionettes, among several others. In addition, the OPC gathered a small collection of puppets and puppetry books, and did puppet displays at local libraries and community centres.
Along with serving as President on a few occasions, I was the group's second newsletter editor. Some of the changes that I made involved formatting the newsletter to become a booklet and creating the OPC logo, shown above. At this point I coined the OPC's slogan "Where imagination and creativity come to life". This was in addition to writing several articles about puppetry. More information about the group's history can be found on the OPC Blog: http://ottawapuppetryclub.blogspot.ca/
In 1998 or 1999 I learned that puppeteer John Conway was living right here in Ottawa. Mr. Conway is a pioneer of Canadian television and performed his puppet characters, Uncle Chichimus and Hollyhock, for the very first broadcast of the CBC's English network in 1952. This led to researching Mr. Conway's career and producing a 45 minute video documentary, titled "John Conway and Uncle Chichimus", which I completed in March of 2003 when I was 29. Earlier that month Mr. Conway had passed away at the age of 80.
More information about John Conway and the documentary is available on the next page of this blog at this link: http://mikeyspuppetryblog.blogspot.ca/p/john-conway-and-uncle-chichimus.html
The above photo of John Conway was found at this link: http://www.penelopeironstone.com/CS101broadcastingandnation.htm
While working on the John Conway documentary I spent a lot of time doing research at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (CMC) and got to know some of the staff there. They were super friendly and helpful, and at one point I was even given a tour "behind the scenes" of the museum where they designed and built elements needed for exhibits, and where they have huge artifact storage areas. The museum has a very extensive puppetry collection made up of several collections from different donors. The largest of these was from the Ontario Puppetry Association (OPA), donated in 1994. I had become more and more interested in learning about the history of puppetry. Therefore, I began to research the possibility of establishing a local puppetry museum....
In August 2004 I became a student in the three year Applied Museum Studies program at Algonquin College, graduating in April 2007. The course included a Museum Management class and one of my assignments was to chose a topic for a fictional local museum and draft an annual operational budget. Of course I chose a puppetry museum! The above drawing was made as part of the assignment. It was fun to visualize what a potential puppetry museum might look like. That's my mother and I on the roof holding up the dragon puppet! :)
After I graduated in 2007 I was very fortunate to get a job at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (CMC) working as Researcher and Puppetry Consultant with Constance Nebel, the Curator of the museum's puppetry collection. The timing of my graduation was quite opportune as the CMC was creating a new online exhibit titled The Art of Puppetry, featuring their entire puppetry collection. Eventually, I was given my own access card to the artifact storage room where the puppet collection was kept. Needless to say, working on this project was definitely a dream job!
The Art of Puppetry online exhibit can be viewed at this link: http://theatre.historymuseum.ca/narratives/details.php?language=English
After the project was completed I was retained to work on additional online exhibits which had been undertaken through the Canadian Culture Online (CCO) initiative along with The Art of Puppetry exhibit. Unfortunately however, as CCO had been established under the Liberal government, Stephen Harper's Conservative government opted to play politics with Canada's heritage and put an end to CCO funding. As such in 2010 my entire department was dismissed! It's quite ironic that Prime Minister Harper's legacy will be determined by how well the history books treat him, after how poorly he treated the history books! The Canadian Museum of Civilization's name has since been changed to the Canadian Museum of History.
While working on the online exhibit I learned that the museum's puppetry collection contains several distinct collections from various donors, the most extensive of which is the Ontario Puppetry Association (OPA) collection that was donated in 1994. It was such an immense pleasure to work with the OPA collection, which includes both artifacts and archival materials, as I had been a member of the OPA back in the late 1980s and early 1990s during my teens (shown below). Back then the OPA operated a small puppetry museum, simply called The Puppet Centre, located in Willowdale, Ontario, in the Toronto area. My parents and I had visited the centre on a few occasions, and met the museum's Director, Ken McKay, who had previously authored the book "Puppetry in Canada".
At the age of fifteen in 1988, I met puppeteer Bob Stutt when I attended his puppetry manipulation workshop at the Puppet Centre (shown above). My puppets Rob the Slob (centre) and Mr. Noodlehead (far left) came along for the trip. After the workshop, Bob Stutt kindly invited me to visit the CBC studio in Ottawa where the TV show Under the Umbrella Tree was recorded, and where I met puppeteers Noreen Young and Stephen Brathwaite.
It had been my understanding that the Ontario Puppetry Association disbanded in the mid 1990's, when the Puppet Centre closed and their puppet collection and archives were transferred to the CMC, however in 2003 I learned that the organization was still active so I renewed my membership. It wasn't long before I became the new editor for the OPA newsletter, OPAL, and published two issues a year for five years until 2008. During this time I wrote several articles for the newsletter about both the history of puppetry and the history of the OPA organization. Above is the 50th Anniversary issue that I produced for the OPA in 2006, which I'm extremely proud of.
Unfortunately from 2005 onward being involved with the OPA became increasingly difficult. I didn't agree with how the modern incarnation of the organization was being governed or the extremely inappropriate lack of transparency regarding the "behind the scenes" disbursement of OPA funding.
As such, I stepped down from the board in 2009 and have since disassociated myself from any future connection with the OPA. It's extremely shameful and sad to see what's become of the OPA, and the extent to which the board has left their members in the dark. Although my post 2005 experiences on the board have left me quite disillusioned with the OPA, having more time to work on my own puppetry projects is time better spent.
Presentations, displays and workshops:
Despite how much puppetry my mother and I have done together, unfortunately I don't have many photos with both of us together with the puppets. This one was taken in Quebec around 2000 at a fair in which several theatre companies and artists presented displays of their work for the public. I brought Audrey II from the production of "Little Shop of Horrors" that I was involved with in 1999, as well as my Pterodactyl puppet. I like the fact that the Canadian flags are behind us in this picture. It's very patriotic!
Our puppets have also been displayed in many, many exhibits in a variety of locations, including:
- Various branches of the Ottawa Public Library
- Several international puppetry festivals
- National and regional museums such as the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Nepean Museum, and the Joseph Schneider Haus Museum in Kitchener, Waterloo.
Beginning in the late 1990's or early 2000's my Mother and I began to offer puppet workshops. I had done several puppet workshops on my own since the late 1980's so we knew that they were of interest to people. After some time, we put together a series of craft puppet workshops and listed them on our new website, as well as in flyers that we handed out. The character shown above is from our Big Mouth puppet workshop which I designed. We continued doing puppet workshops on occasion through to 2012. Over the years, hundreds of kids have participated in our puppet workshops!
Here are some rod puppets from our "Scrunchy Heads" workshop, created by my mother Peggy.
Thanks for visiting!
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Most Recent Update: Feb 2017
Please contact me through my website at www.artellepuppets.ca
The contents of this blog page are TM and © Mike Artelle, 1976, 2016 as detailed below. Use of any material from this blog page for any purpose requires advance permission from the copyright holder, Mike Artelle. Contact information can be found at: www.artellepuppets.ca
Guns N' Puppets, Axle Grease, Virgule, Lewis Brown, Morris Laborious, Rob the Slob, Mr. Noodlehead, Mousie Mousie, Hornz the Cow, puppet designs, character names, likenesses, and puppets are TM and © Mike Artelle, 1987, 1996
Pterodactyl puppet, Frog puppet, Big Mouth workshop puppet, puppet designs, likenesses, and puppets are TM and © Mike Artelle, 1987, 2014
Cartoon and Superhero Character Drawings
Poingo Pig, Spike, Cockroach, Captain Roger Ray Beam, Hornz the Cow, Mikey cartoon character, character designs, character names, likenesses, and art are TM and © Mike Artelle, 1987, 1999
Original Puppet Shows and Stories
The Christmas Wish, The Phantoms Christmas, The Case of the Snowman Toppler, The Chocolate Chip Cookie Boy, Guns N Puppets, Biker Dudes and Dragon Riders, stories, characters and scripts are TM and © Mike Artelle, 1987, 2016
John Conway and Uncle Chichimus documentary video and script © Mike Artelle, 2003
Toy puppets and dolls, designs and patterns TM and © Mike Artelle, 1987, 2015
Artelle Puppets and Pythor Comics names, logos and website contents TM and © Mike Artelle, 2011, 2015
Muppets, The Muppet Show, Jim Henson, Witchiepoo, H.R Pufnstuf, Sid and Marty Krofft, DC Comics, Nightwing, Hawkman, Johan Conway photograph, Uncle Chichimus, Hollyhock, Art of Puppetry online exhibit main page, character designs, character names, and their likenesses are TM and © their respective owners. Ownership of these elements is in no way being implied by Mike Artelle. In these cases only the original artwork or photograph being presented is © Mike Artelle, 1990, 1999
All remaining puppets, dolls, text, stories, photographs, and art presented on this blog page are TM and © Mike Artelle, 1976, 2016