As the most comprehensive online events guide and resource for arts and culture in central Ohio, ColumbusArts.com offers a virtual guide through the Columbus art world with a searchable database of events, concerts, performances and more. ColumbusArts.com is an engaging place for artists and arts organizations to share what they do, with thousands of users per month. The ColumbusArts.com Artist Directory allows visual, performing and literary artists to create a profile and portfolio to showcase their work—for free—and enables art enthusiasts to easily search for and connect with them. Our monthly ColumbusArts.com artist profile series features interviews with some of the many talented individuals who make up central Ohio’s thriving creative community.
For this issue, we interviewed nationally acclaimed cartoonist and native Ohioan, Paul Palnik, whose work is revered by the likes of Nobel Prize for Literature winner, Isaac Bashevis Singer and American journalist and public commentator, Bill Moyers–among many others. Palnik, whose cartoon studio is located in Columbus’ Short North, has written and illustrated numerous books, has hundreds of drawings in the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library and Museum at Ohio State and has worked as an artist for several publications including American Greetings and The Columbus Dispatch. Palnik’s pen and ink cartoons, often rendered in minute detail, combine graphic design, drawing, poetry and literature. Through the fundamental spirituality of his drawings, Palnik delves into what makes us human—and his plucky sense of humor helps us to see how much nicer life can be when we allow ourselves to have a good laugh at our foibles.
GCAC: How long have you lived in Columbus? What brought you here?
PP: I came to Columbus at age 17 to be a freshman at OSU. I studied drawing, painting and printmaking. I got a BFA 1968, and an MA in drawing and graphic fine arts in 1969.
I have lived in Columbus since 1964. I only lived elsewhere when I was an artist and writer at American Greetings Corp in Cleveland, 1969-1971, taught printmaking and drawing at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville 1971-74 and again at Anderson College in Indiana 1977-79. I lived in Jerusalem for a year drawing and writing,1985-86. Since then I have lived unbroken in Columbus developing and running my art studio, Palnik Studios.
GCAC: What sparked your interest in drawing and writing cartoons?
PP: My mother was an artist. When she painted … she would spread out huge pieces of brown wrapping paper that our laundry was delivered in. She gave me pencils, crayons and paints. I began drawing as a toddler and am still drawing at age 68. I was raised to be an artist from my earliest memories. I remember going to elementary school and wondered why the other children were not drawing as I did. It was then I realized that I was one of kind and very unique.
GCAC: Where do your ideas come from?
PP: I draw cartoons because I love them. I love the literature of it, the words, the ideas, the ease of execution of my ideas. I often work out ideas I am wrestling with in my personal life in my cartoon art.
GCAC: When did you realize you were good at it and could build a career as a cartoon artist?
PP: Being confident that I could make it as an artist was never an issue for me because I AM an artist. I am just being who I am. People have always liked my work enough to allow me to earn a good living. I began selling art regularly when as an under grad, we had student art sales. My fellow students were amazed at how much work that I was able to sell. I was also the lead cartoonist in The Sundial Humor Magazine from 1965 until I graduated in 1969.
GCAC: How did you get into teaching? What were your classes like? Did you enjoy teaching?
PP: I wanted to teach since I met my mentor and university art advisor, the famous graphic artist, Prof. Sidney Chafetz. He quickly became my role model. He helped me so much that I wanted to be like Sid and I decided to teach art at the university level. I was also one of the first artists at the Greater Columbus Arts Council’s Artists in Schools program [now with the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education]. I did cartoon workshops in the public schools in Columbus since the 1970s. I also taught art for 15 years to students at a huge Jewish summer camp where I was the director of the very well equipped arts department. I had 12 grad students that I taught .. they in turn taught the children at the camp.
I love teaching art as I believe it is a way of teaching others to actualize their inner creative selves.
GCAC: What do you consider one of your biggest successes as an artist?
PP: My greatest successes in my creative career have indeed been receiving positive commentary from the Nobel Laureates; Isaac Bashevis Singer (literature), Elie Wiesel (peace), Bill Moyers, Robert Fulghum and others. I am also pleased beyond words to have The Ohio State University Libraries collecting my work. It’s nice to know that people will be able to go to the library a thousand years from now and see my work.
GCAC: We’re excited that you will be joining us as an exhibiting artist at the Columbus Arts Festival this year! How many times have you participated in the Arts Festival?
PP: I have been doing the Columbus Arts Festival since the mid-1970s. Back then there were only about 50 of us set up on the Ohio Statehouse lawn. Today there are few hundred artists and several hundred thousand art buyers at the show. I do all the large major shows in America. Each show is a competitive entry proposition. One applies with thousands of others and each show takes 100-300 artists. I do shows in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Louis, Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Miami, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Houston, Memphis, Ann Arbor, and many, many, more.
I love doing outdoor art shows like this because this is the way art has been sold since ancient times. When I was in school, one of my favorite drawings was of Honroe Daumier, an 18th century French cartoonist, selling his wares on the street with patrons, flipping through his print portfolio. Van Gogh also sold on the streets.
GCAC: What advice would you give to someone who hopes to make a career as an artist?
PP: I am proof that one can dream a dream and then move toward that dream, one little step at a time. And if one refuses to give up , one can live their dreams … AND … one can make dreams come true right here in Columbus. There is no need to search elsewhere. Make a stand right here in Columbus. The real treasures in life are found in your own back yard.
GCAC: Where can folks go to see and learn more about your work?
PP: Anyone is welcome to visit my art studio at 14 East Lincoln Street in the Short North or they can visit my website at www.paulpalnik.com.
To learn more about Paul Palnik and his work, visit his artist profile at www.columbusarts.com.
Be sure to stop by Palnik’s booth at the Columbus Arts Festival, June 6, 7 & 8, at the Downtown Riverfront–and say hello to the artist in person! Palnik’s booth featuring his work for sale will be located at 117R (on Rich Street). For more information about the Columbus Arts Festival, visit www.columbusartsfestival.org.
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