“I wanted to bring warmth to the readers,” says artist Jeffrey Wheeler when asked about the reaction he’s hoping for from this issue’s cover art. He developed the artwork by blending together different joys of spring, such as hiking and St. Patrick’s Day. As you watch the spunky turtle zip past the rabbit on a skateboard, a feeling of excitement for the season’s opportunities may bloom within.
The characters in this design drew inspiration from a number of sources – from cartoons of the 70’s and older Disney cartoons to Wheeler’s love of childhood Pokémon games. “I play on that nostalgia quite a bit because that’s what I’ve always loved in art. I like to do my take on a classic character who has already been shown in so many different iterations.”
Since he could hold a pencil, Wheeler has been drawing. His grandma, an inspired artist herself, supported his love of art: “When I was younger she kind of sparked my interest and encouraged me to draw a lot. I was grateful to have that influence as a kid.”
Prompted by his lifelong love of skateboarding, he takes his greatest pride in the skateboard graphics he frequently renders. In his senior year of college, Wheeler approached different skateboard companies in New England and successfully designed several of their skateboards. “I wasn’t going to make a career out of anything other than being an artist.”
When asked about the strangest piece of commissioned work he has produced, many came to mind. True to RI, he once created a giant lobster conquering a lighthouse. Most recently, a coffee shop in Louisiana prompted an unusual, creative challenge for the artist: “It is this really fun illustration of this zombie piece of pizza that was revived from a grave by a coffee bean and it’s drinking coffee. It’s a concept I’ve never thought to draw.”
“If I was to give advice [to aspiring artists], it’d be to take on everything and see what you like,” Wheeler says. “Sometimes if you are working on something and it’s a complete nightmare, you’ll know not to take that job again. Through doing that I’ve figured out what I enjoy doing and what to really focus my energy on.”
You can see more work by Wheeler at deafwheeler.com.