July 01, 2015
MEETING MY MUSE – Christopher Browne
It’s been said that I was born holding a pencil, which is not entirely true. I didn’t pick up a pencil until a few days later, and at that point I was mostly gumming it. My earliest drawings showcased my inner nerd. The evolutionary process of a fish, futuristic worlds, crazy contraptions, wooly mammoths and of course dinosaurs. Lots of dinosaurs.
I was a kid constantly lost in my imagination and drawing was my only way to make that inner world a reality. I sketched on individual sheets of printer paper and then stuffed them into a perfectly sized “Where’s Waldo” book. This makeshift portfolio was hardly ever shared with anyone. In fact, I didn’t share my illustrations with people until college.
My twenties was a creatively confusing time. I had the urge to make art but wasn’t sure exactly what to create. I mostly drew cartoons, painted empty landscapes and, after moving to Philadelphia, began wheat pasting illustrations to various surfaces. Slowly moving ahead but with no clear direction.
Enter my muse.
In the shape of a severely roughed-up little pitbull.
Marlo was underweight and covered in dandruff and scabs. He was found on a North Philly street as kids threw rocks at him. The girl who saved Marlo couldn’t keep him and that is where I came into the story. Once under my roof, Marlo bounced back quickly and began showing his subtle, quirky personality. He was, and still very much is, a blank slate. Marlo’s the kind of guy you could share a beer with while sitting quietly on a front porch, making the occasional comment about the weather. It was only a matter of time before I started filling in the blanks. What was going on inside the little guy’s head? The imagination of my younger years was still intact which led to visions of Marlo going on wild adventures, breaking the law in dramatic fashion and inventing the crazy contraptions of my childhood. These scenarios found their way into my sketchbooks and eventually begged for a larger venue.
By the summer of 2010 the character of Marlo was fully fleshed out and in need of a proper home. I was also conveniently inspired and motivated to push myself to grow as an illustrator. Growth required discipline, discipline required deadlines and deadlines would work only if someone else held me accountable. To do this, I started a weekly webcomic starring Marlo. Over the next three years I was able to experiment with various mediums and techniques on a weekly basis.
Creating the comic was a thoroughly satisfying process and a personal one until a high school friend got in touch with me. You might know her. Her name is Elena Giovinazzo. She asked me “ever consider doing a Marlo children’s book?” And the rest, they say, is history… I’m kidding. Elena planted the seed and then helped me navigate the often confusing process of expanding a one panel story into a children’s book. My first children’s book, due out in Winter 2017, celebrates imagination. It is also a love letter of sorts to the amazing little pitbull who quietly walked into my life and became my muse.
I’ve thanked Marlo many times, but he acts as if it’s no big deal.