This portion of this site will contain a small collection of
out-of-print examples of Paul's work.
A printed collection, more appropriate to "the line" will be published by the nice people at The Comic News in Eugene.
At Paul's "wake," one of the best comments on his life, came from another of Paul's old friends.
Here it is, from Walt J. Wentz of Eugene.
It is fitting that Paul Ollswang died while walking his dogs in the woods. He loved both dogs and woods, identified closely with both of them. His dogs he communed with, empathized with, endowed with human failings and foibles. Anyone who has read his "Dreams of a Dog" series will see a good deal of Paul and his friends in the canine protagonists.
The woods were both studio and sanctuary to him, a place to absorb beauty and to recharge his spirit.
Once as we sat together on the boulders and driftwood below the beautiful waterfalls on the Alsea, surrounded by the deep rocky cleft and its towering firs, he told me how mystically powerful this place was to him. This, from a declared Trotskyite whose convoluted sociological theories sometimes obscured his story lines. I think he really could slough off all the accumulated baggage of civilization and philosophy and become one with the outdoors, sharing that deep unthinking pleasure with his dogs. If people were dogs, I know that Paul would be a big old black Labrador... always friendly, ever curious, invincibly enthusiastic.
I met Paul Ollswang on the U of O campus during the late Sixties. All these marvelous posters had been appearing around the campus--that was the era of posters-- and some of them were fascinating things, full of strange lumpish monsters and grotesque people, drawn in a deceptively simple style that was oddly appealing. That was the first of Paul Ollswang's work I had seen. Then I had an article published in one of the little magazines on campus, and Paul illustrated it.
Somebody finally pointed him out to me, and I ran into him by Deady Hall, and told him, rather clumsily and effusively, how much I liked his work. I can imagine his thought-"Who's THIS fool?"- but Paul could get along with anyone. Paul was the ultimate radical in that era of radicals-a genuine Marxist Trotskyite, no less. I was conservative at the time, but I got better. But Paul could get along with almost anyone. Eventually we became friends. All of us have changed since then. Paul, however, hardly changed at all over the years. You might say he was stuck in the Sixties-but that's really not such a bad place to be. He combined all that was best about the original Hippies-a love of peace, a deep distrust of unwarranted authority, a devotion to art, a fine contempt for hypocrisy and prudery, a free-ranging mind, an active detestation for the way capitalism destroyed people and places, a love of nature and animals, a perfect willingness to experiment with the products of local agriculture. He kept all those traits, an unreconstructed Hippie right to the end.
Some years ago Paul showed me a comic strip he was working on, depicting "the Artist at Work." It showed how, while he was hunched over his drawing board, a tiny, newly-hatched spider-nearly invisible, so small it seemed to be made from spun glass- let itself down from the ceiling on an invisible thread and hung just over the paper while Paul drew.
He showed that little spider dangling over the pen's point as it dragged slowly across the surface, leaving a heavy black line ... he showed the tiny bug goggling in amazement, entranced, completely absorbed by the perfection of that line-- "OH, WOW! FAR OUT!" I don't know how he identified so keenly with the little spider, but I do believe that Paul himself was absorbed, in love with the line. It was magical to him, and he seemed capable of creating whole worlds out of it.
Certainly he didn't have much talent in the way of three-dimensional creation, such as building. Whenever I visited him at his Monroe cottage, we always talked of repairs or improvements to be made on the place, and occasionally we exchanged plans and drawings for them. Once I was pondering the feasibility of building a passive solar heating system. When Paul asked what I was doing, I said that I was "Designing a solar system." "Well, Walter," he replied in that mock-solemn drawl, "Why don't you just start out with a small planet first?"
Paul had accepted the fact that he would die too soon. That may be one reason he lived with such enthusiasm. When we went canoeing on the river, he'd hulk up there in the bows, flailing away with the paddle as though he was chopping wood, and burbling about his boyhood summers at Camp Whompapanonka (or whatever) back East, while I struggled with the steering paddle to keep us on course. He camped out with gusto, stretching out his ragged bedroll on lumpy ground and snoring like a sawmill; ate whatever was available, kosher or not, with enthusiasm; praised the scenery, praised the walk or the ride, praised simply being there. He was proud of his attempt to domesticate the varieties of wild berries he found in the woods around the Alsea river. Despite setbacks and disappointments, there was always something for him to be optimistic about. It makes me happy to think that in his final months he had finally gotten a financial advance which would allow him to work on the great "McEarth" epic without having to worry about mere means of survival.
Among the things I miss are the untold stories. Paul was a storyteller above all, and he could spin yarns and bat ideas back and forth interminably. His conceptions ranged from vast epics like "McEarth" to a lovely little gem of a folding book, hand-drawn and colored as a Valentine for his sweetheart, Heidi. He made one copy of it; I hope it still exists somewhere. It was a perfect revelation of the romantic dreamer hidden away in Paul's scruffy exterior. On several occasions he told me the story of "The Fresh-Water Mermaid." It was a beautiful tale, and he planned a mural of it for a wall in the Alpine Tavern. In ordinary light, the mural would depict the rocky gorge of the Alsea, looking downstream below the falls, at the vistas of rocky outcroppings, rapids and driftwood logs, framed by their towering green walls. When an ultra-violet light was switched on, the glowing figure of the Fresh-Water Mermaid would appear, perched on a log across the stream and looking pensively back at the viewer.
When I told him my son Zachary (who admired him deeply, as most children did) had told me he wanted to be a cartoonist, Paul's response was immediate: "Break his fingers." Yet when Paul visited us next, he patiently examined Zack's drawings, gave him pointers on drawing faces, even pulled out his ever-present fountain pen and sketched a somber-looking Luke Skywalker to illustrate his points. Paul communicated easily with children because he shared a child's enthusiasm for creating things.
In the material American sense, Paul would be called a failure. His creativity flowed so fiercely that one idea trampled on the heels of another; he couldn't stay fixed on one project for any long time. For the sake of the place he loved and the life he chose, he sacrificed everything most of us would think essential. Consequently, he lived from hand to mouth. Yet he seldom complained about it. What sorrows he had-- and he had many-- he didn't allow to ruin his enjoyment of whatever little pleasures life allowed him. He took a certain pride in making do, roughing it, working at little jobs. Paul was a dreamer.
The world is full of successful people--too full, perhaps--- businessmen, leaders, developers--people who make lots of money. And they're important, so everybody listens to them very respectfully. I think we should listen to the dreamers more.
Walt's e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org or just click here.
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