Fans of Maurice Sendak, take note: Brooklyn has a new crew of wild things, and they're right here in Windsor Terrace.
Resident James Lipnickas, 33, first began drawing kookie creatures around five years ago, while working as a sous chef at a country club in New Haven, Conn.
When the club closed in February for its annual winter hiatus, Lipnickas took advantage of his new-found free time to explore the city's bookstores, where he stumbled upon a treasure trove of artists that used pictures to tell stories.
"I quickly discovered these amazing artists making books using an amazing visual narrative," he said, citing artists like Renee French, Shaun Tan, Chris Van Allsburg and Farel Dalrymple. "These artists really motivated me to give it a try, and I fell in love with creating pictures. It was something I couldn't stop doing and still can't."
At the encouragement of his wife Dana, a graphic designer for CNN.com, Lipnickas enrolled in an illustration program at Manhattan's School of Visual Arts, from which he recently graduated.
Now working on his illustrations full-time, Lipnickas has created dozens of characters—viewable on his website and blog—that are the centerpiece of his stories. When it comes to developing a narrative, he said, he tends to draw a character first and let the story flow from it.
"I have a sketch pad, and I’ll sketch thousands of characters, and when a couple of them really strike me I just go forth in that direction," he said. "I usually tend to illustrate anything that pops into my head—I don’t usually use much for reference."
Lipnickas said he gathers inspiration everywhere, preferring to work out and about in cafes or at the playground with his 6-year-old daughter, Luna.
He is currently spending most of his time with a character named Hanuk, a benign looking beast despite his horns and tusk-like incisors. Fierce features aside, Lipnickas said he imagines Hanuk enjoys the same things as anyone else, like riding bikes, going on vacation and having parties.
In deciding which characters to stick with, Lipnickas said it isn't horns, tusks or any other exotic appendage, but something far more, well, human.
"It sounds so funny, but it’s all about the eyes," he said.
"If I can see a story through the eyes of the character, I can start working on it."