Eckhart Tolle, Zen, and the Art of MUTTS Comic Strips

Patrick McDonnell, the cartoonist of the MUTTS comic strip, shares his love for Eckhart Tolle books and animal advocacy.

Guardians of Being by Eckhart Tolle Patrick McDonnell "Guardians of Being" is a unique book honoring animals that pairs quotes from spiritual author Eckhart Tolle with illustrations from MUTTS cartoonist Patrick McDonnell. Beliefnet interviewed Patrick McDonnell about his first-time collaboration with Eckhart Tolle, his role serving in the Humane Society, and the two people he admires most. You can also get a sneak peek of "Guardians of Being" here in our photo gallery.

Describe your art background and the path you took to become the creator of the MUTTS comic strip.

Some of my earliest memories are looking at my mom and dad’s collections of art books, in particular Walt Kelly’s “Pogo.” I was just fascinated by how alive those little black and white characters were. That was the start of my love affair with comics. Then, as I got older, Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” was a major inspiration and influence on me. I went to the School of Visual Arts in New York City. Then I became a magazine illustrator. The whole time, I kept on saying, “I really need to try a comic strip.” My wife finally said, “Well, go do a comic strip.” So, I took some time off, and out came “MUTTS.”

What other artists or cartoonists influenced your own cartoon and illustration career?

I’m a big fan of the really early works and old original strips like Walt Kelly’s “Pogo,” “Little Nemo”, and George Herriman’s “Krazy Kat,” which was started in 1910. I actually wrote a book on “Krazy Kat” a few years ago. I’m also a big fan of the original “Popeye.” Even though the strip’s so old, it’s still funny and really current.

Your latest collaboration with Eckhart Tolle is a celebration of nature, animals, and the energy of life. What inspired you to collaborate on this book? Were you familiar with Eckhart’s books before the collaboration?

I was compelled to pick up “The Power of Now” when it first came out in 1999. It just knocked me out and I was taken by its directness, its simplicity, and its deep truth. Over the years, I followed Eckhart. I was thinking off-and-on, “Boy, it might be interesting to do something together with him some day.” What really inspired me was seeing a photograph of Eckhart and his dog, Maya. My wife and I went through all of his CDs, audiotapes, DVDs, and books and started compiling quotes that talked about nature. I put a few of them together with some of my cartoons.

My book agent is also the agent of Elizabeth Lesser, who runs Omega Institute and was one of its founders. She’s had Eckhart there teaching, and she knew him. She was kind enough to give him this little dummy I had done of the book. We were very pleased when Eckhart said he’d be happy to do it. That’s how the book got together. I gave him the quotes and the cartoons. He reworked quotes and added some new ones.

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