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GREEN PIECES©

     People worldwide are familiar with some part of Nature.  All of Nature serves as the Green Pieces© cartoon strip’s character sources.  Every day one reads stories about a new species of animal or a scientific or environmental breakthrough.  Clouds, insects, birds, mammals and plants from all over the globe are “game” for Green Pieces.  Nothing is overlooked by this clever feature. Green Pieces highlights four main characters who introduce the reader to the life and times around a typical wetland.  Led by the protagonist, claustrophobic turtle named Iggman, the action picks up once humans leave the scene.  Additionally, there is an antagonist, annoying dragonfly, Radic, an omnipotent techno-frog, Cabby and a rogue raccoon, Roc.  Green Pieces originated as Iggman on Campus in 1987 and the strip was published for three semesters in The Collegian, a daily Massachusetts newspaper with a circulation of 19,000.

     Once converted to Green Pieces, the strip ran in Western Connecticut’s university paper, The Echo, in The Newtown Bee circ. 9,000 and Danbury, Connecticut’s daily The News-Times circ. 58,000 until 1994.  Thereafter, Green Pieces creator/cartoonist Drew Aquilina moved to Arizona. Trying to break into the cartooning world in the Southwest United States while working as a Landscape Architect-in-Training, Aquilina enrolled as an art student at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona.  His strip was published in the university paper, The State Press, and currently is enjoyed in the San Tan Sun News, Chandler, Arizona.

 

CARTOONIST DREW AQUILINA

    "The first time I realized that it might be possible to understand how animals think was one cold, dark Sunday evening in the winter of 1971.  My brothers and I were huddled around the basement fireplace fighting over apple cores and watching one of our favorite TV shows, The Wonderful World of Disney.  I was captivated by a movie starring real forest animals examining their day-to-day struggle to survive and their battle against a forest fire.  The film used human voices for each animal and I found the animals’ perspective and reactions interesting and funny.  From then on I started to look at nature, animals and people differently.

 

     The idea behind the comic strip Green Pieces came to me when I was 7 years old, a few years after my initial encounter with that TV show.  By then, I had become totally fascinated with nature.  Growing up in a rural area of Connecticut, I spent most of my early childhood outside.  We didn’t have cell phones, VCRs, video games or the Internet back then, so my brothers and friends were often outside to have our fun.  One late-Summer hot and lazy day, my friends and I had just finished building an enormous outdoor fort.  The sun was setting and I was late for dinner.  Hearing my mother’s familiar and annoyed voice ringing through the forest, I began to run home from my friend’s house lest I miss dinner altogether.  I ran quickly because I was really hungry and collapsed on my front stoop exhausted and winded, trying to catch my breath.

 

     As I rested for a moment against the stairs leading to my front door, all of a sudden a large gray squirrel appeared right in front of me.  He had slowly and pensively crawled out of the bushes separating our home with our neighbor’s house.  The squirrel’s mouth was bulging with a huge acorn.  We had a big Oak tree in our yard and because it was late Summer thousands of acorns had dropped everywhere.  Looking more closely at the front yard, I saw that this squirrel had been very busy that day burying acorns.  There were lots of little piles of fresh soil all over our yard where other nuts had been freshly buried.  I looked back at the squirrel, (who out of respect I will now call “Mr. Squirrel”) and was startled to find that he was staring back at me, still with that big acorn in his mouth.  I slowly kneeled and stared back.

     Mr. Squirrel, obviously as fascinated with me as I was with him, tentatively made a move closer to me.  I stayed perfectly still and held my breath.  As he inched toward me, his tail twitched and flicked.  He’d come closer, then stop, take the acorn out of his mouth, clutch in it his little claws, sit up, and survey the yard, looking both at me and then at the yard.  I realized he was torn between wanting to check me out, but also that he needed to find the perfect spot to bury the acorn.   He had a job to do!  As I watched him, suddenly I felt as though I could hear what Mr. Squirrel was thinking.  Maybe it was the hunger pangs affecting my brain, but I swear I heard him say, “where should I put this acorn?  Over here?  No.  Over there.  No, I just buried one over there, so maybe under the tree around the corner?”  With that, Mr. Squirrel glanced at me one last time then scampered over to another part of the yard close to a tree.

 

     I shook my head for a second to clear my brain.  Had I really connected to that squirrel in some unique way?  I looked at him running frantically around the yard, and laughed out loud.  I kept almost hearing his obvious indecision and internal debate.   It was hilarious watching him being, frankly, well, “squirrely” about where to put his acorns.  I recalled learning that squirrels bury acorns so that when winter comes, they can find them and survive the long cold season.  I thought to myself, if I had to pick a spot to bury food critical to my survival, I would be as choosy about where I buried the food as was the squirrel.   I bid adieu to my new found friend and went inside for dinner.  Ironically, I ate very slowly that night, savoring every bite, thankful that I didn’t have to run around the back yard to pick up my meal!

     After this first memorable encounter with this squirrely squirrel, I began regularly thinking about the mindset of any living creature with whom I came in contact. The animals became my teachers, virtually telling me what they were thinking.  This eventually became very natural and almost second nature to me.  When I decided to start drawing cartoons, and especially an anthropomorphic nature cartoon, it made perfect sense to write about nature from its perspective.  From that moment forward, my every moment outside would become a living cartoon continually running in my head.   Green Pieces was born."

     Aquilina graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a Bachelor of Science degree in Landscape Architecture and in 1994 relocated to Arizona.  Thereafter, Aquilina worked as a Landscape Architect and first became an Arizona Registered Landscape Architect in 1998.  Today, after owning two successful Landscape Architecture firms, Aquilina is a Registered Landscape Architecture in Arizona, California and Nevada.  Currently, he is the principal of Site Design, LLC Landscape Architecture in Scottsdale, Arizona.  His design studio focuses mainly on Medical/Healthcare Commercial properties, as well as high-end Residential design work.  Aquilina has always felt that cartooning and Landscape Architecture complement each other because both disciplines emphasize creativity and both rely on communicating ideas using pictures and words. As a professional cartoonist, Aquilina continues to produce Green pieces and artwork for a budding project entitled S.O. teric.  He celebrated the publication of his inaugral book, Green Pieces: Green From the Pond Up, ISBN: 978-0-9833444-3-8, Green Pieces Cartoon Studio,a first edition compilation including 350+ cartoons in January 2011. As of 2017, over 250,000 units have been sold worldwide!