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Storytelling is a human impulse, a cultural activity meant to entertain and enlighten others. All forms of visual art can function as a way for the artist to convey a moment or moments in time within a larger story. If effective, narrative art engages the viewer’s interest and moves them to some form of emotional response.
Many Project Onward artists are passionate storytellers. Some of the stories featured in their works are based upon themes varying from children’s literature to images of historical events, while others come directly from the artist’s imagination.
Here we highlight some their new and unique narratives. We hope you empathize with their characters and feel their sorrow and their joy. You may be humored or even shocked by their statements and actions. Above all, we wish for you to be entertained and enlightened by our storytellers!
Fluffy vs. Muffin by George Zuniga
Once upon a time, somewhere in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, there lived a stray dog named Fluffy. He is the king of the neighborhood. One day there also appeared a rival in this neighborhood, a cat named Muffin and her boyfriend named Buttercup. One day while at the park, there was a noise from the streets. A vicious fight occurs. There was Fluffy the vicious dog and his pack of fluffs, fellow dogs attacking a pair of cats led by Muffin and her boyfriend Buttercup. Also, there was Fluffy’s fiancé a French Poodle named Frenchie.
A fight had broken out between a pack of vicious dogs and a pack of vicious cats. And the dogs and Fluffy and cats and Muffin began to maul each other to death. It became a mauling between Fluffy and Muffin. They battled in the alley that once belonged to Fluffy and his fiance Frenchie. In the end of the melee, Muffin and her pack of cats were nearly dead. A few cats of her pack survived the mauling. They were torn apart by the dogs and Fluffy. Muffin was barely alive but was able to lunge on Fluffy. She killed him with with her venomous teeth. And so, Muffin and her pack of cats won the battle! The rule of the Fluffy and his pack of vicious dogs over the alley and street of Pilsen came to an end. But at a great cost! Muffin collapses and is rushed to the vet for recovery! Pilsen is once again safe from the reign of Fluffy the Vicious Dog and his gang of mad dogs!
Black Pebbles by David Hence
The Black Pebble is a character who has a tragic past. We the audience find ourselves immersed in his life story; an epic tale of an underdog. The story centers on the life of Ikenna, which means father’s power in West Africa. The narrative is set in different cultures through the character’s lifespan. From his origins in West Africa, to growing up with his Uncle in a fishing village on the southern coastline in China, to adulthood as a Shaolin monk we follow his journey.
I find that sometimes people are outside of society looking in. Ikenna is one of those people. He is called Black Pebble by his Uncle because he is so small, but finds even a pebble can be essential to supporting balance and structure to society.
Within my graphics I have tried to concentrate most closely within the facial expressions to show the dramatic emotions that the drive the characters actions. I use mainly black and white to emphasize the theatrical or operatic tone I want the viewer to experience within the storyline.
Continuing on with the Black Pebble, I would like to add chapters to the story and to keep the reader intrigued with my visual images and storyline.
Bleeding Heart by Luke Shemroske
This was about rejection. Overcoming adversity. Trying to move a mountain. Trying to get the big floating heart in the sky that actually is like a Christmas ornament and has been stabbed. Rejected. Everyone has a stab to the heart. As you walk through life you get stabbed in the heart. Especially when you’re an artist and take things hard and emotionally and unfortunately very sensitively. So. At that time my buddy had offered me this piece of art a girlfriend had made and given him. Honestly it was boring commercial art and she knew it so she gave it to him to do whatever cuz she didnʼt want to look at. Naturally he gave it to me and said I could have at it. So. I had begun just writing my feelings on it. Writing words. Letters. All kinds of stuff. Drawings. Just sketching and dreaming out loud in paint all over it. I was also going out with this other buddy at the time and we would try to pick up girls. And fail miserably a lot. Gloriously. Miserably. Whatever. Sometimes we succeed. But it was kind of unhealthy. And weʼd just. Be jerk offs kind of. Sometimes. It was a weird way to communicate with the world. But we wanted to build social skills and overcome fears and get out of our comfort zones and meet girls and see the world from a different view. We thought it was such an edgy and real way to go about it. It was a lot of heartache and rejection. It wasnʼt really my thing so much I guess. A lot of the time I didnʼt want to be there or talk to who I was attempting to talk to and was not feeling good or even like I should really be there. But it gave us both a sense of freedom. A social high. And it brought us out to look at and figure out about ourselves. I was weird getting rejected so much lol. And at the time. Everything was rejecting me. My coworkers and bosses. My friends. My family. Galleries. Everything. I just couldnʼt get anywhere and I felt like everything was just a painful stab in the heart and all the bleeding would get rid of all the bad blood. All the toxic waste in my heart. I felt like it was crying all over the city. Like that song the wind cries Mary. Like the blood turned to the rain. And felt like there was a girl’s name at the heart of the pain. I would sleep on the train sometimes. Not sleep. Just watch city life. Like I wouldnʼt go home. The last train back to the suburbs was at 1230 am I think and if I missed that. That was it. I was in the city all night. Wandering around in the rain. Riding the different train systems. Seeing stuff. I had art in my heart...
Keep reading Luke's story on our blog >
Toaster's, An Overview by Louis DeMarco
Toaster’s is a mashup of Cheers and Friends, especially with the characters and the places. It tells the story of the 7 people of the show: hapless bartender Steve Monroe, beautiful waitress Donna Quarters, wisecracking farmboy Larry Lloyd, airheaded bus driver Biff “Snakes” Clayman, beer-guzzling artist Nate Patterson, OCD janitor Darla Tortellini, and absent-minded manager Cap Trouserio. Plus, supportive co-manager Rosie Wye, therapist Dr. Frederick Heron, and (later) his wife Phyllis Sherman-Heron.
Steve Monroe is a mashup of Sam Malone and Ross Geller—the hapless geeky bartender of the show. He has been hapless since his wife Doris passed away. He was a former footballer/baseballer, but then he found someone (Doris) to later marry, and he retired from sports to become an inventor and later married, but their last night together was at the movie theater, where his wife died. As a recovering alcoholic, he drinks tea. His nickname is “Nerdmuffin” (for being a stud muffin and a nerd at the same time). He lives alone, sad, since his wife is no longer with him. He would later fall for Donna Quarters, with whom he develops an on-again/off-again relationship.
Donna Quarters is a mashup of Diane Chambers and Rachel Green—the show’s popular princess. She is a waitress, and she also bartends with Steve as well. She can act snooty at times, but she is also smart. She is also a fashion girl—she would work at Macy’s in addition. She is also best friends with Darla Tortellini.
Darla Tortellini is a mashup of Carla Tortelli and Monica Geller—the loud but uptight girl who always pushes Steve around. She’s loud, but she’s also uptight and obsessed with being a janitor (or “janitress”). She can be a little mean-spirited at times, but all-in-all, she is super-clean and overly competitive. Not to mention: her children live with her ex-husband Richie Tortellini.
Biff “Snakes” Clayman is a mashup of Cliff Clavin and Phoebe Buffay—the crazy one of the show. He is seen as an airhead because he is parseltongued (he talks like a snake, hence his name). He is barfly pals with Nate. He lives with his mom. He is a bus driver.
Nate Patterson is a mashup of Norm Peterson and Joey Tribbiani—the binger of the show. He always sits at the corner of the bar. He is also popular with beer and with the ladies, as he is the life of the party. He also has a thing for Belgian ale and dirty socks. He is also an accomplished artist (he even has an artist trophy). He is also best friends with Larry Lloyd, and they live together in an apartment across from Donna and Darla’s apartment.
Larry Lloyd is a mashup of Woody Boyd and Chandler Bing—the wisecracking farmboy of the show. He has been Steve’s best friend since college. He comes from (Milwaukee) Wisconsin, and he would tell funny stories about Wisconsin. He also serves as assistant bartender along with Steve as well. He can also act a little simple-minded sometimes. He is also a baseball pitcher. He used to be a bowler once (he even has a bowling trophy) but he retired from bowling for some reason. His parents were divorced because his father is too much of a circus clown. He is the most secure of the group of 6 friends.
Cap Trouserio is a mashup of Coach Pantusso and Gunther—the manager of Toaster’s. He is endearing but also absent-minded. He can act like a self-loathing coward sometimes.
Rosie Wye is a mashup of Rebecca Howe and Mike Hannigan—the supportive co-manager of Toaster’s. She is smart, competitive, and down-to-earth. She's privileged but unlucky in day-to-day matters.
Dr. Frederick Heron is a mashup of Dr. Frasier Crane and Barry Farber—the therapist who left Donna at the altar. He is notorious for being uptight and haughty. He would later marry Phyllis.
Phyllis Sherman-Heron is a mashup of Lilith Sternin-Crane and Mindy Hunter-Farber—the therapist’s wife. She and Frederick develop these psychological profiles together, although she is a firm behaviorist. She is another one of Donna’s best friends.
Also, not to mention Larry and Darla would get married later.
A Dairy Cow Named Christine
by Matthew Bianchi
Once upon a time, located on a rolling hill, out on a farm, there once lived a dairy cow named Christine. She was enjoying her day on the meadow that was so full of brightly colored and plentiful flowers. She was munching the green grass so that she would make delicious milk for the kind-hearted family.
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Project Onward believes we can inspire change by using art to promote empathy and reduce the stigma of mental illness and developmental disabilities. We seek to improve the self-image of artists by emphasizing the social and economic value of their work.
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