I was first introduced to the trippy, elaborate artwork of Theo Ellsworth a few years ago by a former Butterfly Herbs barista, who loaned me a copy of Ellsworth's lovely Capacity. I remember poring over each page before going to bed, feeling like I was reading an adult version of a kid's storybook.
Ellsworth continues to explore layered headspaces in his new series, The Understanding Monster. Mack Perry reviewed Ellworth's latest, The Understanding Monster: Book One, last October, saying Ellsworth's art looks like a whimsical, storybook take on a complicated architectural blueprint. The Understanding Monster follows a protagonist, Izadore, on a series of adventures and meets "a rag-tag crew of bizarre, dream-state creatures that would make Carl Jung rise from the dead and muse at the implications."
Ellsworth is gaining some recognition, too: he announced recently on his blog that The Understanding Monster is now an honoree for the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel prize.
The judges wrote, "His intricately drawn, richly-colored visuals sprawl across the full dimensions of each page, inviting readers into the dizzying, frantic mental space of his protagonist, Izadore—inviting in the way a maze invites entry, with a compelling sense of mystery but without any guarantee of safe exit."
Ellsworth sounds gracious in his blog post, writing, "It also feels like a huge honor to be awarded something named after Lynd Ward, who made beautiful silent novels with wood cut prints back in the depression era. The God Father of the Graphic Novel."
And there's more to come: Ellsworth also writes that he's working on The Understanding Monster: Book Two.