When it comes to finding inspiration for a project, artists often stumble across ideas in the strangest of places or during an unlikely occurrence, like the one John Marefka had last fall that led to the creation of “The Owl from Powell” comic strip.
“I was out on a run one autumn day after all the leaves had fallen when I looked over and saw a large owl sitting in a tree,” said Marefka, a Powell resident. “He was huge! It looked like a dog sitting on a branch. The thought just popped into my head — ‘The Owl from Powell.’
“Since then, I have seen him many times. I took it as a sign that I should do something with him.”
What Marefka decided was to make the owl, which he describes as an observer of human and animal nature, the star of his own comic strip alongside a supporting cast of characters: Gus the groundhog, Dink the deer, and Shel the squirrel.
Other characters featured in the comic strip are based on animals native to the area or those who have wandered away from the local zoo, Marefka said.
An art director/graphic designer by day (Marefka and his wife, Lori, run a small marketing agency) and artist by night, Marefka holds a fine arts degree from the University of Akron, and his artwork has been featured in numerous galleries across the state, including ones in Cleveland and Powell.
Marefka said from an early age he realized he had a talent for art, and he quickly fell in love with cartoons, so working on “The Owl from Powell” is right in his wheelhouse.
“I started working on the (owl) character almost immediately after my first encounter (last fall),” he said. “The first comic I did involved the train that runs right through the center of Powell. We don’t live far from the tracks, and I just expressed how I felt.”
Viewing ‘The Owl from Powell‘
Marefka said his original comic strip is distributed to the masses strictly through “The Owl from Powell” Facebook page.
“I thought (Facebook) was the best way to reach the people in the area,” he said.
While some of his comic strips are very specific to central Ohio, specifically ones that deal with Powell and the state’s famous nuts or what Marefka refers to as his “little buckeye characters,” he said a lot of his suburban-related material relates to everyone since “fast growing suburbs are everywhere.”
Since launching the comic strip in August, Marefka said he has been able to reach several thousand people.
“I’ve even received private messages telling me how people look forward to seeing them each day,” he said. “It’s a great creative outlet (for me), but what I enjoy most is the reaction I get from viewers. One guy wrote me and said he liked the sophisticated humor. Maybe some of them are sophisticated, but some are just silly fun.”
While development continues to be a touchy subject in Powell, the primary focus of “The Owl from Powell” comic strip, Marefka said, is to get people thinking about local animals and their habitats, while trying to remain as apolitical as possible.
“Powell and Delaware County are booming, and we have to be smart about development,” he said. “There’s plenty of room for all living things. All I’m trying to say is think of the local habitat and be respectful of all the beauty that we have in the area.”
Marefka said he also hopes the comic strip brings a bit of happiness to those who take a moment out of their day to view it.
“The world seems pretty scary right now, but I must admit, sometimes I’ll just have a funny thought,” he said.
Framed prints of the comic strip have sold at local galleries, and Marefka is hopeful “The Owl from Powell” will reach the point where some good can come from it besides a few laughs.
“If I can build up enough of a fan base, I can sell merchandise and the proceeds will go to animal/environmental groups that serve the area like the Ohio Wildlife Center here in Powell,” he said. “My intentions here are strictly honorable.”