"Up until four or five years ago, I still thought of myself as a Midwesterner," says Daniel Clowes, who has called Oakland home for two decades. "I'd close my eyes and see water towers and Chicago at night. And then one day I was closing my eyes and seeing palm trees and the Paramount Theater."
With deadpan delivery he continues, "I'm a regional artist now. That's my goal, is in my obituary it'll say, 'Noted regionalist.'"
Noted regionalist Clowes is making a lot of noise for "The Town" in the way that only a quiet but incredible illustrator can. He is currently developing a feature film adaptation of his most recent graphic novel Wilson, which is set in Oakland. Fox Searchlight plans to shoot the movie there.
Clowes also now has his first-ever exhibition in any part of the country: "Modern Cartoonist: The Art of Daniel Clowes," on view starting Saturday (April 14) at the Oakland Museum of California.
His full body of work is on display, including his best-known comic series Eightball and the graphic novel Ghost World, the film adaptation of which launched the film career of Scarlett Johansson. Clowes calls himself a "hoarder" because he has kept his original drawings; he sure never envisioned they'd go up on the walls of a museum one day.
"This is a bit surreal," he admits. "I'm a guy who draws in his pajamas at 4 in the afternoon who is read by other guys in their pajamas at 4 in the afternoon."
After the show ends in the East Bay, it'll continue to other museums around the United States. First stop: Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, which will give the Midwest a chance to reclaim Clowes as a beloved regional artist.
"Modern Cartoonist: The Art of Daniel Clowes" continues through Aug. 12 at the Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak (at 10th St.), Oakland. Admission is $6-$12.