For this month’s Q&A, Patrick and I are discussing our love for the outdoors. After all, “to love nature” is the current MUTTS Manifesto focus, and later this month we’ll be welcoming the official beginning of spring. It’s the perfect time of year to rejoice in childlike thrills — staying outside until dusk, getting grass stains on our clothes, ending the day with dirt under our fingernails.

Patrick tells me that when he was young, he and his siblings spent entire days romping in the woods and fields near their home. “We would be out of the house by 7:00 in the morning, and we wouldn’t come home until the streetlights came on. That’s how you knew it was time to go back. We had baseball and football fields nearby, so we’d go and play there, or we’d just go get lost in the woods and observe the turtles and frogs.”

Of course, he was also an art lover from a very young age, so on rainy days (and sometimes on sunny days, too), he’d stay inside and draw. With his inquisitive way of looking at the world, there was always something interesting to do.

In the summer, the McDonnells vacationed at the Jersey Shore. “We were lucky that my uncle had a small hotel on the beach, so we always spent two weeks there every summer.” Being that close to the Atlantic Ocean, he says, broadened his love for nature even more. “That was a big part of my growing up.”

Avid readers of the MUTTS strip are likely unsurprised by this fact, as Patrick usually dedicates a great deal of his summer strips to the characters’ beach adventures. It’s never specified that they’re in New Jersey, but the more sentimental of those strips are undeniably autobiographical.

Ozzie and Earl MUTTS Strip 081615

Nowadays, Patrick spends more time drawing and less time galavanting around in the wilderness — but his passion for the outdoors hasn’t waned. “All of my studios have had a lot of windows and light. That’s important to me. So when I’m not drawing, I just look out at the trees and birds.” He laughs. “I’m staring out the window, daydreaming about working.”

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