Busy is not productive

A Thanksgiving treat from Joe Wos

November 22, 2022

Joe Wos is the Emmy-winning cartoonist and host of Cartoon Academy on PBS, also known for his “maze toons” and for being the resident cartoonist at the Charles M. Schultz museum.

He made a wonderful little maze toon just for us for Thanksgiving! To download, so you can print and play with your children, students, or just as a relaxing activity for yourself, click the image or go to this link here.

Read on for an interview with Joe and a video showing his creation process!

You recently won two Emmys for your PBS show, Cartoon Academy – congratulations! How did that program come about, and what do you like most about it?

Thank you, it all came about during the pandemic. As schools shut down one of the first things that kids completely lost was the art programs. Arguably at at time they needed art most! Here are kids trapped inside looking for an escape — well, cartooning is the perfect vehicle to escape into fantasy and creativity.

I started doing free cartooning classes on YouTube, and my local PBS affiliate took notice. We had an opportunity to create a show that would broadcast statewide reaching those kids at home. It proved popular and is now played not just in homes and schools, but on PBS affiliates nationwide and streaming online. It is an amazing experience! We tape in the same building as Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood did, so you just feel that energy and spirit. It really guides our own mission to gently educate and encourage young artists, and adults too! The third season [just launched]!

In addition to your show, you also sometimes give workshops at elementary schools and have done many other children’s events. Have you always worked with young people? Why is sharing drawing and cartooning with children important to you?

My dad always emphasized to me that not only are kids the future, but they deserve to be treated with respect while they are children. I’ve always worked with young people; I teach at a high school and visit dozens of schools and museums year round. It’s important for kids to create. Imagination is so important!

I see schools invest in STEM programs and buying 3d printers, etc… but [simultaneously] cutting art programs? That’s ludicrous! STEM without the arts and creativity is just a bunch of very expensive 3d printers acting as paperweights. Dragging and dropping isn’t creating. The creative spirit is what makes us human! It’s what allows us to evolve, express ourselves and build a better future.

What is your technology setup these days?

I use the Wacom Cintiq Pro 24 at home, but boy do I want that new Cintiq Pro 27! Hopefully this blog reaches the North Pole, so Santa can add it to his list.

The 24 inches of space was a lifesaver on some recent projects. Most notably, I did a huge wall mural for StarKist headquarters (I am the current artist for Charlie the Tuna). I could not have done it without the extra screen real estate.

For travel, I converted over to the Wacom One — though it is an entry-level offering great for students or those starting out, I also find it is great for travel! It’s lightweight and slides ride into my laptop bag. I always have to have my laptop along anyway, so it’s a perfect edition to my travel workstation.

I have often said that I consider my switch to digital as being transformative for my career. I have a syndicated feature called MazeToons through King Features, a TV show, a dozen books, and more, and I sincerely owe much of my success to Wacom. I have to give a shout out to Doug Little at Wacom, he has become a sort of “patron saint” to cartoonists. He has this great gift for reaching out to artists and saying, “Have you tried digital drawing? Here, try this.” That outreach is what got me hooked, and it was the same for so many others. Maybe he isn’t so much a saint as an apostle, spreading the good word of Wacom!

How did you first get started with mazes in particular?

When I was seven years old, in the 1970s, mazes were a big fad! There were lots of maze books being published, but me and my friends were frustrated with how easy they were, so we would make mazes to challenge one another. I loved to draw cartoons, so I incorporated drawings into the solve path of the mazes. It was unique and made the mazes more challenging. I just kept on drawing them, and now that’s a big part of my career!

Do your mazes range in difficulty, or are they mainly aimed at children? Have you ever done harder mazes, and if not, is that something you’d be interested in trying?

They have a wide range of difficulty. Some only take a minute to solve, and there are some, like my maze murals, that remain unsolved for years! My largest maze was 4 feet high by 36 feet long, and established the world record — to my knowledge I am the only one to solve it so far, though a 12 year old kid came close! He spent all day at a museum going through the maze, but by the time the museum closed he was only 3/4 of the way through. I wonder if he ever came back and finished it?


Learn more about Joe and follow his work:

Follow him on social media: Tik Tok, YouTube, or Instagram.

Watch his Emmy-winning TV Show: Cartoon Academy, available on your local PBS station or on PBS.org. Season 3 just launched!

Or check out his latest book: A-Maze-Ing Peanuts!

abeni jones headshot

About the author

Abeni Jones is a former graphic designer, illustrator, and educator, and current writer, who bought her first Wacom tablet in 1999. She’s passionate about video games, design, and the great outdoors.

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