riangle-area pop artist Paul Friedrich ’89 might still regret not taking a college course in business, but he’s done an impressive job figuring it out on his own. The Raleigh native has spent the last two decades turning a boyhood passion for drawing cartoons into a thriving business.
He’s probably best known for his ghoulishly playful Onion Head Monster character, which was the title of a comic strip published for a couple of years in the popular local weekly paper, The Independent. His bold, colorful cartoons are hard to miss around town, and not just in obvious places, such as restaurants and galleries.
His work is on rock CD covers, iPod cases, apparel, handbags, city buses and the graffiti wall at Marble’s Children’s Museum in downtown Raleigh.
“I’m the living embodiment of what I saw growing up would be like when I was 13,” Friedrich says. “I eat what I want, drink what I like, travel around the world, hang out with bands and draw cartoons all day.”
Friedrich’s latest coup was scoring a gig as the NHL’s only cartoonist, creating weekly cartoons for the Carolina Hurricanes mascot, Stormy (right).
His interest in cartooning wasn’t exactly encouraged in high school and later at ECU, where he completed a degree in art.
“One teacher said it was a waste of talent,” he said. Instead, art professors pushed the basics—drawing, sculpting and painting, classes that would help build a strong foundation for a traditional career in art.
He put his creative talent to work instead writing the comic strip “Hubie the Dead Cow” at The East Carolinian.
Friedrich kept drawing after graduation, but relied on graphic design jobs to pay the bills. A few shows in the mid ’90s helped proved there was a market for his paintings, especially ones with Onion Head Monster. So with some savings tucked away, he quit his steady job to draw and paint full time.
“I had to take the challenge,” he said. “Repeatedly I was told ‘You need to face reality.’…But if you don’t try, you won’t know. I said ‘I don’t like your reality. I’m going to try mine.’” Stay tuned for more.
Friedrich now has even bigger goals: a cartoon TV show similar to SpongeBob SquarePants.
Many of Friedrich's creations, including the ones on this page, can be purchased at his web site.
—Samantha Thompson Hatem '90
East Carolina University
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