The Smiling Turtle

Aside from toys and toons, I just loved to draw from an early age. Every Christmas and birthday without fail I would get a large set of felt pens and a blank refill pad to draw and create with. From 1990 for a long time onwards, TMNT was all I wanted to illustrate. I was mostly inspired by Ken Michroneys work on the TMNT Adventures comic that was the highlight of every other weekend.

The smiling Turtle was happy accident. Drawing just the face and deciding the bandana color was a quicker and easier feat than a full bodied and armed Turtle. A lot of early Turtles merchandise would just display the universal smiling face we all recognise to this day. Even Raph can’t escape having his momentary smile immortalised.

Prior to Turtles I was doing what a Primary school classmate and I liked to call ‘Dinosaur shapes’ where we would illustrate dinosaurs on cerealbox cardboard and cut them out. It was kind of like making our own 2D action figures. I guess that turned to Turtles, as I couldn’t get enough paper and cardboard to illustrate and cut these out.

The fun thing about the Turtles was hiding these in the shadows. I wanted people to stumble on them and keep being the artist a mystery. It wasn’t like I was defacing public property get the art across. Some kids at school pretty much sussed out I was the Turtle artist as I wasn’t closet case about any of my fandoms. There was an ignorant and outdated notion even back then that being in Secondary School meant you had to give ‘kids stuff’ up and be pushed to grow up early. Staying true to TMNT and other brands I liked set me up for a hard time and some awful bullying, not just from peers but teachers too.

Secondary school was an abusive pecking order to say the least. TMNT was an amazing comfort to me and helped me get through it. The Smiling Turtle I produced in the dozens, and I had fun hiding these in lockers, desk drawers and especially library books! It was like distributing little dosages of hope to hide in the shadows. It was fun hearing the background when other kids would find these. Some were kept and some were torn up. Even one of the ‘popular’ kids put the word out that he would pay 50p for each of these Smiling Turtles if they were brought to him. It motivated me to wear out the felt pens and produce even more to hide around school, and potentially put him out of pocket as a nice bonus.

I eventually served my 5-year sentence at the place I had to address as school and the Smiling Turtle buzz eventually died down…

It wasn’t until I reached my 40s the Smiling Turtle was rebooted in a new way. I discovered rock and pebble painting as well as acrylic paint in pens – and it all started again. Resin’d pebbles and rocks were a great new medium to illustrate the Smiling Turtle face on (no bullies could tear these up) and the opportunity to hide anywhere any place had expanded.  A lot of rocks I made have found their way travelling around the world and sometimes people reach out to me on social media to say they’ve found one!

Illustrating the Smiling Turtle again is a blast with newer ways to distribute free art potentially anywhere whether indoors or outdoors. Most of these I leave and never see again, but that is the territory of free art. For all I know they live in a collection, the bottom of a garden, gone travelling or waiting to be rediscovered. Finding out where some of my Turtles have gone is a nice bonus and I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Author: Hero_777

UK-Based, longterm TMNT enthusiast, proud parent and professional Santa Claus.