The following is a continuing series on: â€œThings you can only find in Lansingâ€.
Dennis Preston has been doing the monster mash for more than 40 years and leaving his â€œfoundâ€ artwork behind. What began more as practice to perfect his penchant for caricatures has now turned into a pleasant diversion as he creates pen and ink beasts on paper plates which he leaves behind as tips at area coffee shops.Â
Â Itâ€™s easy to see the influence of the late dragster artist â€œBig Daddy Rothâ€ of Rat Fink fame and Mad Magazine artist Don Martin have had on his artwork, but Preston has developed a style unto his own.Â Â
Â â€œIâ€™d just leave â€˜em,â€ he said. And he figures he has left thousands behind over the years. â€œI just doodle while Iâ€™m waiting.â€ The ugly creatures vary in every way imaginable he said, but there are some common themes.
Â â€œMedieval, aliens and big-big heads often pop up,â€ he said.
Preston is also noted for the hundreds of rock posters he created for both local and statewide venues including concerts at the Pro Bowl, The Stables, the Lansing Civic Center and at MSU. He also did posters â€“many in the typical psychedelic style of the era- for Sherwood Forest in Davidson and the Melody Ballroom and Roseville Ballroom in the Detroit area from 1969-1973. A 2005 art exhibit of his concert posters at Creole Gallery in Old Town drew quite a bit of attention and avid buyers.Â
Â In addition to his caricatures, which he does at an hourly rate for private parties and eventsÂ heâ€™s been doing CD-related artwork and drumhead designs. Of late, heâ€™s been drawing his monsters on napkins instead of paper plates and leaving them at local Biggbys and at the Gone Wired CafÃ©. When patrons started taking the monsters and framing them Preston said he decided to give them to the barristers with the proviso that they sell them for $10 and pocket the money as tips. He said his creative muse often comes from the unique features of a customer or a conversation he overhears.
Â The result might be a Mad Magazine style caricature of one â€œJames Burdinurgerâ€ who â€œofficially and legally changed his name to Wassup Jimmy Birdâ€ which he recently completed at a Westside Biggbys. Anyone who has sat for a Preston caricature knows that even the smallest distinctive facial feature can be blown up for a unique caricature. Long time Lansingites might also remember the murals he did for the Free Spirit and Sounds and Diversions hippie shopping mall that was once in downtown Lansing or the cobwebs of the mind might just pull up his 1971 cover for the underground newspaper The Joint Issue showing George Washington with a joint in his mouth.Â
Â Right now his muse has been taking him mostly to the Biggbys on Elmwood near the Lansing Mall. The bulletin board there has a display of about 20 Preston monsters all available for sale.