Home : A Set of Six Letterpressed Greeting Cards

Friendlies, Milkfed Press and Wertzateria Illustration are proud to offer "Home", a set of six beautifully letterpressed two-color blank greeting cards, suitable for sending or framing. Each set arrives to you signed and numbered with six folded blank cards on "Lettra" flourescent white paper and six printed envelopes. This is a limited edition of ninety-five sets. These six images are based on dogs who have lived at East Bay Animal Shelters. The cost is thirty dollars plus shipping. Get yours here.


From upper left: Home. Big Head. Dahlia. Olive. Bowie. Big Ears.


The full set.


All wrapped up.

Here's some video of the shenanigans whilst printing. The dream of the 90's is alive in the East Bay!


Victoria mixing the perfect red.


rest in peace, miss olive

It is with great sadness that I report that our furry office-mate Miss Olive has headed out to the next great green pasture. Greg Proops might say that she is now a scintillating collection of purple and blue stars floating above us in the firmament.

She will be missed. She was our best friend and constant companion for almost 14 years.

I made a little zine about her which you can download here.

We will always love you, Miss Olive.


the day lassie went to the moon poster : in the shop!

Dear Friends of Music, this is a project that I've been working on for a while now, and I'm glad to finally see it on paper. David Lowery from Camper Van Beethoven asked if I'd consider making the song The Day That Lassie Went to the Moon (one of my favorites) into a kid's book, and I thought it was a great idea for a poster as well as a book (the book is still to come!). Well, a bunch of hours of sketching, drawing, and printing later, here she is. Have a gander, and if you'd like, head over to the shop to buy yourself one. Printed with love by yours truly at Bloom Press in Oakland with the kind assistance of Nat Swope.




Beast of the Bay 2014

Friendlies, our good friends at Bay Woof have awarded the Wertzateria the "Best Pet Artist" as part of the Beast of the Bay Awards. Arf!


"You’ll recognize Oakland-based illustrator and printer, Michael’s work from last year’s Beast of the Bay Awards logo and winners’ issue cover, if not from his other high-visibility projects all across the Bay Area, including logos and posters for the Oakland Museum, SF MOMA, and the de Young. Perhaps inspired by his “vicious beast” Olive, animals appear in lots of his work. Visit the website to view many dazzling samples of his work and buy posters and picture books. Be sure to check out his fun and fabulous downloadable e-book, Dog Dreams. Michael uses silkscreen, computer graphics, whatever it takes to create his distinctive, bright, graphic art. Amazing!"


Dog Dreams and Whatnot at Paxton Gate Kids


the kind folks at Paxton Gate Curiosities for Kids asked me to show the original letterpress prints for Dog Dreams, so I've installed those prints plus a few extra in their front room. The show will be up through January 2014, so visit the Mission, grab some gifties, and check the shop out. It's a goody-goody. The framed prints (yes, the framed Dog Dreams prints are for sale) are priced to move! Paxton Gate Curiosities for Kids is located at 766 Valencia Street in lovely San Francisco, California.

Thank yous due to Carolee Wheeler for framing and Jim Winters for helping me hang the show.

wertz on wwword

Dear Friendlies, there's a new Friendly in our midst. Lucy Sisman (who has an incredibly impressive roster of print clients) is working on a great literary blog called wwwword, and she asked if I'd like to be interviewed for their blog. The result? One of the nicest pieces of writing about my process to date, and an in-depth look at the creation of A Dazzling Display of Dogs.

See for yourself.

Thank you, Lucy!

Dog Dreams opening at Book Shop Santa Cruz!

Friendlies, we're getting the band back together again - again - for a singing and book signing at Bookshop Santa Cruz. This is one of my very favorite bookstores, and we're excited and grateful that they want to host and event with us. We have a long history with the town of Santa Cruz, and Bookshop is one of the best things about Santa Cruz. We always go there when we visit. Usually we go to Zachary's to fuel up, then down to Bookshop. It's a thing we do.

So come on down, check out the surf, grab a book. Come say hi!

WHAT: Dog Dreams singing/signing at BSSC WHERE: Bookshop Santa Cruz, 1520 Pacific Avenue, Santa Cruz, CA WHEN: January 19, 2012, 7:30 pm.

Some video has emerged from the Dog Dreams opening at the Oakland Museum: here it is. It's super goofy.



Dog Dreams v.2 Opening at the Oakland Museum!

Kids (and those of you Kids with Kids), Dog Dreams is like The Little Kid's Book that Just Won't Go Away!

We're excited to invite you all to the re-grand-opening of Dog Dreams (v.2) brought to you by the kind folks at Gingko Press and The Oakland Museum. This is the second printing of Dog Dreams. The first printing was only 100 copies and those sold out, like, RIGHT AWAY, so I was more than thrilled when Gingko Press offered to do a second printing. This is the same book, mind you, we scanned in the letterpress prints and used those to construct the pages for the new book but this one was printed 175% larger (it's 7" x 7"!) and is has been pre-tested to work beautifully as both a board book and a chew toy.

Apparently, it tastes delicious.

Here's a sneak preview of the new version.

Dog Dreams first look

And a video of me talking about this thing:

You might ask: "Michael? Will you and Andy and Suki be getting up in front of the gathered to embarrass yourselves again with tiny drums and a ukelele and badly-sung novelty songs about dogs?"

The answer, my friends, is blowing in the wind. And that answer is YUSSS.

What: Dog Dreams v.2 Opening! When: Sunday, December 4. Starts at 2pm, ends when my pen runs out of ink. Where: OMCA Gift Shop. The Museum is FREE that day. The address is 1000 Oak St. Oakland, CA 94607, and it's very close to Lake Merritt Bart. Who: YOU. Why: BECAUSE WE LIKE YOU.

So. Come see us, grab a book, laugh at us. We don't care. We like it. In fact, it's 'free day' at the museum, so you can just come and laugh at us without buying a book and the whole thing will cost you NOTHING. Hey, it's hard times! We understand! If we can momentarily distract you from the constant buzz of police helicopters overhead, then we'll be happy campers. If you're looking for a giftie for the holidays (I started to itch all over while typing that last bit), these puppies are priced to move. I will be signing books as well.

Another question: "Will this event be kid-friendly?" Yuppers. Most of my kid's book events thus far have been in the evening, when our precious little darlings turn into flesh-rendering wildebeasts, so here's your chance to bring 'em out when it's not dinnertime. Plus, you can take them to the museum and the cool gardens and let them run around. BONUS.

See you then?


'Secrets of the Dog Park' selected for American Illustration 30!

Friendlies, 'Secrets of the Dog Park', my screenprint that explores the issues of the gay dog community, has been selected for inclusion in American Illustration 30, a sooper groovy hard-cover compendium of hand-picked images. This is the seventh time my work has appeared in the book. "From more than 7,000 pictures entered by over 1,100 illustrators, magazines, agencies, publishers and schools, the jury selected, by a majority vote or better, only 316 images to appear in the book and represent the best pictures from 2010."

Buy yourself a copy of the print here.




Dazzling Dogs Release Recap

Frenz, I'm totally overwhelmed by the positive response - we packed Diesel Books! It was SRO! We also sold out of copies of A Dazzling Display of Dogs (but not to worry - if you want a copy, you can order one here).

For those of you who braved the rainy weather and [maybe even] came out with your kids on a Wednesday night - I thank you! I hope you had as much fun as we did. Thanks also to Tricycle Press (this is, sadly, one of the last books they will publish), Suki and Andy for the music, and Loriana and Carolee for helping out and setting up. Thanks to Betsy Franco for making the trip to Oakland, and to Diesel Books for being so accommodating. If you're in the Bay Area, go buy your books there! It's a great shop.

Here's a little video that Michael Zelner shot (thanks Michael!):

What's next for the book? Well, The Mutts are going to be recording these songs for real sometime soon. Betsy and I are going to be making a book trailer or two for the two books we've published together thus far. There are also rumblings about another collaboration. Stay tuned.


Book launch for A Dazzling Display of Dogs!

Arf, Arf arf arf arf arf.

Please join us at Diesel Books in Oakland as we celebrate the release of the latest kids book by Betsy Franco and Michael Wertz, A Dazzling Display of Dogs. This book is the follow-up to A Curious Collection of Cats, honor winner for Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, NCTE Notable Poetry Book of 2009. A Dazzling Display of Dogs is already getting rave reviews.

We're super excited to return to Diesel Books for the launch party - the launch for the cat book was super fun.

We are such goofs. There will probably be more of this. Plus pens and books and things. And cheese. There will be cheese. I hope you can make it. Can you? Say yes!

UPDATE: looks like we'll be joined by Betsy Franco herself at this event! She'll be sharing images from the book and discussing her creative process. We'll also "enjoy" some light entertainment by the MUTTS: Andy Cowitt - ukelelelele, Suki O'Kane - Toy Drum Kit, Michael Wertz - vox.



A Dazzling Display of Dogs on shelves this week!

Friends to the Four-Pawed: my second picture book, A Dazzling Display of Dogs (written by Betsy Franco - yes, that Betsy Franco), has been released and is available at your local bookstore and online. We're super excited about it over here, and hope you'll get yourself a copy!


The book release party has been set for March 23, at Diesel Books here in Oakland. Andy and I will probably, as with the Curious Cats opening, embarrass ourselves in front of you. Just to let you know.


Here's a great review from School Library Journal:

Starred Review. Grade 1–5 - This follow-up to A Curious Collection of Cats (Tricycle, 2009) is dazzling indeed. Each of the 34 poems features a different animal, most of them engaged in true dog behavior. From farting in the car to wheezing and snoring while sleeping, these pups are funny and lovable even when they're being annoying. The verses and the book's design are beautifully matched. In "Emmett's Ode to His Tennis Ball," the text is enclosed in a circle held firmly in the dog's mouth. It begins, "Slobbery, sloppy, slimy, sphere—oh, tennis ball, I hold you dear…." Like the poems, the pictures are funny and dynamic. The pages are definitely full, yet careful use of color, typeface, and detail means they never look chaotic. A note says the pictures were started in pencil and then finished using monoprints and Adobe Photoshop. Overall, a delight for kids, their adults, and maybe even their beloved canine companions.—Lauralyn Persson, Wilmette Public Library, IL



Sadly, 'A Dazzling Display of Dogs' is one of the last books that Tricycle press will publish. I am so grateful to my editor Abigail Samoun for making this book happen!


Dog Dreams Release Party - You're Invited!

The Imprint of the SFCB is excited to announce the launch of Dog Dreams, an artist's board book written and illustrated by Michael Wertz. Dog Dreams imaginatively reveals the hopes, wishes, and ambitions of over a dozen dozing canines through playful imagery and rhyming text. The book is letterpress-printed in two colors on a Vandercook proof press on French Muscletone paper and is part of the Imprint's Small Plates series issued in 4" x 4" format, numbering 100 signed copies. Come join Michael and the Imprint crew in celebrating Dog Dreams' publication on Thursday July 29, 6-9 PM at the San Francisco Center for the Book. 300 De Haro Street (entrance on 16th Street), San Francisco CA 94103 | | 415.565.0545 you're invited.

Please bring your (leashed and friendly) dogs.

Can you make it? Say yes!


Dog Dreams - the first print is done!

Dear Friends of the Four-Pawed, here's the first letterpressed print from Dog Dreams. I hope this is going to be a great little book - I'm excited!

The idea for Dog Dreams came to me while watching my (then new) dog Olive sleep on the couch next to me. She twitched, huffed, barked, and jerked her way through a series of (seemingly) very exciting dreams. I'm pretty sure she was dreaming the typical dog dreams: squirrels, cats, and ball. But who knows? Maybe she was dreaming of a trip to Paris - or of flying like a bumblebee. Maybe she was simply sitting for tea in the shade of her favorite tree. This book is an exploration of that idea - as well as a little taste (for kids) of what it might be like to be a grownup.

after & before

Please join us as we celebrate the release of Dog Dreams - one of the 2010 Small Plates editions published by the Imprint of the San Francisco Center for the Book.

Book release party: Thursday, July 29 from 6-9 pm. Bring your dogs. SFCB 300 DeHaro Street, San Francisco.


kicking out the crutches

Friendlies, 'Kicking out the Crutches' is how my friend Isabel describes the evolution of her artwork. Her work (and mine, for that matter), used to have dark lines surrounding all the shapes and giving form to her drawings. Now there's nary a dark line in her paintings - she kicked out the crutches she used in her earlier work.

I took Isabel's advice and started going from finishes where the linework was everpresent to finishes where the line is hardly there at all. The line is there, but the shape defines the line instead of the other way around.



Client: Cracker

It wasn't easy for me to let this happen. Your work is essentially a collaboration with your Art Director, and your final piece - the final product - is so immediately public. The scrutiny can be a little difficult, especially when you're trying to branch out and do something new and different.

I've had some incredibly slow periods in my work when I've felt like the phone was never, ever going to ring again. At these times, I feel like my work is uninteresting, at best. My work relies so heavily on direct feedback from clients that when the phone stops ringing I instantly go into a bit of a panic. I end up on the couch with Auntie Mame on the tv and a bag of crispy fatty salties on my chest. It's ok when this happens every once in a while, but after a few days it gets dull. It's time to get off the couch and do something with yourself, fer chrissake.

Here's a quick list of stuff to do when the work dries up: This list is mostly for myself. Because it will dry up, I promise. Best to be prepared.

1. Use this time to try something new for your portfolio - or, hell, just for yourself. Look in an old sketchbook and expand on an old idea. You already have the map to the new place you want to be. Open it and take a look. Try a completely new media. This was the idea behind my dog blog (which is about to be taken down, so look at it while you still can). I made artwork about what I loved - dogs - and worked in flat color, which I had never dared to do before. It made me new clients and gave me a 'specialty' (dogs) I really enjoy.

2. Take a class at a place like the San Francisco Center for the Book. Taking classes here introduced me to monoprinting, which showed up in later work.

3. See what happens after you drink three espressos and let loose on the pages of your sketchbook.

4. What kind of promotion piece would you like to receive in the mail (hint: it's not a printed postcard from modern postcard) ? What would you put up on your wall? Look up on your wall, and make something like what you see there. Make a handful of hand-made promotions, put them in beautiful envelopes with a hand-written notes to the folks you'd like to work with.

5. Look at something new. Do an art date - all by yourself - at a gallery or museum. Go for a long, random walk in a part of town you've never been to before.

6. Get interested in other people's work and let it inspire you. Check out Drawn! and Illustration Mundo, two sites which consistently show amazing work.

7. Start a dream journal. Yes, I know, it's hokey. These images make for great illustrations.

8. Start a blog. Just like Penelope Trunk says: if you're interested in your field, your clients will like you more. One of my favorites: Rama's Portrait Party.

9. Do the opposite of reaching out: reach in. Unhook the internets, put the tv remote away, and draw and draw and draw. Don't leave the house until you have 15 new drawings. Remember to wash.

10. Chill out, man. Been working like a crazy person from 6 months straight without a weekend? How about a short road trip? As my friend Pete says, "As soon as you plan a vacation or turn up the stereo to dance around your apartment, the phone will start ringing again."

It's hard to realize that sometimes the reason that the phone isn't ringing has nothing to do with you. Companies that used to hire illustrators are going away fast. Remember that, and make work that will make you happy and interested in your work again. A by-product of this is that you will make potential clients interested.

Here's a list of 100 art ideas by Keri Smith, who inspires me greatly. Here's another list by Sister Corita.