New Art and Appearances

Poster for Gorse Mill Holiday Open Studios, Dec. 2-3, 11-5, 31 Thorpe Road, Needham, MA.

Hi everyone, I’ll be participating in an Open Studio the first weekend in December, showing and selling my artwork. If you’re local, stop by and say hello!

It will be at Gorse Mill Studios, 41 Thorpe Road, Needham, MA, from 11-5 on Saturday and Sunday Dec. 2 & 3. There will be several other artists there, including a great pottery studio with lots of ceramics for sale. This will be my only public event for December.

Ink and watercolor drawing of a girl standing on a hill looking out towards and island across the sea.

In other news, I’ve been posting new art on Instagram lately. I participated in an art challenge called Folktale Week, and created a new story to go along with the seven prompts. It was a great challenge to work fast (I didn’t have time to start in advance) and develop my ink and watercolor style. I kept the palette simple to evoke a particular mood. I’ll post the story on this website soon, but for now you can see my art over on Instagram.

Photo of John Lechner performing a puppet show outdoors with colorful insect puppets

Finally, I’m gearing up to relaunch my insect puppet show next year! This is a puppet show designed to entertain young children while teaching them about insects and their environment. If you are connected with a school, museum, or nature center, I would love to come inspire audiences with my new puppet show, which was performed several times this past summer to enthusiastic audiences. Send me a note for details!

Hope you all survived a tumultuous 2023, here’s hoping for a brighter 2024!

Outdoor Exhibit and Puppet Show in June!

Come see me this month at Gorse Mill Studios in Needham, Massachusetts!

I’m having an outdoor art exhibit at Gorse Mill Studios throughout the month of June, with a free puppet show — now rescheduled to Saturday June 24th at 3:00 PM. The exhibit entitled “Insects in the Garden” features giant cartoon insects around the lawn and garden at Gorse Mill Studios, 31 Thorpe Road, Needham, MA.

The insects in the exhibit, cut from plywood and painted with bright colors, are labeled with fun facts about each one. I’m hoping this exhibit will help people appreciate insects in a whole new way. Insects are usually overlooked because they’re so small, that’s why I wanted to make them really big and approachable. They’re really amazing creatures, and so important to our environment. They’re the unsung heroes of the natural world.

Here is an interview with me on the Needham Channel:

In conjunction with the exhibit, I’m performing a free puppet show. “Insect Tales: Phinni and the Wild Patch” tells the story of four insect friends who search for a new home after their meadow is destroyed by a storm. Visitors may bring their own chairs or blankets.

The exhibit will be on display throughout the month of June. Visitors can stop by anytime to see the giant insects and take photos with them.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Needham Council for Arts and Culture, a local agency which is supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency.

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Come see my new exhibit at the Gorse Mill Gallery, “A Bug’s Eye View”

From June 6-26th, I’ll have a solo art exhibit at Gorse Mill Studios, 31 Thorpe Road, Needham, MA. This exhibit will be entirely devoted to insects, the unsung heroes of the natural world! I will be transforming the gallery with epic-sized drawings to let you step into the world of these tiny creatures. I will also display some of my insect comics and other fun things.

There will also be a reception on Saturday June 18th at 3:00 PM, where I’ll be doing an outdoor puppet show featuring a cast of colorful insect characters, which you may recognize from my recent comics. This is a brand new puppet show, never before performed! I’ll update this post with photos when I have them.

Hope to see you there! If you can’t make it on the 18th and would like to visit the gallery while I’m there, contact me and I can meet you there to show you around.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Needham Council for Arts and Culture, a local agency which is supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency.

What I’ve been up to lately

The Beetle and the Butterfly - a Love Story - by John Lechner

Hi everyone, thanks for visiting my website! I’m going to try and update this news section more regularly, and hopefully I’ll have more to share in the coming months. Most recently, I posted a new short comic on my website called The Beetle and The Butterfly. It’s a bittersweet tale about self-doubt and how we all struggle to connect with one another, featuring two shy insects. The idea first appeared in my notebooks about six years ago, and it seemed like something that others might relate to.

Below are some process images for the illustrations. After initial rough sketches, I made refined sketches on watercolor paper. Then I inked the lines with a brush and erased the pencil. The final step was painting them with watercolor, scanning, and typesetting the final words. I also went through many revisions of the text to get it just right.

Process art starting with rough sketch, then final ink and watercolor.

I also made about three dozen color studies, to figure out the color scheme for the story. These drawings also helped me get to know the characters a little better and think about how much detail to include.

24 color studies for my story The Beetle and the Butterfly
Tree drawing

I’ve slowly been building up the Stories section on my website. Last fall, I posted a longer story called The Tall Tree, a revision of an illustrated story I wrote a few years back. It’s the tale of a young tree who grows up in the protective shadow of his father tree, and what happens when that protection is no longer there. You can read the whole story here.

Aside from these, I’ve been working on various other writing ideas, and posting occasionally on Twitter and Instagram. I’m starting to draft a new novel, while my other one is out on submission. I’m also thinking of starting a newsletter, to share more of my stories and drawings. Stay tuned for more!

A new story about a ladybug

A ladybug sits at the edge of a leaf, looking out over a landscape and mountains.

Over the years, I’ve accumulated quite a backlog of stories in my notebooks, most of them too short for a real book. So I’m going to share some of them online, so at least people can read them. Today I’m pleased to present a tiny tale called The Ladybug Who Wasn’t Ready (Yet). This is a story I wrote a few years ago, and it’s been itching to get out into the world, much like the protagonist. It’s a story for late bloomers and quiet thinkers everywhere, about persevering and following your own path.

I tried out some new tools for the illustrations, using a a pen that I carved from a hollow stick, dipped in ink. In the past I’ve used a brush, but sometimes that can be constraining, because it requires such slow and careful drawing. The stick has its limitations, it’s difficult to vary line thickness, but it also has its strengths, you can draw in any direction and get some interesting textures. I’ll continue experimenting with this tool to see where it leads.

You can read the entire story here. Hope you enjoy it, and I hope to share more stories in the coming months!

Two ladybugs talking

Introducing my new webcomic

Lechner Webcomic 1

As my fascination with insects has grown over the years, I’ve been inspired to create more stories about them. I’ve decided to start a series of nature webcomics featuring a cast of insect characters as they go about their uncertain lives.

I’ll be posting these about once a week on my Twitter and Instagram. They are generally self-contained, but may contain a thread of stories that tie them all together. The characters are all inspired by various creatures I’ve observed in my backyard over the years.

The primary character (so far) is a hoverfly named Phini, who can’t seem to make up his mind. Hoverflies are some of my favorite insects, gentle creatures who seem to hover magically over flowers before they land.

Here are the first six comics I’ve posted so far, and be sure to follow me on either Twitter and Instagram to see new ones as they are produced!

Lechner Webcomic 2
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Lechner Webcomic 3
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Lechner Webcomic 4
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Lechner Webcomic 5
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Lechner Webcomic 6
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New Puppet Film – Waiting For Spring

Last month I created a short film for the 48 Hour Puppet Film Project. It was a fun and frantic experience to create a film in a weekend, as I’ve only made a few puppet films before. The final result, called Waiting For Spring, is about a little mouse who anxiously waits for spring, and is happy when it finally arrives. Here is the film, and below I’ll talk about how I made it.

The rules of the 48 Hour Puppet Film Project are that you can’t start until Friday evening, when you receive a list of three elements that the film must include. This year, the films had to include a specific theme – hope, a specific object – cardboard, and a specific action – jump. Upon receiving these at 9 PM on a Friday, I started thinking of ideas.

The inspiration came from the weather forecast for that weekend. We were getting a snowstorm on Saturday morning, and then a warm sunny day on Sunday when everything would melt. I came up with the idea for a mouse who is sadly watching the snow fall, and then later is happy when spring arrives. And I could take advantage of my backyard, which had many spring flowers already blooming.

I built the puppet Friday night, using materials I had on hand. I didn’t even have time to sew, it was held together with pins and tape. I also rigged up a flower pot with an opening in the back, to manipulate the puppet.

Saturday morning, I went out into the wet snow with my video camera and puppet, and experimented with different locations and camera angles to finally get my opening shots. I had to hurry because the snow was already starting to melt by 11:00.

That evening I edited the footage, and worked on the puppet to make it more sturdy. Usually when creating a new puppet, the puppeteer needs time to experiment with the movement, to figure out what the puppet can do, and how to manipulate it. I had almost no time for this, I had to experiment while actually filming. So many of the shots turned out poorly and couldn’t be used.

Most of the filming was done with me holding the video camera in one hand and holding the puppet in the other. I had intended the mouse to be a finger puppet, but I found it was nearly impossible to work the puppet this way without my hand being visible too. So I ended up using a stiff metal wire attached to the back of the puppet (which you can see in a few shots.) In a few instances, I put the camera down to move the puppet, or I put the puppet down to move the camera.

The filming on Sunday, after the snow melted, was a mad rush to get as many sunny shots as I could. Looking back, I wish I had more time to experiment with different locations, camera angles, and movements. I finished filming around 4:00, and rushed to edit the second half of the film, and also finish the music and sound.

The music was created with GarageBand, using the instruments that come with the program. I used the computer keyboard (“Musical Typing”) to type in the notes, and then adjusted them manually, since I made a lot of mistakes. After adding the music, I adjusted the shots again, to better fit the pacing of the score.

As the deadline of 9 PM on Sunday approached, I kept noticing small things that needed to be fixed, and each render took more time. So I missed the actual deadline, but I kept working all evening and finished very late that night.

This project was a great experience for me, because I’m usually a slow and methodical worker, and often start projects that I never finish. So this really got me to focus and get something done.

Hopefully it will inspire more film projects in the future!

Books and puppets on parade

This past spring I visited a wonderful elementary school to talk about my books and writing. Rowe Elementary is tucked into the hills of western Massachusetts, and filled with creative students who love to read. It was fun to visit and share my work.

I talked about my four picture books, which are based on social/emotional themes like empathy, communication, and self-awareness, and which are all set in nature. I drew pictures on an easel with suggestions from the students, and we also collaborated on a group story, which I drew as we came up with ideas.

I also performed a musical puppet show based on my character Sticky Burr and his friends. The puppets were all made of paper, with scrolling scenery, kind of like a book brought to life. Below are a few photos from my visit.

Before my visit, one of the classes did a project where they built little houses inspired by my book Sticky Burr. The houses were built with cardboard and things from nature, like twigs, bark, and grass.

Afterwards I received the nicest cards and letters from the students, here are just a few of them!

Many thanks to the students and staff at Rowe Elementary for being so great and making my visit so much fun! If anyone would like more information about my school programs, contact me at john (at)

Springtime Events

Just a quick update here, to let you know about some events I’ll be participating in this spring.

John Lechner comics festival table

On Saturday April 27th, I’ll be participating in the Boston Kids Comics Festival, in Newton, MA. I’ll have a table with my books and other fun stuff, and I’ll be leading a workshop for kids in drawing animal comics at 3:30 PM. If you’re in the area, stop by and say hi! Details at

On May 4th and 5th, I’ll be participating in the Needham Open Studios, a town-wide event featuring artists in a variety of mediums. I’ll be at Gorse Mill Studios, 31 Thorpe Road. I’ll have a lot of my new papercuttings, and other fun stuff. Gorse Mill has lots of other artists you can visit while you’re there.

That’s all for now. Hope you’re all having a great spring!

Solo art exhibit this month

I’m having an exhibit of my artwork this month at our local library. The Friends of the Needham Public Library Gallery features a new exhibit each month, and I was invited to show my work during February.

This is my largest solo exhibit in recent memory, with thirty works of art, plus some of my handmade puppets. There are a few illustrations from my published books, but the majority of works are unpublished drawings, paintings, and cut paper art (like those in the foreground above.)

It was a challenge looking back through my work to decide which images to show. I wanted to show a wide sampling of what I’ve been up to, and also works that best represent me as an artist. Most of my work is illustrative, evoking a story of some kind. I’m also drawn to nature, especially trees, and all of the works in this exhibit involve trees in some way.

The Needham Free Public Library is located at 1139 Highland Avenue, Needham, MA 02494. It is open Mon-Thurs 9AM-9PM, Fri 9AM-5:30PM, and Sun 1-7PM. The library website also features a slideshow of my work during the month of February. If you’re in the area, stop by to take a look!