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By Sandra Hale Schulman

Rik Livingston believes he is an alien, and quite frankly, it’s hard to disagree. He sees the world in a different way than most – cartoonish with an underground twist – colorful, funny and oh yeah, a bit weird.
Growing up in a small town in Kansas Rik never reveals his alien origins and, although he loves the Big Sky Country itself, doesn't fit in with his classmates at the one room schoolhouse, refusing to participate in such bonding rituals as chewin' 'n' spittin' and cow tipping.

Despite his strangeness, he earns an Associate's Degree from the cow town college; Later, a Bachelor's of Fine Arts in Painting and Drawing from Wichita State University. Livingston excels in art, receives three scholarships and graduates "Cum Laude." He manages a picture-framing store and spends a lot of time making comic strips that he just shoves in a file and forgets. They are far too alien for the Midwest.

Livingston finds himself in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury where "alien" seems normal! Suddenly, there is a market for all of the comic strips he drew and filed away. Although he is spending time getting his Masters doing fine art, the stockpile of comic pages gives him a second career as a published cartoonist under the name of "Mr. Verlin." The nonsense name "Zono" is first used and the book, "Mr. Verlin's Zono Comix," collecting work originally published in underground/alternative comix, is released by ThunderBaas Press (Baltimore, MD). Rik is steadily selling paintings and sculpture, as well.

After graduation, he becomes the Art Director at The Columbia Park Boy's Club, the biggest such institution west of the Mississippi. But he's struck down by a mysterious swelling of his spinal cord. A team of scalpel-happy doctors at San Francisco General carve up the back of his neck, thinking it is cancer, but are not successful at removing the malevolent spirit, in fact, doing much more damage than good. He uses the down time to make new "Zono Comikz" (more "ground-level," than underground) from his bed, this time a newspaper style strip that becomes a regular feature of San Francisco's comedic "Harpoon Magazine".

Rik makes his living primarily from the sales of his painting and sculpture, with five Bay Area galleries to represent him, group shows and some alternative spaces. He is mentioned in local papers and reviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle favorably. Somewhere during this time, he first meets photographer Cat Lynch through a mutual artist friend, she will soon be his wife.

For Christmas Cat takes Rik to Joshua Tree Village to see her Mom. Rik realizes he has found the small art town he had been searching for after the economy tanks in San Fran. He takes the art money he has been saving and buys a house overlooking Joshua Tree. The move has been hard but Cat and Rik love their new home in the magical, mystical desert. Can an alien and a feline puppetry-princess find happiness and success in a small town? Well, so far no one has broken out the torches and pitchforks...!

Rik's fine art is now represented by Route 62 Gallery in Old Town Yucca Valley and A Woods in the Desert, as well as his own, new, theme park of a website, He is a member of the Morongo Basin Cultural Arts Council and created the huge Illustrated Map for Art Tours 2009. This has led to more maps: one of the Morongo Basin for Sun Runner Magazine and a Wellness Initiative Walking Map for the Eisenhower Medical Center, The Harrison House and The Joshua Tree Retreat Center.
He has been creating "Stop Green Path" graphics for the California Desert Coalition, animated cartoons for the documentary, "They're Not Green," and just won a logo contest for the Green Business Program of the National Parks Conservation Association.

“Can I make it here? Can I stay here a long time?” he muses sitting in his home covered floor to ceiling – and even paintings on the ceiling –of his explosive, zany, funhouse art. “Looks promising.”

American Free Journal & Desert Valley Star - 12/31/09-01/06/10