NEW: Olive Oyl and Popeye shape up for Valentines

Posted by John on

I’ve designed four new screenprints depicting the tumultuous love affair between those archetypical lovers Popeye and Olive.

1/ Olive rushes into Popeye’s arms and calls him ‘Darling’.
2/Jealous Olive warns Popeye about flirting. I’m not sure why she’s carrying a suitcase – obviously Olive is on the move, though, and looking serious.
3/Olive discovers she’s a brunette. I’m not quite sure how this could have escaped her notice, but at least Popeye is on hand to put her straight.

4/ Olive calls to her lover: “Yoohoo, Popeye.” A simple yet elemental act.

I’ve coloured the background to these four screenprints in a loose fashion – I find this give the images a sort of energy they lacks if the colour is more closely applied to the characters.

Popeye was originally a minor character in a strip syndicated in American newspapers. It was called Thimble Theatre, which has been running since 1919, with Olive Oyl and her brother Caster Oyl the two main characters. Popeye soon stole the show, however, and the strip was named for him.

By the way, it was only when I started screenprinting the character that I realised that his name refers to the fact that he only has a single eye, the left one. The right eye is always depicted as a sort of asterisk.

Popeye and Olive now have the status of an archetypal couple – they are obviously attracted to each other, but they often fall out and row, often bitterly. Although the strip has been running for nearly 100 years, the way the characters behave seem quite modern.

Spinach – which became an essential part of the Popeye makeup – was not originally part of his setup. The iron-rich leaf first made an appearance in the early 1930s, when he was running away from a bull and accidentally landed in a back garden full of the stuff. He didn’t even know what it was, and had to be told.

Standard size: 25cm x 19cm.
If you would like the larger sizes, you only have to ask. Email me on

Limited edition, handpulled screenprint on cotton paper, milled in Somerset, printed in the UK, then signed and numbered out of 200 in pencil by the printer, John Patrick Reynolds

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