Saturday, June 12, 2021


ONLI STUDIOS LLC is offering a Limited Edition Series of signed 11" X 17" prints in conjunction with the original" NOG; The Protector of the Pyramides" being featured on the outer wall of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, during its blockbuster group exhibition, 

Sunday, June 6, 2021

" Having agency is having the right and power to express one's truth and that truth be accepted as truth without the speaker or "truth teller" being in fear, punishment or censorship!"

 "Per all of the trending hype and fluff about 'racial reckoning".......  IE: Post Black, Black Girl Magic, and Black Lives Matters in the visual artworld, I say, "show me the money!"  

This blog post includes samples of the visual artwork I was doing in the 1970s........ in my 20s. I worked for  major clients like Playboy Magazine, MODE Avant Garde and The Katherine Dunham Dancers.  In an era when clients, art directors would routinely drop me as a freelance illustrator once they learned I was actually Black. BOOM! Over. Not because my published work wasn't awesome.  I was even getting fan mail.  But dropped none the less! No civil rights supports. No legal options. Dropped!.  Dumped even!

One Art Director for a Nwe York based publisher tearfully explained to me that he was told that he would loose his high-paying job if he ever brought my name up again.

This was in NY, Paris and Chicago.  A major gallery owner in Chicago, who was making serious bank with the Imagists welcomed my package of samples mailed to her from Paris, with positive enthusiasm.  But when I returned to Chicago to meet her, she screamed I was a fraud!  That no way could I.....a boot....meaning a Black heterosexual male, be the real artist to have done that amazing art work. Then she had her security folks to escort me out of her gallery. As if I wanted to stay?????

For instance this is a treatment I drew for Palyboy in 1974. This is why God created education, and such. Along with Dan Nadel. I went on to be an art therapist and arts educator.  While finding ways to get my Rhythmistic concepts out into the world.

 Now at age 70........I am disappointed at the offerings of the too often lame, sterile, recycled, poorly thought-out protest-art and minor  efforts at being Black, that are now the flavor of the month in the art world.  This being the denial of what Blacks have been doing away from the framework of the mainstream's orthodoxy. 

The usual flow that celebrates suffering and oppression.  

Never the glory and real legacy of Artistic Genius!  Yes I did say Genius! 

 Just try to say that to them.  Hmmm!" Black Male Genius Artist in the house."

So now in my vintage stage to barriers are still there. I get some props that are highly appreciated....then the bigger powers that be......... lay back and decide. No!  Not his Black brilliant Rhythmistic self. 

NOTE: The current group exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Curated by Dan Nadel is the real deal showcase that explodes that suppressive orthodoxy, practice and tradition! Exceptional, intelligent and awesome.

By the way, I am still looking for mainstream representation, a lawyer, and agent to assist in optioning my intellectual property based on  industry standards."

Friday, June 4, 2021

  Me and all that is the Rhythmistic ONLI STUDIOS are thrilled and honored to announce that the Museum Store of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, will be carrying limited amounts of our specially autographed, highly collectable Graphic Novel, "Tales From The Rhythmic Zone" during the run of their amazing group exhibition, "Chicago Comics: 1960 until Now!" June 19th / Oct. 13th 2021.

This book features extended, fully colored versions of the first two "NOG" stories, ONLI STUDIOS over-sized Trading Cards, some dope Afrofuturist stories and much more.

 Great honor. Great value!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Let's Look At Black Man Magic! Turtel Onli , M.A.A.T. Phd, BFA,  AA

"Why would one think this is important?"

The first Rhythmistic character was created in 1979 and ran as a cartoon strip in the historic Chicago Defender Newspaper.  The Defender was a leading journal in inspiring Blacks to leave the oppression of the American South for better opportunities in the American North.  It championed liberation and prosperity for decades in the 20th Century. This was innovation. A character, style & concept like none other!

"Why would energy be focused on this?"

In 1981 NOG: The Protector of the Pyramides was published as a Rhythmistic Graphic Novel by ONLI STUDIOS. It oozed with the excitement of being the innovative concept and character that would open the door to the growing Black Age of Comics.  Its creator Turtel Onli had been exploring the potential of his Rhythmistic Future-Primitif stylizations in the visual arts in Fine Art and Commercial illustration since 1970.

"On the same wave length!"

ONLI STUDIOS published a 'zine called "Future Funk" in 1982 to celebrate and promote forward thinking artistic practices and related efforts. Onli exuding confidence in reaching into the future. Knowing a path and untapped market was there in the future.  For the emergence of more genre, markets and opportunities for the practice and profitability of Future-Primif and independent Visual Art derived form the Black, African or Urban experience.  He did this without the blessing of any school, group or establishment. 

This was a Black MAN putting his Black Money behind his Black thoughts & creativity. Expressing his Black MAN MAGIC to the benefit of others.

"Did! Not tried!"

Not talking trash and telling lies or wishing upon a star, Onli did it!  Created terms and products along the way to launching the indie movement known as the Black Age of Comics.  A quick Wiki search will yield more information about that history.  The mainstream, the systems of suppressing of denying the brilliance of Black MAN MAGIC along with some serious maladjusted hating,  in-fighting, or orthodoxy in Black circles often  combined to move the narrative and value away from Onli's works and impact.  As seen when a non-Black decides to explain to Blacks for Blacks a term to use for themselves.  Sort of like the discovery of America when it was already there.

"There is no power like an idea whose time has come!"

Summer & Fall of 2021 will see NOG and Future Funk included in the landmark group exhibition, "Chicago Comics: 1960 until now!" Curated by Dan Nadel at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. This show includes better known works such as "Dick Tracy" and "Brenda Starr".  Yet in a wave of rare righteousness ONLI STUDIOS: NOG and Future-Funk were included. with much luv and appreciation for Turtel! Clearly this curator has a brilliant mind and practice of his own.

In this era of racial justice an reckoning Onli's long overlooked yet ever-present BLACK MAN MAGIC deserves your attention, participation, luv and money.  Why keep supporting the mainstream over your dream? ONLI STUDIOS has already been so about you.


Sunday, April 18, 2021


edited by Dan Nadel, essays by Charles Johnson and Ronald Wimberly, cover designed by Kerry James Marshall


Available in Paperback on June 1, 2021

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Between the 1940s and 1980s, Chicago’s Black press—from The Chicago Defender to the Negro Digest to self-published pamphlets—was home to some of the best cartoonists in America. Kept out of the pages of white-owned newspapers, Black cartoonists found space to address the joys, the horrors, and the everyday realities of Black life in America. From Jay Jackson’s anti-racist time travel adventure serial Bungleton Green, to Morrie Turner’s radical mixed-race strip Dinky Fellas, to the Afrofuturist comics of Yaoundé Olu and Turtel Onli, to National Book Award–winning novelist Charles Johnson’s blistering and deeply funny gag cartoons, this is work that has for far too long been excluded and overlooked. Also featuring the work of Tom Floyd, Seitu Hayden, Jackie Ormes, and Grass Green, this anthology accompanies the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s exhibition Chicago Comics: 1960 to Now selected and edited by Dan Nadel, and is an essential addition to the history of American comics.

Published in conjunction with the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, on the occasion of Chicago Comics: 1960s to Now, June 19–October 3, 2021. Curated by Dan Nadel.

Click to enlarge images


An important and groundbreaking collection, bringing together important voices and biographical context illustrating four decades of Black perspectives on everything from daily life to the Civil Rights Movement. Some of the strips will make your jaw drop with the way they bring to life a particular period in history, some of them will make you shake your head with the poignant realization of how little has changed, and some of them will just make you laugh.
—Eve L. Ewing, sociologist and Marvel Comics writer

Nadel’s lush, profound and well-researched volume sheds well-deserved light on some of the most talented, tenacious and sadly unsung, heroes of modern comics.
—Emil Ferris, author of My Favorite Thing is Monsters

 "NOG: The Protector fo the Pyramides" AKA The Nubian of Greatness, (circa 1981) along with the forward thinking 'zine Future Funk, circa 1982), will be included in the group exhibition opening in Chicago this Summer & Fall called "Chicago Comics: 1960 until now!" Curated by Dan Nadel at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

Onli Studios LLC   is busy producing special new and rebooted limited edition Graphic Novels and over-sized Trading Cards to celebrate this career level honor.  Turtel never dreamed to be included in an showcase with the likes of the all time greats like "Dick Tracy" and" Brenda Star"r.  Wow! This is like a dream come true!

Saturday, March 6, 2021

 These are a few published samples from my freelance Illustrator practice.

Rhythmism has been tested, proven and applied in commercial graphic design and illustration since 1973. In major markets. In the USA. In Europe. 

That means millions of folks have seen and experienced my work.  Yet I often am asked, about my not being known or followed.  Funny have these same folks may have read a book or played an album that featured my designs or illustrations. Same with the newspaper of advertisement.  Seen.  Experienced.  But not recalled.

Since the Modern era in the visual arts commercial applications were deemed "low-art".  Thus reserving a area of visual art as "Fine Art" or "high art".  This power play to sequester profits and control over not just the art as commodity but also the art maker as controlled servant has ruled the narrative since that propaganda took root. 

But what were Rembrandt or Michelangelo but commercial visual artists with a great client history?

When I arrived as a freshman to the prestigious School of the Art Institute of Chicago my foundation instructors were openly offended that I already had commercial clients, a clear strong artistic vision along with an artists guild which I had founded.  

So those creeps declared me unfit foe any type of scholarship.

They were jealous that me, a 20 year old Black male had secured a level of practice that their limited esoteric practices did not.  Envy was not a good teacher.  So I dropped out after that year. Took a year to earn even more money. Returned, but interviewed my future instructors before deciding to take their classes.  Ultimately I found the Art Education Department a better place for me.  It was more about earning money and professional practices.  I paid tuition mostly by being a major market freelance illustrator and graphic designer. 

At the time that school was rated to number one art school in the USA and that suited my perception of me and my practices. #1!

 Living the dream!

My clients at that time included Johnson Publishing Company, WGN Television. Playboy Magazine, The Singer Society For Visual Education, The Latin American Family Institute, Motown, Triad Radio, Osiris Distribution,  MODE Avant Garde, The Paris Metro, and Holt, Rinehart & Winston.  

These were not affirmative action set-aside gigs.  Nope! They were hard fought for and won high level, well paying assignments with some of the most important publishers of that time.  

This meant navigating an ocean of Art Directors, Editors, Graphic Designers, Production Managers and meeting all types of unrealistic deadlines. With no mentor or agent  

This was wild! I used to call it "Big Game Hunting"!

Sometimes clients would misspell my name. But I still made sure I brought the heat and got paid!

Freelancing back then was like being a gunslinger in the Old West.  Draw Fast! Draw well! Get paid! Then get outta town! I roamed around looking for those who needed my quick, sure shooting skills.

The world of illustration is different now that the impact of the digital revolution and profiteers have colluded to limit the role of true freelance illustration as a practice and profession in publishing or advertising.  But I still ply that skill for a few publishers I chose to work for.

Musicians perform live.  That is like visual art on exhibition.  However when musicians sell a recording or score a movie sound-track, it is still accepted as great music.  Too bad that logic and criterion does not rule the day in the Visual Arts.

 It all started for with this collectible, unique, raw Rhythmistic published treatment I did for the Delmark Record label in 1973. 

 If it hangs in a gallery, office, church or home its applauded as "Fine Art" or "High Art"....but when it arrives in print on a book cover or advertisement it is seen as "low art".  Ever notice how many celebrated Fine Artists cite comics or illustrations was a critical influence in their practices.  

Yet those highly gifted cartoonists or illustrators are never regarded as real or important artists?

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Feb. 2021-  Black History Month USA.  

The tendency among mainstream and alternative art circles is to feature creative works bound to suffering, oppression and selected historical event and people. 

Rhythmism seems not to make the cut.  I am not usually given to the logic that being a Black Male means my output should be linked to those trauma infussed narratives.  I have done it per a major market illustrator for publishers and other clients.....but on my own. Not likely. 

( To dare and succeed in conceiving and launching a genre in the Visual Arts takes the type of intellectual and cognitive action that is not in sync with what most think of being "Black" or of "African descent"! Typically "passion" or "instinct" are associated to both groups of people.  Vision, Intelligence, Cognition, Imagination, and being diligent tend not to be applied. Well they belong in any real description to understand my path in this since 6th grade in 1963 when my instructor scolded me for doodling on a spelling test.  When I saw those doddles on that skinny strip of paper I saw my future. I was the ooze of the viaul future-primitif. I saw RHYTHMISM! Since then I have pursued that path. )

My focus, since childhood, is to see how much I can get outta this thing I call Rhythmism.  Ideas. Characters. Concepts. Content! To meet standards already set and to challenge or expand some.  But not to be so derivative that it hums along some orthodox narrative.  Not on my time.

This practice flows through illustration, fine Art, cartooning, art education and art therapy in mainstream institutions along with local more independent operations. I have insisted on establishing Rhythmism in major situations while reserving the space to grow, flourish and share its potential.

These are from my recent return to watercolours....treatments of my Rhythmistic characters. 
You know I do publish limited edition Graphic Novels?  And they are not like your father's super heroes either.

Here is Perfecto, Imhotep and some more.  Rhythmism Lives!  Its more than a Black thing!


"Sasa" and all other illustrations, artwork or images posted on this blog are Copyright Turtel Onli 2021.  

They may not be boosted, copied, commercially reproduced without a signed, well compensated, negotiated agreement with Turtel Onli.