This week's cover is somewhat of a self-portrait for artist Brad Neal. The 37-year-old recently moved to San Diego from Hawaii, where he walked around sporting a giant Afro not too different from the one by rocked by "Afrocat," the groovy feline featured on the cover.
"I had a big, beautiful, lush Afro when I was in Hawaii," says Neal, who's originally from Oklahoma. "So I started putting Afros on stuff. I have an Afro on Bigfoot, Jesus—stuff like that."
Moving to San Diego with a huge Afro has been a bit of a game changer for Neal, who traded the Big Island for Bankers Hill five months ago.
His Afro landed him a coveted spot as an extra on Anchorman 2 , which filmed recently in town. Neal went down to the open casting, his thick, curly 'do picked high and tight.
"It was nuts," he says. "As soon as I got off the trolley, there was thousands of people."
Luckily, someone handed him a piece of paper with an email address. It instructed him to send in a photo of himself. Two weeks later, he got a call from a production assistant who insisted that he keep his hair as-is and come down for a costume fitting.
"Next thing I know, I'm standing 10 feet away from Will Ferrell," Neal recalls with a laugh.
He brought "Afrocat" to the set one day, hoping to give it to Ferrell, but he never got the chance. He did get a consolation prize, however. He was offered another job as an extra on an upcoming Paul Thomas Anderson film.
"It's nuts," he says. "I've never gotten to do anything like that. I got to drive the van like a stunt driver, all because of the hair."
Even though his sweet 'fro presented awesome opportunities, Neal decided to cut it off.
"It's hot, and I was having a Fight Club -ish 'You are not your Afro' moment," he says.
His art isn't all hair-related. Neal's drawings have a Rorschach-test quality. Swirls of lines form wild shapes that resemble organic matter, like veins and arteries. "Afrocat" ventures away from that style, though he uses a unique technique to create both styles of art, drawing with both hands, sometimes simultaneously.
He was inspired to use the technique after watching a special on a pair of conjoined twins on the National Geographic channel. Seeing how the twins' brains worked together to operate their bodies made him think all people should use both hands regularly to strengthen the sensory part of their brains.
He uses that technique to stay sharp and believes it can help people with Alzheimer's or dementia. He also thinks that evolution will make us all ambidextrous someday.
In the meantime, he's selling sharpie drawings Downtown or by the bay. If you feel like checking him out, don't look for an Afro.