Gary Whitney has loved drawing cartoons since he was a young boy. He took his first step on the spiritual path when he was in the sixth grade, after the book Yoga Made Easy by Desmond Dunne seemed to jump off the shelf and into his hands at the St. Paul Public Library. He continued to study both of these subjects for most of his adult life, and has tried to combine everything that he has learned about cartooning with his understanding of yoga and mysticism in the graphic novel, Song of the Avatar.
Gary's family lived in Kansas City until he was eleven. His father was then transferred to St. Paul, MN, where Gary graduated from high school in 1970. He married his high school sweetheart, Mary, in 1972, and they moved to Chicago so that he could finish his B.A. degree at Columbia College.
Mary became a well-known astrologer, studying and working with Goswami Kriyananda at the Temple of Kriya Yoga in Chicago. In 1985, Kriyananda became Gary's guru, and in 1990 Gary earned his hatha yoga teaching certificate. He taught hatha yoga for the next 2-3 years.
Gary began freelance cartooning in l977, and met the underground cartoonist, Jay Lynch, in 1978. Jay asked Gary if he would like to illustrate a weekly comic strip, Phoebe & the Pigeon People, that he was developing for the Chicago Reader. They worked together on Phoebe from 1978-1990.
In 1993, Gary started working at Calabash Animation in Chicago. He worked there until his retirement in 2017.
At the Temple of Kriya Yoga, Gary taught classes in the I Ching, The Ramayana, The Upanishads, and The Bhagavad Gita. He also spoke at some of the Sunday noon meditations, and managed the Temple Bookstore. In 2010 he taught an extended 10 month class on The Bhagavad Gita for Elesa Commerse and her Deep Study program in Evanston, IL.
One of the younger animators at Calabash - actually, they were all younger - introduced Gary to graphic novels in late 2011. He was inspired by this format, and decided to create a graphic novel based on his notes from the 2010 Deep Study classes. Song of the Avatar is the culmination of that work.
In January of 2015, Gary lost his wife to ovarian cancer. Goswami Kriyananda transitioned in April of that year, and Jay Lynch passed away two years later. Song of the Avatar is a testimonial to the influence of these three individuals on Gary's life.
Gary worked on writing and illustrating Song of the Avatar from January 20, 2012 through December 6, 2018. Now that the book has been completed, he is learning how to enjoy his retirement.