The characters start on Post-it notes or scraps of paper, nothing more than simple glimpses into a mind untamed. Over time, they're collected and compiled, sorted and given life, with the most unique taking shape on a plain wooden panel.

The characters start on Post-it notes or scraps of paper, nothing more than simple glimpses into a mind untamed. Over time, they're collected and compiled, sorted and given life, with the most unique taking shape on a plain wooden panel.

Once they emerge, Joey Monsoon's people start to speak.

"The characters really just come from my head," the self-taught Clintonville painter said. "They are more portraits of emotions than they are representations of people. They're not based on any person or figure."

Some are comical, blissful or cute, but all of his characters writhe. Even in their stares.

The character in "Face Like a Road Map" bears a hollow, accosting gaze and a visage defined by thin, haunting topography. On the other hand, looking at "Atop the Hound of Heck," you're unsure whether to burst into laughter or tears.

Most of Monsoon's works combine the rich linear design of Egon Schiele with the delicate macabre of Edward Gorey. Each creation is like its rough plywood background: picked at and layered, distressed and textured.

Good luck likely played a part in Monsoon's success over the past several years. Hard work had a hand in it, too. But his people did the rest - a legion with angular faces, twisted features and bizarre rituals, residents from worlds only Monsoon can access.

They've become a fixture at local art events and galleries.

"I haven't really set out to be a professional or public artist," Monsoon said. "So a lot of these things that have happened, I haven't expected them to happen or even set them as goals."

Sometimes success simply follows talent.

Several years ago, Monsoon entered the public eye through a group show at Chop Chop. Most recently, he's enjoying a wildly popular solo exhibition at Lindsay Gallery in the Short North - where most of his works will head home in January with new owners.

"My goals as an artist are just to improve, learn how to paint and get better - solving problems visually," Monsoon explained. "I still feel like I'm learning with every painting I make."