Posts Tagged ‘magazine cartoons’

Cartoonists I Dig – Ford Button

February 16, 2009

I got home from teaching at about 1:00 pm, flipped my date book to this week and there it was. Today is the anniversary of my friend Ford Button’s death. He died in 1995 just before his 70th birthday.

Ford was the first cartoonist I ever met. (He always said that with a name like “Ford Button” he had to be a cartoonist.) He was a grade school art teacher who cartooned on the side, but did a lot of work. (In his heart, I think he was always a cartoonist first but, from what I’ve heard, he was a heck of a teacher.) He was primarily a gag cartoonist who had done a fair amount of “general” work, but what he was known for was his educational cartoons. That is, cartoons about education. (You can see some of his work in this on-line textbook.) He’d be the first to tell you that he wasn’t a ground breaking cartoonist. I think he said he worked in the “Grand Rapids Style” meaning that anyone, anywhere could understand it.

I met him when I was in college, and even though he was almost 40 years older than me, we became friends. And even though I was just an art student/wanna-be cartoonist, he treated me as an equal. During the 10+ years we knew each other, he was always encouraging. I showed him my meager work and he though it was great. He introduced me to the Upstate Cartoonists League of America, or UCLA (a rag tag group of cartoonists that met once a year). He and I ended up reviving the group and started having regular meetings in Rochester and Buffalo, as well as a newsletter and an annual cartoon art show. He wrote my sponsorship letter for the National Cartoonists Society. I remember excitedly talking to him about sending the weekly strip I’d been doing out to the syndicates for the first time. All in all, he was my mentor…and it was sad that he didn’t get to see me become a full-time cartoonist, get syndicated and get into MAD.

I was honored that his family asked me to speak about the cartooning side of his life at his memorial service.

All the cartoonists of my generation that knew Ford marveled at his age when he died. He was always so full of life they just couldn’t believe it.

I hope that I’m like that when I get old.

(I dedicated my Bo Nanas collection APPEELING to Ford as well as to the-best-friend-a-cartoonist-could-have Tim Rosenthal and Buffalo-area cartoonist Bob Bindig.)