Friday, May 30, 2008

Report from the Reubens: Marcus Hamilton

NCS members who attended The Reubens last weekend in New Orleans were treated to the first issue of a new publication... Stay Tooned magazine.

I saved my copy for the plane trip home - and read it cover to cover. One article in particular caught my attention: a profile of Marcus Hamilton, the artist who took over the daily Dennis the Menace newspaper panel when Hank Ketcham decided in 1993 that he would like to retire.

While today's images are all by Hank Ketcham, today's story is really about Marcus Hamilton. I was fascinated to read about his career, because he always intended to be an illustrator - and talks in the article about achieving that goal beginning in the early 70's with assignments from Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping, and continuing for the next 21 years with, "a steady stream of illustration assignments."

Hamilton writes, "I thought I had finally arrived when I had the opportunity to do the cover art for the Christmas issue of the Saturday Evening Post in 1978."

Sadly, things began to fall apart for Hamilton in the late 80's and early 90's when the computer made its debut in the graphic arts. "Art directors wanted the cutting-edge computer graphics that were getting more attention from readers," writes Hamilton. "They didn't want the 'old-fashioned' acrylic paintings and watercolors anymore."

Hamilton's assignments - and income - dropped so drastically that he was forced to take a job in a photo booth at a local Wal-Mart. Then one day in 1993, while flipping through the channels on tv, he happened upon an interview with Hank Ketcham. The Dennis the Menace creator was saying that he wished he could find someone to take over the daily panel of his long-running strip so that he might have some time to travel and paint. For Marcus Hamilton this was opportunity knocking.

What follows is an inspiring story of a career (and a love of drawing) revived - at age 50, no less. Its a moving read filled with great, personal anecdotes about the artist's relationship with Ketcham after he became the master cartoonist's apprentice and, in fairly short order, his replacement.

"Mr. Ketcham trained me to re-think my drawing style to look more like his," writes Hamilton, "its almost like that style has taken over my thinking."

"Dennis... rejuvenated my love for drawing, a love I had lost over a few years time because, during the end of my freelance career, I found myself doing jobs just to make enough money to pay my bills."

There's more - much more. Hamilton even shares a terrific step-by-step demonstration of how he composes and executes a Dennis panel - great stuff for the reader, whether you are a student, professional or simply interested in the cartoon business. Go to for more details on this first issue of what looks to be a great new publication.

My Hank Ketcham Flickr set.

1 comment:

  1. ...sweet old Dennis...and that cartoon: "Boy! I hope I'm still that spry when I reach his age."
    he he he... That made my day...