By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe
One of my wishes for the South County News is a monthly cartoon — one that stays away from politics and finds humor in everyday events. I have mentioned this desire to the board and shared this wish with friends and family members over the last year.
In mid-July, a package arrived in our post office box: a letter from Sherwood resident Jonny Hawkins and a sample of his Country Chuckles cartoon panels. Who knew a professional cartoonist lived nearby? His son had picked up a copy of the South County News at an area restaurant and nudged his dad to send us his work. Isn’t it amazing how answers and people are sent our way?
Jonny grew up on a small farm in Sherwood in neighboring Branch County. His mother, whom Jonny describes as “his inspiration,” was an artist who allowed Jonny’s creative spirit and talents to grow and thrive. His mother’s work was realistic, leaning towards landscapes and wildlife. Jonny? He loved Disney cartoons. He began by copying the style of existing Disney cartoons, filling notebook and after notebook with cartoons and sketches. When he was 8 or 9, he was given a book, “How to Draw Cartoons”, which offered instruction and helped him develop his own characters and style. In addition, his mother encouraged the use of her extensive art supplies, allowing him to freely create and discover.
Soon, he knew he wanted to be a cartoonist. He attended two years of college at William Tyndale College, formerly Detroit Bible College, where he continued to draw cartoons. He worked at the school’s library where Jonny says Mrs. Frohlich, his library supervisor, realized his abilities and had him design characters and materials for library use.
“I loved it when my work made her laugh. She really encouraged me.” She eventually sent his work to Nota Bene, a library publication, where it was accepted. About this time Jonny realized there were freelancers, people who made a living drawing and selling their cartoons, and so his career began.
His success didn’t happen overnight. Jonny says it “took a long time to evolve and still has its ups and downs.” But since 1986, his work has appeared in over 900 publications, publications like Reader’s Digest, Parade magazine, Guideposts, Ranch Living and 76 “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books. He has drawn over 54,000 cartoons and has published 20 books. He has created 85 page-a-day cartoon calendars, most of them for the world’s leading calendar publisher, Andrews McMeel. One of those is Medical Cartoon-a-day calendar, now in its 19th year.
His latest book is “Mirth in the Morning” (Schiffer Publishing), a coffee table book collection of 1,001 of some of his best cartoons. His next book, “Laughter Therapy,” was released in 2021 (Harvest House).
His comic panel, County Chuckles, appears in 40 publications and online. This series is drawn from his experiences growing up on a hobby farm. His cartoon jigsaw puzzle, Funny Farm, is available online and published by St. Louis Puzzle Warehouse.
Jonny works from his home in the country in Sherwood, where he lives with his wife, Carissa, their children Nate, Zach and Kara, an Aussie Doodle, Blue, and six cats.
How does a cartoonist find inspiration? “I always keep a small notebook with me and continually write down ideas. These are the seeds I often work from.” He also credits persistence and “constant daily prayer” as an important key to his success. For a change of scene, he enjoys working in coffee shops or bookstores, but his home studio is where most of his work is done.
We are pleased to present one of Jonny’s cartoon panels each month. It will appear on the last page.
I hope you enjoy them. I sure do!