Thursday, March 01, 2007
Jeff MacNelly, 1948-2000
" Shoe" Comic by Jeff MacNelly
Jeff MacNelly, photo courtesy of ValueRich Magazine
I have been wanting to do a tribute to artist Jeff MacNelly for some time now. He was a 3-time Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoonist and creator of the comic strip, "Shoe".
When I was much younger and fresh out of college at V.C.U., I had a part-time waitress job at Eden's Restaurant in Richmond, VA. One of my customers was Jeff MacNelly, who walked across the street everyday to the restaurant from The Richmond Newsleader to have lunch with a friend or two. He always sat at the same table in my section and, even though I was a terrible waitress, he was my loyal customer. The day he won his second Pulitzer Prize, he ate lunch in my booth and I took a polaroid of him sitting there with the same grin on his face as in the photo above.
I remember that he invited me to see his office one day and I noticed that his book shelf was filled with art books (including the Society of Illustrators Annuals). He was kind enough to write me a recommendation for a grant at the VA Museum and he gave me extremely good advice: "Keep practicing your craft. That is what my father told me."
To this day, I will never forget those words. "Practice, practice, practice". And that is what I did. He also told me that there were not enough women political cartoonists and that I should think about becoming one. He was very humble and generous with his time. I was certain that I was bugging him the day I went to his office with my portfolio, but he really liked talking about his dad and painting.
I wish he was still alive today so that I could tell him, "Thank you". I kind of wish that I could show him my new work in "Blab!" and all of the other things I have done in the years following my waitress years. But, alas, Jeff died in the year 2000 of cancer at the very young age of 52 and I was shocked to hear the news.
Here is a 2005 article about Jeff:
And a little bio of Jeff from lambiek.net:
"Jeff MacNelly, the son of a publisher and portrait painter, created his first strip in 1969, while working as a political cartoonist for a weekly paper in Chapel Hill, NC. A year later, he relocated to The Richmond Newsleader in Virginia, and in 1972, his work was awarded with the first of three Pulitzer Prizes. In 1977, he started drawing the newspaper strip 'Shoe', named after the legendary Jim Shumaker, for whom Jeff used to work at the Chapel Hill Weekly."