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Talking illustration with …

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Talking illustration with Marcus Hamilton

By Michael J. Solender
Special to the Observer

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Mint Hill resident Marcus Hamilton, 69, spends most every workday in the company of a mischievous 6-year-old boy and an assorted cadre of his pals, neighbors and family. Hamilton illustrates the daily panels for the wildly popular “Dennis the Menace” comic strip for Hank Ketcham Enterprises. The strip is syndicated and runs in about 1,000 papers in 48 countries worldwide. After a long career as a commercial illustrator, Hamilton took over the daily panels for the cartoon directly from Ketcham, the strip’s creator, in 1994. Another illustrator, Ron Ferdinand, does the Sunday strip. Michael J. Solender

Q. What was the most significant thing you learned from Mr. Ketcham? He said to me you need to enjoy what you’re doing as the readers will pick up on that. I am fortunate to truly enjoy what I do and have a great deal of fun with the opportunity.

Q. What are the biggest differences between commercial illustration and cartooning? With commercial illustration, there are different clients; each has to be pleased with your work. For example a billboard or magazine ad, each requires a different approach. In cartooning, it is a singular approach. I have no photographs to work from. I look at the characters and place them in different situations depending on the gag. There is a simplicity to cartooning that isn’t in commercial illustration.

Q. You have a great story involving a Bob Hope visit to Charlotte? I illustrated the 1978 Christmas issue of The Saturday Evening Post featuring Bob Hope on the cover. He was on Johnny Carson that year, with the magazine cover talking about how much he liked it. When Hope came to Carowinds in 1981, I made arrangements to meet him, bringing the original painting. He was shocked to see it and asked where I got the painting. He signed the matte for me and I have the painting framed in my office. It is the highlight of my freelance career.

Q. Is illustrating a single panel inhibiting or freeing? Freeing, definitely. I have one idea in a gag to work with and a singular image to convey that, it is just right for me.

Q. What advice do you have for aspiring cartoonists? Draw what you like to draw. If you enjoy your work, others will too.

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