Q&A: Bob Longmire, Member of the Knoxville Southeast Chapter of the National Cartoonists Society

As its leader, Longmire is organizing the first event offered by the Knoxville Southeast Chapter of the National Cartoonists Society, held Saturday, April 5 from 3 p.m.-5 p.m. at Lawson McGhee Library (500 W Church Ave.) and featuring News Sentinel editorial cartoonist Charlie Daniel and comic book/graphic novel illustrator James Lyle.

Are there enough cartoonists for a local chapter?

Right now I've got about 13 people committed to coming, and there are more coming—word's getting around fast and 20 would be pretty darn good for the first meeting. My goal is to get a lot of those who have dabbled and want to take it further—a lot of people don't know what to do with their gifts, and cartooning can be fun and profitable. A lot of businesses want something other than clip art: they want original cartoons. As a group, we'll have professionals and workshops to help we want to help amateurs to grow in their cartooning. We can help with techniques. We have someone who can help amateurs with comic books, and with cartoon animation, spot art. We can tailor to anyone who has a dream of being a certain kind of cartoonist.

How did you get into cartooning?

My dad was an award-winning commercial artist, and at one time was the leading graphic designer in Knoxville, back when it was like Mad Men, he worked for the number-one agency, Davis-Newman-Payne. He did cartoons, too, and when I was born my father said he put a pencil in my hand. I like cartooning, really picked up on it. I had severe hearing loss after the measles, and I had to go to tutoring and the speech center to learn things like how to say "s." I guess I had a handicapped feeling. But being able to draw cartoons—that made me fight harder. I loved reading MAD Magazine, Jack Davis was my favorite. I pored over his stuff and tried to get as close as I could. As time went on, I like R.O. Blechman, who used to do all the CBS holiday greetings and had a very, very shaky style. It took me a year to come up with something even close to it.

Did you used to draw cartoons of the teacher in class?

Oh my goodness, yes. In high school, I didn't get good grades in bookkeeping, but I'd do a cartoon of the teacher and he'd lighten up and give me a "c" when I deserved an "f."

You list "agricultural photography" on your resume?

I once worked at the UT ag department, and I pretty much had to be a one-man show—website, design, illustration. Then it came to where we needed photos and they gave me a Nikon and I fell in love. That's one thing my dad always taught me: "If you want to have a job, get into every kind of medium you can." I've written radio scripts, directed television commercials, worked for a lot of ad agencies in Knoxville. I love it all, but I do love cartooning and graphic design best. I feel like I can do it—there's nothing that can stop me from doing anything.

Are most cartoonists introverts?

I really don't know, I think it's half and half. Someone of them have a gift they don't let anyone know about until someone brags on them. Then there are ones like Daryl Cagle. He loves sharing and talking to people, and he's very controversial. All cartoonists do seem to love entertaining people with their cartoons.

Are you an extrovert?

No, I'm an introvert. And I love helping people. With this group, of course, cartoonists can get a little competitive, but I'm trying to break down barriers. Everybody's got a style. I would like to take cartooning and show it to groups that need inspiration, maybe inner-city kids. I spent 32 years in prison ministry, and saw a lot of parents with regrets. If their kids could just see someone who could do a cartoon in front of their eyes; if we could just touch someone. I would like someone to say, "Yes, that group inspired me to be a cartoonist."

Attendees are asked to bring pencil and paper and samples to the event; make reservations via e-mail: bobcartoonz@gmail.com