GREENVILLE – A visit to one of the downtown Greenville coffee shops on any given morning and you may find a gentleman scribbling in an inch-thick book filled with increasingly fewer blank pages. It’s just one of many books he has used to write and draw images and ideas over the years. That man, Paul Ackley, has used the ideas and images in those books to celebrate victories, remember those that have passed and, at times, infuriate local politicians and leaders by bringing their actions to light.
This year marks Ackley’s 40th anniversary of bringing attention to local and national issues through a medium that really began for the Western civilization in the late 1400s and early 1500s with Leonardo da Vinci and his caricatures and Martin Luther with the Protestant Reformation – the political/editorial cartoon.
The son of two artists, Ackley has been doodling, drawing and creating since he could hold a pen. Even now, the 1977 Greenville High School graduate credits two of his East School teachers for encouraging him to draw, Mrs. Krauss and Mrs. Morris. However, it wasn’t until he finished his education at the American Academy of Art and Columbia College in Chicago that he had an opportunity to sit down with Pulitzer-Prize winner Dick Locher, known for his work as an editorial cartoonist with the Chicago Tribune and the Dick Tracy cartoon strip. A four-hour meeting with the famed cartoonist turned into a lifetime of knowledge for Ackley.
In addition to the importance of deadlines and learning the types of tools Ackley would need, the best advice he learned from Locher is that a good editorial cartoon is 75 percent idea and 25 percent draftsmanship. “A good drawing will not save a bad idea. But, you can still have a not so good drawing, but if the concept is good it will save the cartoon,” said Ackley. Locher also encouraged Ackley to read a lot and do research on his subject matter.
Ackley has taken those suggestions to heart and has incorporated them in every cartoon since his first editorial cartoon in February 1978 of the coal shortage to more recent cartoons depicting Greenville City Council’s issues with the Erwin Brothers, bicycle racks and the kiosk. Ackley reminded readers, “I’m not presenting the news in my cartoons. I’m interpreting the news.” He explained the cartoons are his opinions. Their purpose, according to Ackley, is to “bring change in the way people think. I look at myself as a messenger by keeping the public aware of the issues.”
Ackley’s cartoons have appeared in newspapers across the country. At one time he was syndicated with the Rothco Cartoon Service based in Yonkers, NY. His cartoons have garnered five Associated Press awards and have hung in former Speaker of the House John Boehner’s office and in an office in the Pentagon.
The artist does have his favorites. He pointed to a cartoon he did when former Greenville Safety Service Director John Schmidt was let go and a cartoon featuring Prosecuting Attorney Kelly Ormsby’s decision to not charge several Tri-Village basketball players.
Many of Ackley’s original drawings are available for purchase at The Early Bird. For more information, call (937) 548-3330. An archive of Ackley’s cartoons can also be viewed by clicking HERE.
PHOTO CAPTION: Paul Ackley