Morinville Cartoonist captures life in pencil and ink

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Morinville cartoonist Bruce Humen captures a couple in cartoon form at the Morinville and District Chamber of Commerce trade show in April. Humen has been cartooning since childhood. – Stephen Dafoe Photo

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – There’s a little black book in Bruce Humen’s pocket, a journal wrapped in rubber bands that goes pretty much wherever the man goes. Like the cell phones and tablets many use to record important information and capture life’s moments, Humen’s little black book serves the same purpose – but with his own artistic flair.

Humen is a cartoonist – the journal, his canvas on which to capture moments in time as his artistic eye sees them. Alongside the cartoons and caricatures laid down on the blank pages and in the margins are notes and thoughts, a written running commentary of ideas that will sometimes form the raw material for future works of cartoon art.

“It’s sanity,” Humen says of his cartooning, adding it is a great way to remove himself from the frustrations of the day or to work through an issue he is facing. “It becomes a shorthand.”

Early start in art

Cartoons have long held a special place in the artist’s heart. He has fond memories of enjoying Bugs Bunny cartoons with his father on a Saturday night before Hockey Night In Canada came on.

But Humen’s interest in becoming a cartoonist was triggered after seeing another 1960s cartoon. “It was the Jungle Book. It was life altering. Never before had I seen something of that nature – something so bold and so bright,” Humen said. “It was synonymous with everything Disney. It was character first. I remember the colours and everything was so vibrant, and really so gregarious in terms of the bolder characters.”

Interest in the art form only increased after he had the opportunity to see the individual cells used to create an animated film. Realizing it took hundreds of individual combined drawings to make a single scene of animation pushed Humen along the road to cartooning.

“I was amazed. That just sort of built into a desire to create,” He said, adding he has been drawing ever since. “Over time it sort of developed to the point where I started drawing googly eyes and putting googly eyes on anything. As interest grew, it was just another ability to communicate.”

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Humen is still communicating through his art, work he describes as being more the cartoony vein of Mad Magazine and Groo cartoonist Sergio Aragones than the comic book realism of Will Eisner. But likeness is important. If drawing a cartoon of a politician for an editorial cartoon or a caricature of a couple at the trade show, Humen strives to be accurate.

Though technology offers cartoonists the tools to do art digitally today, Humen said he still prefers to lay down his pencils and inks with actual pencils and inks.

Much of that work is in the small black journal he carries with him pretty much everywhere he goes. Never knowing when situation and inspiration will meld to create the recipe for another drawing, Humen’s little black book provides a ready canvas whenever the artist is ready to create.

“It’s almost like a security blanket,” he says of the book and the metal tin of pencils that accompany it, adding it also serves as a way to jot down the things he needs to remember. “It’s a shopping list. It’s remarks of the day, impressions of people. It’s just something that’s constantly with me.”

The book is so present in Humen’s life, wife Tara jokingly refers to the black book as his mistress. “It has to go everywhere he goes,” she said.

Humen stepped away from his black art book and outside his normal artistic routine when he sat down recently to do caricatures at the Chamber trade show. It was a different but enjoyable experience. Like any piece of cartoon art, he sees caricatures as a way of capturing that moment in time, albeit with a specific focus on the subject.

“You can take a picture of a day and you can recount the weather. It’s all sort of given in a snapshot,” he said. “It’s the same way as well with putting pencil to paper and demonstrating that same sort of nuance, but through a visual. A page littered with faces or a single picture still puts you in that time, that place, that space.”

Humen said doing his art directly and immediately for his subjects was a different experience, particularly with respect to the time. “It’s easy to build layers for a single panel,” he said. “You have the ability to put it to bed and have a look at it the next day, whereas the spontaneity of creating a visual of anybody is an entirely different thing. You are trying for a happy summary of the individual without being as close as you possibly can, and certainly without taking an enormous amount of their time.”

Left to his own artistic devices and time frame, Humen said there is no specific thing he likes to draw more than another. He’s happy to just keep laying lines on paper, and pleased with the support he has received from family and friends.

“It’s just the doing. There is never a specific,” he said of his art. “It’s a notion of having that connection and making that connection. My biggest fans are my bride and the children. They are the first litmus test. They are the connection that pushes me on to the next.”

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