Ron Hill – whose artwork has livened up the pages of the Chagrin Valley Times since 1999 and newest book, One Bird, Two Birds, Red Bird, BluesBird, an anthology of his editorial cartoons from 2021 – is inspired by current events.
His poignant, thoughtful commentary on them is presented through cartoon characters including his primary protaganist, BB Blues Bird.
“BB BluesBird is kind of an Everyman,” Mr. Hill said about his main character, a guitar-playing blue bird who wants to be famous. “He’s more the dry realist.”
Rocky Raccoon is BB’s best friend. He is not as smart as BB, so Mr. Hill often creates talking head strips in which Rocky asks BB a question. He also likes using Rocky because of the raccoons on the signs in Novelty, which he likens to the heart of the Chagrin Valley.
“I don’t really have villains,” he said. “Strike that – everybody that reads can tell I’m not a fan of Donald Trump.”
Another bad guy was the COVID character, a leering, pronged, massive orb of a fellow who of course represents the infamous pathogen.
Mr. Hill, who lives in Solon, tries to maintain balance when choosing his subject matter, shifting his focus from local to regional to worldwide issues.
“That’s what the publisher is paying for, is local, original commentary, not something they can get off the syndicate,” Mr. Hill said. “Not the latest Ukraine joke or Biden joke.”
Mr. Hill said a friend of his, another graphic designer, calls him a “dinosaur” since local cartoons and commentary have become so rare.
“There aren’t many of us doing what I do anymore,” Mr. Hill said.
Mr. Hill is a proponent of free speech and is fascinated by the social schism between right and left and fake news and responsible journalism that’s happening right now.
Other topics that interest him include climate change, the environment, and leaving the world a decent place for future generations. BB and Rocky being animals living in nature lend themselves to that sort of perspective.
“People want to hear about the issues,” Mr. Hill said. “They want to hear about the taxes and school boards and so forth.”
Readers’ responses to his artwork have changed considerably over the years. They are generally half positive and half negative.
“People agree with the opinion, they’ll like it,” he explained. “If they don’t agree with the opinion, they won’t like it.”
While he receives the occasional letter, they were a lot more common when he first started and the Internet was in its infancy. Nowadays, when someone is angry, they call the editor or the publisher and vent their spleen.
“Sometimes I’ll get a direct email from people and I will just thank them for writing, thank them for reading, thank them for their opinion, and ask them to write that letter to the editor,” Mr. Hill said. “People say all the time, ‘Oh, it’s fake news. Why do you make stuff up?’ Well, that’s why my work is on the opinion page.”
Up until four years ago, Mr. Hill did all his drawings on ink and paper. He has about three or four thousand cartoons piled up in his basement.
“Instead of paper, now I’ve got files full of pixels,” Mr. Hill said about his switch to the iPad. “When I switched to the iPad, nobody noticed the difference. And it’s nice because I don’t spill ink on the couch when I’m drawing in front of the TV. That really got my wife upset sometimes.”
Mr. Hill has his iPad with him all the time so when something strikes him, he can start doodling.
Mr. Hill will hold a book signing on April 20 from 5 to 7 p.m. at Act 3 publishing offices, 12200 Fairhill Road, Suite B-301 in Cleveland. All the books he has done will be available for purchase and refreshments will be served.