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Your Ride 'Tooned' up
By Brent Simpson
Writer, Cruising the Avenue Magazine
From the March 2004 issue of 'Cruising the Avenue' Magazine ~~ printed with permission
Rob, The ToonMan ~~ One of the coolest things to go along with the Hot Rod world has always been Automotive Art. Especially the radical cartoons of Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth, or CAR Toons Magazine. One modern version of these two legends is Oregon Automotive Cartoonist Rob Butler. Rob has been drawing cartoons since he was in the fifth grade. He started out drawing Semi Trucks, Big Rigs of all configurations. It was obvious, even then, that Rob tended to exaggerate the drawing, stretch it, squish it, or shorten it. It still looked like what it was supposed to, but definitely a caricature of the truck.
Before long, the old car bug hit Rob, and his art went along for the ride. Rob’s parents had many classics and he would draw them. Once Rob bought his ‘56 Chevy Cameo the ball started rolling! Rob would draw the Cameo many different ways and the color them to help decide what color to paint the pickup. Rob went on to design a logo for his truck club’s jackets, and also illustrate their monthly newsletter.
In 1994 Rob was approached with his first ‘Professional’ job. Rob’s boss hooked him up with a guy, Bill, who was building a super trick ‘67 Nova for the Portland Roadster Show. He gave Rob 300 pictures of the car in various stages of build up and asked for 5 cartoons showing the work. Rob did the drawings, and Bill used them as his display at the show, where the Nova won Best in Show.
In 1996 Rob knew it was time to get more serious about his art, and he wanted a name to draw under. Since he’d been called Bigfoot since he was 11 (and he had size 14 feet) he thought he would follow that theme. After considering the possibilities, Sasquatch Artworks was born. Along with the new name, He wanted a company logo. So he drew a walking Bigfoot and placed it on his business cards, and later had it tattooed on his leg. Unbeknownst to him, this would open up a whole new line of customers! Bigfoot researchers saw his card art and asked if he could do more. Rob complied, drawing many Bigfoot cartoons, including a new character ‘Squatch’. Rob ended up illustrating Bigfoot newsletters from all over the US, and several books on the subject, as well as designing T Shirt logo’s for events. He also did an interview on local radio station KEX, and made an appearance in the TLC documentary ‘Sasquatch Odyssey’. Another feather in his cap was when his art was shown on the Travel Channel, and Discovery. He even ended up doing numerous window paintings for Oregon based comic book publisher Dark Horse Comics.
For as much as Rob loves drawing Bigfoot, his artistic heart lies with the Hot Rods. In the fall of 1999 Rob started drawing Classic Rides again. He drew friends cars, just for fun, but after 2 months had a 2 page spread in a national magazine, and soon others followed. The national exposure helped Rob immensely. He made friends with ChevyTrucks.org owner Wayne Osborne, who built the Sasquatch Artworks website. The site has brought Rob a great deal of work from all over the U.S. and Canada. Rob also made friends with New York Hot Rod legend Ed ‘Croozer’ Fitzgerald, who gave Rob the nickname that has stuck to this day. Rob, The ToonMan. A name which surely seems to fit!
One unique service Rob provides is to do a drawing of an unfinished vehicle, totally based on a description of what the owner wants it to look like when completed. In most cases, the drawing ends up hanging on the shop wall as an inspiration while the car is being built. A very neat thing for those building radical customs! Today, the bulk of Rob’s work consists of drawing people’s rides for them, converting those drawing into professional style T shirt transfers, doing limited edition prints, event flyers, greeting cards, and working on two sets of new cartoon characters-Hot Rodders ‘Chuck & Arbee’, and Rob’s very own crew from the Star Trek universe.
If you are interested in having Rob do a cartoon of your favorite ride, contact him through his website or email him directly.
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