WILLOWICK, Ohio (April 20, 2011) — His artwork was wry, sometimes silly, but always seemed to capture the inherent personality of his subjects with but a few frugal, judicious pen strokes. When Dick Dugan put pen to paper, he breathed life into each drawing, from sports figures to celebrities and even tire dealers.
Mr. Dugan, the retired longtime staff artist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, died April 16 at the Hospice of the Western Reserve in the Cleveland area. He was 85.
For a number of years Mr. Dugan drew the popular caricatures for the annual “Top Newsmakers” and “Headline Grabbers” front-page feature in Tire Business, traditionally the cover artwork for the paper's last issue of the year. He also provided sketches on a freelance basis for a special September 1999 “Milepost 2000 millennium keepsake issue” for this paper, which took a look at “the past, present and future in tires and auto service.”
An obituary in the Plain Dealer described Mr. Dugan as “the fastest draw in town,” noting he “dashed out countless caricatures” for the paper as well as community groups, businesses and individuals, “often on the spot.” He told the paper upon his retirement that “cartooning is a fun thing,” and that he tried to sketch as simply and humorously as he could.
For the special Tire Business millennium issue he helped illustrate “how the modern pneumatic tire came to be.” Accompanying the “news” for 3500 BC—“Mankind invents the wheel”—a Dugan sketch featured a stern-faced caveman with hammer chiseling away at a somewhat round-shaped stone wheel. To illustrate the United Rubber workers strike in 1976 that virtually shut down the nation's tire industry, Mr. Dugan offered a sparse yet potent figure of a staunch laborer holding an “On Strike” placard.
In all, his sketches seemed to capture the essence of his assignment or subject with only as many strokes of the pen as necessary—yet they all sang in their own inimitable voices.
A native of Bellevue, Pa., outside of Pittsburgh, Mr. Dugan got his artistic start in the fourth grade, “drawing on scraps of wrapping paper and pasting them together as murals,” according to the Plain Dealer. He began to teach in 1949 at Cleveland's Cooper School of Art before arriving, in 1962, at his “dream job” as sports cartoonist for the Plain Dealer. Eventually, his artwork in the paper illustrated countless events both newsworthy and whimsical.
The paper said his works were exhibited over the years at Cleveland State University and a local art gallery, and Mr. Dugan belonged to the National Cartoonist Society, Baseball Writers Association, as well as many other groups and associations.
He leaves his wife Jean, six children and nine grandchildren.
In recent years the task of illustrating Tire Business' annual newsmakers was taken up by Leo Michael, an Akron-area artist with much of the same flair for caricatures as Mr. Dugan.