Art Shirley

Art Shirley, pictured at his desk with his artwork.
Photo by Kevin Hudson

Art Shirley, a web communications and graphic design manager at MSU, found a way to feed the creative side of his personality by doing cartooning as a hobby.

“A lot of what I do as a section leader is managing people and the website—oversight without getting to do the creative part of the work,” the Office of Agricultural Communication designer said. “I have meetings and solve technical issues, but while it appeals to the logical side of my brain, it doesn’t fulfill my creative needs.”

For artistic satisfaction, Shirley continued the cartooning hobby he began as a kid, drawing single-panel cartoons and caricatures. He also has done cartoon strips and a comic book.

“Having worked for almost 36 years now in business as a designer/artist where I do what a client wants, I like the idea of doing something totally my own,” Shirley said. “Whether it succeeds or fails, it is all my own.”

And succeed it has.

Shirley has had two editorial cartoons go viral. First was a 2012 crack at Mississippi’s national media status as a “land mass” in that year’s heavy hurricane season. Next was his tribute to movie critic Roger Ebert upon his death. This one blew up after actor George Takei of Star Trek fame shared it.

“Now, I’m trying to do a short, animated movie based on an old comic book story I wrote,” Shirley said.

In high school and at the University of Mississippi, Shirley wrote and illustrated comic strips, including the story of Jack Quasar. About 10 years ago, he took that story back up, illustrated it working every night on the drawings at home, and then published it. He’d like to turn it into an animated movie one day, too.

“The thing about drawing the comic book that was so good was that it forced me to sit down and draw every night. I would be around my family, but I had to draw,” he said. “It helped me deal with the stress of the day, it fed my creative side, and opened my mind to creative thinking and problem solving.”

Shirley, who is color blind, does all his artwork digitally. Rather than using pencils, inks and lettering, he does his work on a tablet. Today, much of his work takes the form of caricatures done as gifts to retiring co-workers in Ag Comm.

Shirley’s family has often been the inspiration for his work. He and his wife, Becky, live in West Point, and they have two grown sons.