Hitting a trifecta of sorts: Iowa, bicycling and Brian Duffy

Photo "borrowed" from Brian Duffy's Facebook page.
Photo of Brian Duffy “borrowed” from his Facebook page. I hope he doesn’t mind.

Every once in awhile, something happens that commands me to blog about it — even if it means stoping whatever I had been doing.

Simpson College photo of a Brian Duffy watercolor.
Simpson College photo of a Brian Duffy watercolor.

Such is the case with this link to a video sent to me this afternoon by Chuck Vesey, a Muscatine  biking buddy. It is a segment on Brian Duffy, a Des Moines artist and bicyclist, that was done for “Bike People” which will be televised at 10 a.m. on Saturday on Iowa Public Television. The segment features Duffy biking around Madison County with show hosts Forrest Ridgway and Suzet Nelson. It also features several of the watercolors Duffy has painted based on sketches he has done and photos he has taken during his many bike rides on Iowa’s back roads.

This segment of the show hit a soft spot for me because it features:

  • Bicycling in Iowa.
  • Iowa’s countryside, which I will always regard as beautiful even though it has no mountains or oceans and most of the rest of the country incorrectly regards it as flat.
  • Duffy, who was the front-page editorial cartoonist at the Des Moines Register from 1983 to 2008, when his job was eliminated in a cost-cutting move and he was escorted out of the building.

Regular readers already know my newspaper career ended last year in a similar fashion. But what is less known is how Duffy helped start my newspaper career.

In 1984, when I was a high school junior and an aspiring editorial cartoonist, I spent a day job shadowing Duffy at the Register. He could not have been nicer to a high school kid whose drawing style was borrowed heavily from (you might even say plagiarized) Duffy.

As I recall, Duffy had worked as a graphic artist in Milwaukee and drew editorial cartoons as a freelancer for a couple of smaller Wisconsin newspapers before he joined the Register. He told me I would have to find a job doing something else until I could maybe someday get lucky enough to be hired as a cartoonist.

On that day, I decided to become a graphic artist. And over time, the idea took root in my mind of how a graphic design studio should look. That’s how I wound up at Morningside College. It had a graphics studio that looked exactly like what I had pictured in my mind.

In my first or second week at Morningside, I started drawing editorial cartoons for the Collegian Reporter. In the years to come, I would become a photographer, reporter and editor for the newspaper. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Yes, that chapter in my life may have ended, but my love for Iowa will never die. And my passion for bicycling isn’t likely to fade either.

For those reasons, along with the respect I will always have for Duffy, I hope you will watch the show on IPTV — or at least the video link. If you don’t already bike, maybe it will inspire you to get out and pedal around the great state of Iowa.


One thought on “Hitting a trifecta of sorts: Iowa, bicycling and Brian Duffy

  • I never got…what is that whole “escorted out of the building” thing about? I can understand maybe for someone working in medical or scientific research – but editorial cartoons???
    I love his work, too!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s