The Cartoonists by Susanna McLeod                Susanna@thecartoonists.ca

   

Interview with "Bush," Editorial Cartoonist Norm Muffitt

July 1, 2011

   

The Cartoonists spoke recently with editorial cartoonist, "Bush," aka Norm Muffitt. The experience of being "Canadian" fills Muffitt's colourful, funny cartoons. The editorial panels appear regularly in the Northwest Territories through Northern News Services Ltd.'s "The Yellowknifer." Enjoyed weekly in "The Deh Cho Drum," and "The Inuvik Drum." Muffitt's work also appears in Alberta's "The Fort Saskatchewan Record " and "The Sherwood Park News," plus several other publications. Leading an adventurous life, Muffitt's understanding of people and Canada's north shines in his humourous depictions. Due to an illness, Muffitt is taking a temporary break from cartooning.

   

Welcome, Bush! Thanks for joining The Cartoonists and giving us a glimpse of your fascinating career.

Norm Muffitt's Early Life - Uniforms, Music and Doodling

My father was a member of the RCMP in the 1930’s and early ‘40’s and served in the high Arctic for a number of years.  The highlight of his service was acting as the Queen Mother’s escort on her visit to Canada in 1939.

Shortly after the outbreak of war he enlisted in the RCAF as a pilot and married my  mother before going overseas where he was reported missing in action and presumed killed. He left behind a widow and my younger sister and I.  The last thing he asked my mother was to keep him (meaning me…) out of uniform. Ergo I joined the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Air Cadets, Army Cadets, Reserve Air Force and Militia as soon as I came of age. I learned to fly on an Air Cadet Scholarship at 17. My mother remarried to a musician when I was 12 and I grew up listening to some of the finest jazz in the country.  I like to think my love of doodling and cartooning came from those ensuing years.

   
RCMP and the Musical Ride

   

Never having lost my admiration for my dad, I enlisted in the RCMP at the tender age or 18. I continued to scratch out drawings that reflected the every day events of Police work, much to the enjoyment of my fellow constables and the annoyance of my superiors. I read what I could and copied the style of every cartoonist I could lay my eyes on..

After 3 years on general duties, I was transferred to The RCMP Musical Ride and toured North America performing atop a large Black Horse for audiences throughout Canada and the USA. It was one of the most difficult and satisfying jobs I have ever done.  All the while, I continued to scratch out my cartoons for what I hoped was for the enjoyment of all.

Editorial Cartoonist Norm Muffitt    
Photo courtesy "Bush." Norm Muffitt and "Winnie the Poop" at work in Norm's art room.

   

I returned from the Musical Ride to New Brunswick where I married the prettiest girl in Fredericton and had a daughter, Jennifer, who followed in her father’s footsteps.

Bush Pilot by Day, Cartoonist by Night

It was in New Brunswick in 1971 that I sold my first cartoon to a small “girlie magazine” called Army Laughs for the munificent sum of $10. At the current rate of sales I was averaging one sale for every 100 cartoons I was submitting.  The postage alone was keeping me broke.  I did however remember my Step-Father’s advice….DON’T GIVE UP YOUR DAY JOB. So there I was, flying Bush Planes all day and sketching cartoons well into the evening. 

 
Cartoon by "Bush," Norm Muffitt
"Indeed a Fine and Experienced Cartoonist"

One afternoon I was at the local Yellowknife stationery Store purchasing a Crow Quill pen when I encountered a gigantic gentleman in  a large  parka festooned with cameras. Hearing me ask for a cartoonist pen, he asked if I was indeed a cartoonist. With all the confidence of youth I admitted that I was indeed a fine and experienced cartoonist. 

This was the second week of March 1972 and the beginning of a long term friendship, employment and relationship that lasts to this very day. Publisher Jack Sigvaldason had just published his first issue of the Yellowknifer along with partner Jack Adderly on their kichen table at home.  This wee beginning grew to “Northern News Services Ltd." out of Yellowknife and grew to seven newspapers covering all of the NWT.

I drew a weekly cartoon for 6 of these papers every week for 39 years without fail.  When our family moved south to Edmonton, I continued to draw for NNSL and picked up two more weekly papers to fill up what little free time I had. It certainly wasn’t much as I retired from the RCMP and began flying for Transport Canada.

Credit: Northern News Service Ltd., © "Bush," Norm Muffitt.

Meanwhile, daughter Jennifer studied Art at the University of Alberta and took further art  training at a local Community College. She became quite an accomplished artist in her own time and formed a small company called Rat Salad Graphics.  Following her young boyfriend , a medical student to Hamilton, she took her Step-Grandfather's advice and decided a steady day job was in order.  She still draws today but is a full-time police officer with the Hamilton City Police.

Political Cartoon by "Bush," Norm Muffitt  
Supplies, Studio and... Feline Assistant

I do my cartoons on 20W Bond paper using felt pen and then transfer the outline to  a Corel program.  I block in the black areas and send them via email to the paper for their black and white edition and then redo It again in colour for the electronic version.  I have a small art room I made in the basement which I share with our cat, Winnie the Poop (seen resting in comfort in the photo above). Other than Winnie, I have no assistant and my drawings are done somewhere between 8 p.m. and 1 A.M.

 
© "Bush," Norm Muffitt, ACEC  
Part of the Cartooning Life

Over almost 40 years, I have been heckled a number of times but I look on It as evidence that some people are reading them.

 I have only been rejected by my Editor on those rare occasions where he felt we might be offending someone without cause.

Advice from an Experienced Professional

For aspiring cartoonists….practice, practice…practice.  If you don’t enjoy your drawings, chances are no one else will either.  Study the works of others and if you wish to see some great cartoons, visit the “Association of Canadian Editorial Cartoonists" and check out the "Best of Bush" series on Northern News Services Ltd.

Cartoon by "Bush," Cartoonist Norm Muffitt  
Credit: Northern News Service Ltd., © "Bush," Norm Muffitt.  
A not-so-funny bump in the road

Unfortunately, I have developed Cancer and have retired for the present time.  Hope to beat the beast and be back in business before you know it. Anyone wishing to ask me any personal questions… just drop me a line at mufftoon@telusplanet.net. Good drawing and much success.         

BUSH

Thank you so much for sharing your story and advice with The Cartoonists, Norm Muffitt. Your great cartoons and sense of humour are truly Canadian treasures. We'll be watching for your return soon, and wish you happy days and good health as soon as possible.

 
© Susanna McLeod 2011
TheCartoonists.ca