Drawn to animals: Chagrin Falls cartoonist Jenny Campbell teams with Rescue Village for book
A new book collects the animal-centric work of nationally syndicated cartoonist Jenny Campbell.
She’s illustrated dozens of children’s books in her 35-year career and lived in Chagrin Falls since 1996. In 2002, she launched the syndicated comic strip “Flo & Friends,” about the adventures of a young-at-heart senior citizen and her granddaughter. In her spare time, she had been volunteering at an animal shelter in Geauga County.
“The cool thing about being a cartoonist is that you do something different every day, and you're making people laugh,” she said. “I started walking dogs at Rescue Village before there was a Rescue Village.”
That led to offering her creative services to then-executive director Timy Sullivan.
“It started with printed fundraising appeals,” she said. “Then, we did newsletters, and then slowly it morphed into online.”
After more than two decades of pen-and-ink drawings – and many rescue dogs and cats – she met Kenneth Clarke, who joined Rescue Village in Russell Township as executive director in 2021. An amateur cartoonist himself, he was previously with the Pritzker Military Museum in Chicago, which houses the archive of Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Bill Mauldin. Clarke soon came across two decades’ worth of Campbell’s work for Rescue Village, and he said he realized a book would be perfect for Northeast Ohio animal lovers. There was just one problem: with a few exceptions, none of the drawings had captions.
“Jenny got her homework, and she had to go and take this big pile and try to be funny with things that she's created before ‘Flo & Friends,’” he said. “It must have been a little bit of an archaeological dig to go back and then be funny about stuff you did a long time ago.”
Campbell admits that in many cases, she couldn’t recall why she’d drawn the pencil-and-ink images, which range from saxophone-playing dogs to cats touting animal microchipping.
“There's one cartoon, in particular, in the book where animals are in spaceships, and they're constellations in the sky,” she said. “The only caption I could come up for that one was, ‘And then you have the occasional oddball cartoon where you say: Why did I draw that?’ What else could I say?”
Campbell estimates it took a few months to come up with captions, and she even crowdsourced a few and asked Clarke for help.
“They're really well known to Rescue Village people, but outside of that, this is all new stuff,” he said. “It's kind of uncommon to have this pile of work come out of an artist's back pocket.”
Along with dogs and cats, Rescue Village’s barn animals also make it into many of the cartoons.
“Right now, we have three goats, 21-year-old Haflinger horse, two irascible pot-bellied pigs and two very angry geese,” he said.
Compiling the book was not a summation of Campbell’s work, but a celebration.
“To give a gift to my favorite charity, far and above what I would ever be able to as a freelance cartoonist, is a huge thing for me,” Campbell said. “I'll keep drawing till I drop. Till the old wheels fall off this wagon.”
She continues her volunteer work for Rescue Village with the 30th annual “Woofstock” animal festival this fall. Like any good festival, it has its own T-shirt – with artwork created by Campbell.