Insight: Cartoonist Harley Schwadron

By S.L. Chandler

In jolly old London town there’s a place called Harley Street where top-notch physicians do everything they can to improve your health. The same can be said about Harley Schwadron whose light touch with the pen and well-honed sense of humor contribute to the well-being of anyone who views his op-ed cartoons and illustrations that are widely syndicated – just look at The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Readers Digest, Barrons, for 15 years the pages of England’s Punch, and the last few years in the Humor Times, among many others.

Cartoonist Harley Schwadron
Harley Schwadron relaxing with his dog.

He’s also done hundreds of books illustrations from 101 Presidential Jokes for Scholastic to 25 different Chicken Soup for the Soul books. A remarkably busy fellow, he resides now in Ann Arbor, Michigan where he draws cartoons for the University of Michigan “Alumnus,” many other college publications and has been reprinted in more than 1000 college and professional texts. He also does a daily cartoon business panel syndicated by the Chicago Tribune Media Services called “9 to 5.”

Harley conjectured what his former schoolmates and teachers might say if they could see him now: “Do you really make a living doing this?” He clearly does and shared a favorite cartoon of his that has sold over and over. It is a favorite of mine too: “It’s a cartoon I did showing a guy on a deserted island. A guy in a suit comes by in a motorboat and says, ‘Hi, I’m from your alumni association.’ This cartoon first sold to Harvard Business Review and then resold many times.”

Schwadron’s work has had, in his own word, “Lots of low points. Cartooning is filled with rejection. For every cartoon sold there are hundreds that are submitted and rejected in the free lance cartoon field.”

Still, he does have the satisfaction in, “enjoying the creation of cartoons. Coming up with ideas is sometimes difficult, but the drawing – putting ink on paper – is a joy. And there’s the satisfaction of producing something creative every day.”

He’s been lucky too, telling us that “no one has opposed my attempts to create and publish cartoons except for a few unwelcoming editors.” And as he tells young cartoonists about pursuing a career like his, “I think artistic people have to follow their hearts and hope for the best.”

His own tastes run to George Lichty (Grin and Bear It), Henry Martin (Good News, Bad News) Joe Mirachi, New Yorker magazine veteran and the wonderful macabre work of Charles Addams. I share his delight with these fine fellows too.

We asked him if the Internet has been a help to him, and he told us, “I still draw cartoons on paper and scan them on the computer. The scanning is boring and time consuming, but,” he acknowledges, “it’s a good way to get timely cartoons out fast.”

As for the graphic novel, which permeates much conversation about cartooning these days, Schwadron says he doesn’t think he, “could do Graphic novels. I have a short attention span. Doing individual cartoons is more up my alley.”

In the world of motorcycles, owning a Harley is considered quite a coup, but if you own a Harley Schwadron illustrated work (and there are many), you don’t even have to wear a helmet.

Cartoons by Harley Schwadron can be seen on and of course right here on this site!

Stanford Chandler
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