Designer portrays Springfield officials in cartoons
Written by Juliana Goodwin, Aug 13, 2012
Mark Montgomery has worked for the city of Springfield since 2003, but only recently has one of his talents emerged: He’s a cartoonist.
And he’s taking on city leaders — in a good way.
The past few months, Montgomery has used his caricature talents to portray various employees from Greg Burris, city manager, to Cora Scott, director of public information and civic engagement for Springfield.
“I started doing leadership (department) heads because more people would know them and it would be fun to see your boss in a cartoon. It ballooned. Now I’m picking them off one by one,” Montgomery joked.
Some of his recent cartoons include those around Park Central Square marking the location of witnesses at the legendary 1865 duel between J.B. “Wild Bill” Hickok and Davis K. Tutt. The shootout occurred over a poker debt and a gold watch. Tutt died in the shootout. www.springfieldmo.gov/wildbill
The 33-year-old’s cartoons have appeared in the employee newsletter and the city’s Facebook page, but there are plans to incorporate his talent into more community outreach.
Scott said among other things, Montgomery will create infographics for the city’s strategic plan and use illustration to distill complex information.
“We’re trying to do communication efforts cities haven’t done before to get people’s attention, and to break down barriers and walls between us and citizens so they understand we are here to relate to them and help them, and they can work with us. We are doing video communication. We are so lucky to have Mark as a talented illustrator because that just adds to what we are going to do,” Scott said.
Montgomery, multimedia coordinator and senior graphic designer, said the cartoons help boost morale, make people laugh, tackle current affairs and reach out to the community.
When Bob Belote was promoted to parks director, Montgomery helped announce the promotion by drawing a caricature of Belote petting a cow in a field with a caption that read “Out standing in his field.”
“Mark is an extremely talented artist and the reason I like these cartoons so much is because it allows us to laugh at ourselves and if you can’t laugh at yourself, you are taking yourself too seriously,” said Greg Burris, city manager (and FYI, Montgomery said Burris was the easiest person to draw so far).
An illustration with Brenda Cirtin, city clerk, buried in initiative petitions — a commentary on the flood of petitions the city has received in the last year — is posted on the city’s Facebook page.
The number of petitions filed led City Council to propose a city charter change to address the criteria, and it was put to Springfield voters on Aug 7. Part of the charter requiring additional signatures, passed; but another part (Charter 2 Amendment) which changed the criteria for filing a petition, was rejected by voters. (The cartoon was drawn before the vote.)
Montgomery is careful not to tackle really sensitive subjects.
“I try not to get too editorial about it,” Montgomery said. “... I was wanting to show the funny details of working at the city, the lighter side. We spend most of our adult life at our jobs, so we might as well enjoy the journey.”
And it’s a journey for Montgomery that started in childhood.
His start in art
Montgomery was raised in Belton, and attended a small Christian school. In third grade, he took private art lessons from John MacDonald who had painted with Thomas Hart Benton.
He comes from an artistic background: His grandmother was a schoolteacher and country painter in Novinger, and his dad’s brother and sister are art teachers.
In high school, Montgomery won various art awards, but turned to illustration and design after a trip to Kansas City to visit an uncle who was a creative director and copywriter at an advertising agency.
“He gave me a carload of illustration books that were too outdated for his use, and I began to memorize the artists and their styles. I really began to love illustration and design in college at Missouri State,” Montgomery said.
He attended Missouri State University, which is where he met his wife, Jenny. The couple has two kids. About a year after graduation, he was hired to do graphic design for the city. Over the years, Montgomery dabbled in cartoon illustration a few times. In 2006, he worked on a public service announcement for Ozarks Greenways’ Bike to Work Week.
In general though, Montgomery wanted to keep his caricature talent separate from his work because whatever work he creates on city time is owned by the city and he thought he might use his talents to freelance one day.
Then he took a trip to New York City to an illustration conference and realized he could never uproot his family to live in New York (where most of the best illustrators rub shoulders with art directors). Once that decision was made, Montgomery started to incorporate one of his passions into his job.
It’s been fun, and the response has been positive.
Now that his talent has been revealed, the city plans to use it in their communication strategy, Scott said.
“Government issues can be very complicated and difficult to communicate,” Scott said. “We work a lot with infographics. Mark is studying that art form, and it truly is an art form. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and the same thing is true for graphics.”