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Participant Information

Peter Dunlap-Shohl

City:
Anchorage
State:
AK
Country:
USA
Essay:

As a creator, I saw Parkinson's disease as a threat to my identity. Instead its led to artistic renewal.

I've thought of myself as a cartoonist since the second grade nearly 40 years ago, and worked as editorial cartoonist for the Anchorage Daily News almost a quarter century. Cartooning engaged me on every level - physical, mental, emotional and aesthetic.

If you asked me what I was, I would answer "Cartoonist." The stiffness, tremor and especially the slowness that come with PD seemed poised to destroy that self when my diagnosis hit in 2002.

Physical constraints imposed by PD forced me to exchange my pen for an electronic drawing pad connected to an (ugh) computer. Coached by my computer-savvy wife, I learned PhotoShop well enough to reproduce my old pen and paper look...and then leave it behind.

As I worked with the program it dawned on me that a new graphic vocabulary was available to explore. Textures, tones and techniques unthinkable in pen and ink come easily. At least when the meds are working.

As I learn the new tool it enables me to imagine and render images I wouldn't have thought of before. And the "delete" key makes risk-taking less, well, risky. While there have been losses, for instance the comic strip I used to create, and though I have no idea how long I'll be able to go on, Parkinson's imposes limits that force me to imagine a new look and paradoxically discover a new expressive freedom.

My disease is progressing, but so am I.

Jobloss: This was drawn as part of the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists group protest against newspapers cutting staff cartoonist's positions.

Intelligent Design: This editorial cartoon ran in the Anchorage Daily News October 16, 2005.

Terrorism: This editorial cartoon was drawn after the subway bombings in London. It ran July 9, 2005.

View "What it Feels Like to Have Parkinson's" (an animated clip on YouTube): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukBCbKL56oU

View "What it Feels Like to Have Parkinson's (Part 2)" (an animated clip on YouTube): http://offandonakpdrag.blogspot.com/2009/12/what-its-like-to-have-parkinsons.html

View an animated memoir of the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2L-D1jqIr4c

View more of my work at: http://editorialcartoonists.com/cartoon/browse.cfm/dunlap