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Member Spotlight: Marcus Hamilton – From Doodles to ‘Dennis the Menace’

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Whether building his career or reimagining it, illustrator and AAA member Marcus Hamilton is the epitome of perseverance.

Marcus Hamilton discovered his passion for art early. “I’ve been drawing since I was about 6 years old,” he explains. “My mother would bring a notepad and pencil to church every week to keep me quiet. Walt Disney and Norman Rockwell were my inspiration.”

Upon graduating from college in Wilson, N.C., Hamilton secured work in Charlotte, first with WBTV then with a local design studio. And although Walt Disney Studios responded to his resume submission with a “we’re not hiring” notice, he continued to pursue his dream of working as an illustrator. 

“I mailed samples to every New York City art director and magazine I could get an address for,” he shares. He followed up by visiting them in person. “It didn’t occur to me that they wouldn’t see me. I ended up getting an assignment with True Magazine, which led to more work.”

He became a full-time freelance illustrator in 1972, working for several leading publications like Reader’s Digest and Good Housekeeping. In 1978, his portrait of Bob Hope graced the cover of the holiday issue of Saturday Evening Post. However, when design with computer graphics emerged in the early ‘90s, the demand for hand-drawn illustrations declined. Hamilton found it difficult to compete. 

“My career went down and I began to question everything,” he explains. “I had just turned 50 and wondered if my career was completely over. I was frustrated, and said ‘Lord, I’ve trusted you with my life and I don’t see it going anywhere.’”

AAA Member Marcus Hamilton is a Menace

marcus hamilton

Shortly after his heartfelt grievance, Hamilton happened upon a television interview with cartoonist Hank Ketcham, creator of the popular “Dennis the Menace” comic strip. Ketcham shared his desire to find someone else to draw the comics so he could retire and travel. Hamilton seized the opportunity. “I got his phone number from a cartoonist friend of mine and called him. I said ‘I’m an artist in Charlotte, N.C., and if you’re serious about retiring, I’d love the opportunity.’”

After working under Ketcham’s guidance to ensure the continuity of the comic strip’s artistic style, Marcus Hamilton officially took the helm as artist of the daily “Dennis the Menace” panels in the fall of 1994. He’s still at it today, making this “second” career the longest job he’s ever had.

“It’s a demanding job because of the deadlines,” he shares. “But it’s very enjoyable because I get to do what I love.”

Hamilton often works ahead of deadlines to accommodate another love — travel. He and his wife, Kaye, have planned many vacations through AAA, including a recent Caribbean cruise with the entire family to celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary. From taking cruises to planning road trips, the Hamiltons make the most of their AAA Membership.

The agents in the AAA Travel offices always give us good advice and provide helpful resources for every trip we’ve ever taken,” says Hamilton.  

(Photos: Amanda Johnson)

(Go Magazine Nov/Dec 2018)

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