Theater & Arts

ArtHop preview: Cartoonist Leigh Rubin to speak, meet fans at Fresno Bee event

Leigh Rubin poses with Marvin the Martian during a speaking engagement at the Chuck Jones Center.
Leigh Rubin poses with Marvin the Martian during a speaking engagement at the Chuck Jones Center. Special to The Bee

A bull tries to walk into a bathroom stall but his horns are too wide. A rabbit attempts to take a photo of two other rabbits but one keeps making “bunny ears” behind the other’s head. A mortician suggests a KFC bucket as a chicken’s final place of rest.

This is the world of Leigh Rubin.

The offbeat and pun-filled work by the syndicated cartoonist – his Rubes panel appears daily in The Fresno Bee – is now seen in more than 400 publications. He’s been making his one-panel observations on life for more than 30 years.

When time permits, Rubin makes personal appearances to talk about his career and cartooning. He will be at The Fresno Bee from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 3, as part of an ArtHop event. Many of his cartoons will be on display and he’s scheduled to speak at 6 p.m.

Not all of his works feature animals, but a large herd of his drawings do include creatures who take on human characteristics.

“Animals, we love them and eat them. They are a great substitute for humans because you can get away with so much more,” Rubin says. “You have a planet full of animals dying to be in a comic strip.”

Rubin started in 1978 when he began his own greeting card company, Rubes Publications. Those cards featured animal characters. That was followed by a greeting card series with characters shaped like musical notes.

His first foray into newspapers was in 1984 when an editor friend approached Rubin about creating a daily comic for Palmdale’s Antelope Valley Press. His work has been syndicated since 1989. He has more than 10,000 original cartoons stored in filing cabinets.

Rubin’s interest in cartoons started when he was young, cultivated by working in the family print shop. His father, Stan, was also a big fan of the comics, and when Rubin was young his dad taught him how to draw a Goon from the Popeye comics.

The artist has a giant airbrushed version of one of his Goon drawings in his home.

“I have always loved to draw. I always wanted to be an artist. I did a lot of doodling in the margins of my schoolwork,” Rubin says. “I was speaking at the Chuck Jones Center in Costa Mesa and my third-grade teacher came to the event. She was inspirational because she said it was OK to doodle and that it was cool to be inventive.”

Now he has to be inventive at least once a day to keep the syndicated strip going. Even though he shoots for two cartoons a day, one drawing meets the minimum daily requirement. He stays about four weeks ahead, which allows him to make personal appearances like the one at The Bee.

Unlike many artists who have switched to computer screens to create their drawings, Rubin still works with a pencil (a Mars Lumograph 3B to be exact) and paper. He jokes that it means he spends a lot more time erasing than other artists.

“I am still using paper and ink because I like the thought of holding a tangible piece of art,” Rubin says.

He scans all of his work into the computer to ship to the syndicate. He never mails one of his original drawings, which is why he has so many cabinets full of his work.

Before he can even put the first mark to paper, Rubin needs ideas. For years, he carried an analog tape recorder, but now he sends an email to himself when inspiration hits.

“We were about to go to dinner and a friend said something that I thought would make a good cartoon. Last night, about 3 or 4 in the morning I woke up with an idea and I knew I had to write it down,” Rubin says.

As for his trip here, Rubin says he can’t wait to see how twisted everybody’s minds are in the Valley. He’s so excited about his trip here, he plans to give away door prizes to those who attend.

Seating is limited, so make sure you arrive early.

More ArtHop picks:

Paint and brush: Kansas City artist Dan Vanderhoof, who grew up in Fresno, is having a gallery show at Misc. Trading Company, 2017 Tuolumne St. His work in the show is derivative of abstract expressionist brushwork with a color palette that recalls pop art, with a focus on the bison.

Champagne toast: Help celebrate the third anniversary of A Sense of Place gallery, 2003 N. Van Ness Blvd. The gallery features the work of Ginny Burdick and a roster of other well-known central San Joaquin artists including Adam Longatti, Kathy Gillis and Arminee Shishmanian. Details:, 559-392-6775.

Storyland fun: All of the entries in the Storyland Billboard Art Contest will be featured at an ArtHop reception, 5-8 p.m., at the Fresno office of Motive Power, 1901 Fulton St., Ste. 111, at Iron Bird Lofts. The four winning students will also have their art displayed on Outfront Media billboards throughout Fresno. The winners are Grace Rosemary Nakagawa, Selma Headstart Preschool, preschool/kindergarten; Stephen Barkema, Gibson Elementary; grades 1-2; Zennah Laycock, Rivergold Elementary, grades 3-4; and Michael Guardado, Truth Tabernacle Christian School, grades 5-6. The contest was sponsored by The Bee, Outfront Media and Storyland.

Rick Bentley: 559-441-6355, @RickBentley1

ArtHop: Leigh Rubin at The Bee

Heart in the San Joaquin

Carmen George’s column will return.