CARLISLE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — At almost 90 years old, Paul Gray of Carlisle has been cartooning his entire life—he even still publishes a weekly cartoon for area newspapers.
Growing up in Detroit, Gray’s father worked for the WPA Federal Art Project, and completed 32 paintings for the Smithsonian.
But, it was his older brother who helped him learn how to draw cartoons.
“My brother was the artist, and he taught his little brother,” Gray said, noting he can remember receiving drawing lessons from his brother when he was just 3 years old and his brother was only 5.
They would draw cartoons for their own “newspaper,” and even learned at an early age how to profit from their talents.
“We took one down to Dempesy’s market, and Mrs. Dempsey would give us both an ice cream cone for the ‘newspaper,'” Gray recalled.
By the early 1950s, Gray was drafted and spent time overseas in Germany as a pole lineman.
“Here I was 40 feet in the air, and never climbed a pole in my life, and (it was) 20 below zero, and got frost bitten hands and feet,” he said. “And, so I thought, ‘I can’t tolerate this anymore.'”
That is when Gray began to draw pictures of various officers, corporals and sergeants.
“And they picked up on that,” he said.
Because of his talents, he was able to get a better-suited assignment in Worms, Germany where he continued to draw until his draft ended.
Back in the States, Gray took on various labor jobs, “until I realized that what I do best is draw,” he noted.
“In the early 1950s, I worked for the Detroit Daily News a little bit,” he said.
He also worked for a number of small newspapers throughout Michigan and Indiana before his life took another turn.
“That went on until I was called to the ministry,” he said.
Gray received his credentials with the Indiana district of the Assemblies of God church. His first assignment took him to Urbana, Indiana where he started a new church.
He can still remember a woman running up to him in the street exclaiming, “you’re staring a church? I’ve been praying for a church.”
Instead of giving up on his cartoons, he incorporated them into his ministry.
“My toons are a message,” Gray said.
He will have people come up to him and say they had to laugh at one of his cartoons because it depicted something they had thought or had done.
“That’s where it comes from is experience and knowing, and so people can identify with the cartoons.”
His father had once told Gray he should publish his cartoons in the Saturday Evening Post, and it was through his ministry that he was able to do just that.
That is how he met religious editor Bob Silvers who liked his work and helped him get published.
For every 20 cartoons he sent in, about three would be used in the magazine, which Gray said was a pretty good average for a cartoonist.
His work appeared in the Saturday Evening Post for 14 years, until the original publication folded in the 1970s.
Over the years, Gray has battled cancer, and even a crippling disease of his drawing hand, but through all of that, he has never stopped drawing.
“I’m always drawing,” he said.
His work is displayed all over his house, much of it on scrap pieces of paper such as junk mail and old flyers.
Today, Gray’s religious cartoon, “Shades of Gray” can be seen each week on the Sullivan Daily Times religious page.