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Cartoonist Peter Waldner: Remember, it’s a joke

PETER WALDNER PHOTO Rockwell the dog, created by Peter Waldner to promote the ArSi studio tour this past summer.
PETER WALDNER PHOTO Rockwell the dog, created by Peter Waldner to promote the ArSi studio tour this past summer.

You see his cartoons every week in the Reporter and on line and you wonder … where does he get all these ideas?

Love him or hate him, you’ll always take notice.

As Peter Waldner told the ladies of the Women’s Club on September 12, “some people take my work too seriously, but they’re really only cartoons.”

Peter’s ideas can come from any source — conversations with friends and neighbors, national politics or even the frustrations of living year round on Shelter Island.

Once, Peter created a syndicated cartoon about a couple named Sally and Frank (names that he picked at random). Among the papers the cartoon ran in was the Los Angeles Daily News.

A short time later, Peter received a letter from a Los Angeles reader who asked if he could have the original since, he wrote, “My name is Frank and I’m marrying Sally!”

Once, Peter worked the name of a famous cookbook author and her pound cake recipe into a cartoon. Though he found her name and the recipe at random, somehow the author saw the cartoon, was thrilled and honored that she and her pound cake featured prominently in it.

She sent him a letter on letterhead featuring a caricature of herself by cartoonist Al Hirschfeld (Peter in turn was thrilled, naturally) and asked if she might have the original cartoon.

Peter obliged, and in return she sent him her latest cookbook — “The Cake Bible.”

Peter doesn’t bake … although he makes an awesome lasagna.

Once Peter received a thank you letter from “60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Croft after he was featured in a cartoon in the New York Daily News.

“Thank you for making me famous in my son’s eyes,” wrote Croft. “I’d like to buy the cartoon … and I won’t sell it on eBay.”

Peter sent it to him for nothing.

His talent is not limited to cartooning. As a way to promote the annual ArtSI studio tours in recent years, he has created life size sculptures that have been placed (and photographed for prominent placement in the Reporter) in compromising positions around the Island

One was a wooden cutout based on friend and fellow artist Bob Markell, and readers were asked “Where’s Bob?”

Well, Bob was found all over the Island in subsequent issues of the Reporter — including on the beach next to a beautiful young woman in a bikini who wanted her photo taken with him.

And who could forget Finnegan the Shark?

Sharks belong in the water, but Finnegan was a paper mâché  floater, so Peter had to anchor him with rocks to keep him in place in water.

All that summer, Finnegan was on the prowl, attacking Islanders in a hot tub, at the lunch counter at the pharmacy and even in a kayak. One Reporter reader didn’t understand that the kayaker was in on the joke and wrote a letter to the editor saying that it wasn’t appropriate to scare people like that.

Submitted by the Shelter Island Women’s Club