He’s at it again - that indefatigable history professor, author and cartoonist - Foy Lisenby by name, the creator of "The Best (and worst) of Bugs and Birds."
Verily, the man has never stopped drawing and doodling, his talented pen originating and fathering caricatures of life. He would rather draw than perform any other human activity.
Recently, he was spotted in a corner of a local bakery, sketching a likeness of a youngster who sat for him seemingly enthralled by the exercise and equally pleased to take home a paper cup on which Lisenby had portrayed his image. A line of kids waited impatiently for their turn to see a cartoon image of themselves.
A conversation with Lisenby develops into a portrait session as his deft pen produces a portrayal of the person sitting across from him. It is a pleasurable drill even though it may be a bit disconcerting and has the effect of puncturing the dialogue. He apparently cannot cope with his urge to draw.
His newest work presents the publication of a book of cartoons strips featuring a bevy of animals gyrating around the barnyard involved in all sorts of activities. Ernest the Frog and Gnorman Gnat are among a throng of creatures, some human, whose conversations and predicaments create chuckles.
"Hey, it’s like a jungle out there," he says, laughing at his work.
"If you like analogies where animals or even insects are concerned, you may find them realistic in their characterizations - more than you might have guessed."
While Lisenby’s penchant for cartooning may stamp him as a flighty guy, nothing could be further from the truth.
He is a Ph. D. graduate of Vanderbilt University, and for more than 33 years he held forth as a history teacher, most of them at the University of Central Arkansas where he served as history department chairman from 1971 to 1986. He retired at the end of 1994, but he returned to UCA as an adjunct history professor.
He is the author of a scholarly book on Arkansas Gov. Charles Hillman Brough and publisher of a number of papers and treatises in professional journals.
The one work he particularly reveres is a book that portrays the history of the United States in cartoons. It was produced in conjunction with the late Jerry Poole, an artist of some notoriety and Jody Potts, a faculty member of Southern Methodist University. Poole was the producer of acclaimed watercolor art and was chair of the art department at the University of Central Arkansas.
The book titled "Adventure Tales of America" was created for high school students, and features scores of cartoons with text and illustrations. It received wide distribution in Arkansas and Texas and other places. They authored another book titled "Adventure Tales of Arkansas" that was used in several schools.
The books feature the right brain/left brain strategy designed to make learning faster and better. By concentrating on the left side of the brain though words, numbers, logic and reason, the theory suggests, students complement what is taking place on the other side through pictures, humor, emotion and metaphor, thus learning becomes faster and more memorable.
"Jerry Poole and I began cartooning back in the 1960s with a strip that ran in the Arkansas Democrat and later in the Log Cabin Democrat," Lisenby recalls. "It was published for quite some time. We tried to syndicate the cartoon strip but, unfortunately, we didn’t have the right connections and failed."
Subsequently, they collaborated in cartooning in other ways, using an overhead projector and taking their cartoons to civic clubs and several public schools. "I remember we were there during enrichment days at the schools," he said
The intrepid professors also worked at producing advertising cartoons and a variety of illustrations for local business houses, colleges and civic organizations.
"We were the co-creators of the original laid-back toad for Toad Suck Daze and we won the contest for the logo," he said.
Lisenby says "The Best (and worst) of Bugs and Birds" is a compilation of comical art, featuring creatures with a lot to say.
The book may be obtained from Fair Oaks Press, 30 Fair Oaks Drive, 329-5810, or at selected book outlets in Conway.