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Ed Frohning, cartoonist

“In twenty-six years, I’ve never had a cartoon turned down,” says Ed Frohning. “Sometimes I get tired and say I’ll quit, but then people tell me how much they love the cartoons, and how they follow me, and I keep going.”

Ed Frohning grew up on Vashon. When he graduated from high school. He never took any art courses. He became a printer and later went to work for Starbucks, and commuted to Seattle five days a week for years.

About twenty-six years ago, on the long commute into town on the passenger ferry, he began doing drawings. People liked them, and he gave them the drawings.

“Then I did cartoons for the north end coffee stand, the Second Wind Café. Sandy would put them up to give customers a shot of humor to go with their espresso.”

Soon his work was appearing in the Clam Cove Report, a much loved but short lived alternative island paper. Then his cartoons ran in the Ticket, the Loop’s predecessor, and now his work appears in the Loop.

His cartoons also appeared in the Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber, and in 2001 he won the first-place award for editorial cartoons in all regional  Washington state newspapers. He smiles with pride when he speaks of that award.
“It felt good to get that recognition.

“I got to know Berkeley Breathed when he lived on the island, and he has been a huge inspiration to me, both in drawing and attitude.

“When I was in New York I went and spoke to Bob Mankoff, the cartoon editor at the New Yorker. I called the magazine, and a guy answered, and I asked if Bob Mankoff was there. He said he’d go check and see if he was in. Then he came back and said, ‘Just kidding, it’s me.’ I asked if I could come up and see him and he said he had about twenty minutes, and to come on up.”

“He has the original of his most famous cartoon on the wall in back of his desk.* When I walked in and saw that – wow,” Ed said, shaking his head. “We talked for about half an hour. He said they were looking for cartoonists, not cartoons.” Ed aspires to be one of those cartoonists.

So what set Ed on his current life, traveling and cartooning?

“About four years ago, I visited my son in Hawaii, and loved it and decided to move there.”

He quit working for Starbucks, and since then he has lived on the Big Island in Hawaii, and in northern California, and he has traveled, doing work as needed to support his cartooning habit. Occasionally he comes back to light on Vashon.
“I carry a drawing board and supplies like a backpack so I can draw and send in drawings where ever I am. I do the cartoons, and I do free-lance portraits of people’s houses, setting them on little islands.

“That is a combination of architectural drawing and cartooning. The advertising for the house portraits is by word of mouth. Someone has a party, a guest sees a house portrait, and they want one. I’m hoping to get more of those commissions.

“Music inspires me. I link each drawing to a particular song and play it over and over until the drawing is done. I like to do drawings inspired by Grateful Dead lyrics.

“I’m developing a cartoon strip now called ‘Splashon Island.’ I’m developing characters and stories.

“My goals right now are to get the strip launched, and to get published in the New Yorker, and my big goal is to do whatever I can for the environment through art, especially the ocean and the marine environment.

“There are small Hawaiian Islands that trail off to the northwest of the main islands, and I’d like to go to Kauai to work in the refuge.” Ed was referring to a marine sanctuary which President Obama expanded to about four times its previous size this August. It is now the largest marine sanctuary in the world.

“I’ll always be attached to Vashon. My kids are fourth generation islanders. My parents (Helen and Don Frohning) were high school sweethearts and graduated from Vashon High in 1949, and my mom taught third grade here forever.”

At the time of this interview, Ed was on the island, but soon he plans to be traveling again, first to California where he has a temporary home, and then, who knows?

Where ever he goes, he’ll have his drawing board and supplies, so we can look forward to Ed Frohning’s cartoons continuing to make us laugh, at ourselves and the absurdities of our world.

If you would like an Ed Frohning portrait of your house, he would be happy to discuss it with you. Contact him at