Let's clear up one thing. The guy behind those illustrations in our SCORECARD section isn't an elderly fellow with a big nose. That's a prevalent misconception about Patrick McDonnell, a 31-year-old artist who has been drawing the gent with the prominent proboscis for half his life. "People always think the artist is the character," McDonnell says. "You could say I've led a double life. People think I'm a little old guy in a hat. Actually I've played at CBGB's."
CBGB is a Manhattan punk-rock club. In the late 1970s McDonnell appeared there regularly, drumming with his band, Steel Tips, by night, while drawing free-lance assignments by day. "We had three singles and a bit of a cult following," says McDonnell. "I was definitely torn between the art thing and the band thing. I guess I always have been."
At Edison (N.J.) High, McDonnell created comic strips, largely for his own amusement, and made loud noises with Bangone Ensemble, a band that, he says, "was on the crazy side, even for New Jersey."
McDonnell honed his graphic talents at New York's School of Visual Arts. Shortly after graduation in 1978, he began illustrating Russell Baker's "Sunday Observer" column in The New York Times Magazine. After Steel Tips disbanded in 1981, McDonnell threw himself into his artwork. His career blossomed, and he has since drawn regularly for such diverse publications as Forbes and Parents. "Bad Baby," his monthly comic strip in Parents, is a particular favorite among the baby boomers who now have babies of their own.
Last fall McDonnell drew big-nosed players for SI's college football column, and six months ago he took on SCORECARD as a regular assignment. "It's just about my favorite," he says. "It has tremendous variety. I've gotten to draw baseball players, golfers, a cow and a duck race. What an opportunity!"
Although he's best known for his funny sketches—one recently won a silver medal in a Society of Illustrators exhibition of humorous art—McDonnell works in other media as well. "I've been doing small sculptures. And really large abstract paintings—they're big and messy and fun." His work has caused problems in the McDonnell household, which is a small Hoboken, N.J., flat he shares with his wife, Karen, a writer, who once sang with Steel Tips. "Our place is about 50 percent canvases right now," says McDonnell. To ease the crunch, he and Karen have bought a house in central Jersey. "It's even got a basement," McDonnell says with a drummer's glint in his eye. "Perfect for practicing."
McDonnell has had brushes with rock.