When Paul Fell was a kid, he could be found in the back of his high school classroom drawing in his notebook.
“I always had a tendency to like to draw and that’s a lot of what I did in school instead of paying attention,” Fell said.
Today, Fell continues to draw every day through his work as a freelance editorial cartoonist where he makes daily cartoons about different topics including politics, sports, news and education inside his home in Lincoln.
Before turning to freelance, Fell worked as the Lincoln Journal Newspaper’s editorial cartoonist and newsroom artist from 1984 until 1992 where he would create cartoons that were published in the paper the following day.
During his time at the Lincoln Journal, Fell created one of his most famous works, a drawing showing a crying eagle with the Challenger space shuttle orbiter reflecting in its eye. The drawing was made after the shuttle broke apart seconds into its flight killing seven crew members in January 1986.
After the cartoon was published, Fell would read notes from viewers detailing what they felt after seeing the drawing.
“The phrase they used over and over again was ‘When I saw the cartoon, I wept,’” Fell said. “People don’t use that word very often.”
“I would hear people talking about it, and they would look at me and ask what I thought,” Paul’s wife Arlene Fell said. “I would say that I knew the cartoonist very well.”
Fell continued to work for the Lincoln Journal until 1992 when his position was eliminated from the paper, a trend seen across American newsrooms.
According to Politico, American newspaper editorial cartoonists have gone from around 2,000 in 1954 to around 30 in 2019 with the number continuing to shrink.
“The sad thing about editorial cartooning is it’s almost a dead profession,” Fell said. “I went to my first editorial cartoonist convention and somebody said there were like 300 full-time editorial cartoonists in the US and Canada. That was kind of the peak of the profession. Every town of any size had a cartoonist, everybody did and now they’re all gone. You know, there’s just a few.”
Despite the decline in his profession, Fell continues to draw daily cartoons that he posts to his website with no plans of stopping any time soon.
“I don’t want to stop drawing because it’s who I am, it’s what I do, it’s my hobby, it’s my profession,” Fell said. “I’ll keep doing this till one day they’ll find me sitting at the drawing board with my head stuck to a drawing.”