Builder turns artistic hobby into charitable effort for Lazarus House
When Joe McMahon learned the pope had resigned, he envisioned a greeting card.
The front would have a drawing of the pontiff. The inside would include two words: I quit.
The amateur cartoonist was in the process of putting his vision on paper late last month. As is his process, he printed photographs of the pope – including one of him looking out his Vatican window – to use as a drawing guide.
"I do it because, first of all, it's an expression," McMahon said of his artwork. "Second of all, I think it's funny."
But the Geneva resident also has found a charitable use for his artistry. For six years, he has produced and funded the Joman Calendar to benefit Lazarus House, a St. Charles organization that serves the homeless and those at risk of homelessness.
The 12-month calendar features his one-frame cartoons and includes a donation envelope for Lazarus House. Last year the calendars raised $3,400, he said.
The McMahon became involved with the St. Charles nonprofit when his company, Geneva-based McMahon Builders, did work for the shelter. The calendar was his idea, he said, noting it has grown from 100 to 300 copies.
"This almost forces me to draw," he said.
McMahon draws inspiration from a variety of sources, including current events and instances from his own life. For example, he said, an empty nest cartoon was inspired by robins that built a nest in lattice work at his home. The mother and father continued to visit the nest even after their babies had left, he said.
McMahon's love of comics stem from his childhood days in New Jersey. He would collect glass soda bottles – the small Coke bottles netted him two cents and the large bottles got him a nickel – so he could buy Mad Magazine, Batman comics and Superman comics, he said.
"I liked the stories the best," he said.
Even now, stories seem to be his priority. McMahon, who couldn't take an art class in high school because it was overcrowded, doesn't consider himself a good artist. His goal is to put items in a picture that will lead readers to the idea he is trying to portray, he said.
"It's me saying something that is more meaningful than if I kept silent," McMahon said. "It's an expression of my thoughts."
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