21, No. 17, April 4, 2002
On the Job: Don Chambers
By Sharita Forrest,
(217) 244-1072; email@example.com
by Bill Wiegand
Don Chambers, a broadcast animator at WILL, has worked at
the UI for eight years.
Don Chambers, a
broadcast animator at WILL, has worked at the UI for eight years. He
creates on-air animation, still graphics, Web graphics and billboards.
His first book, "Mannequins at Home in Illinois and Western Indiana,"
published in 2001, features computer-generated 3-D cartoon characters
in more than 1,300 photos of Illinois and western Indiana towns. The
comic strips debuted in 1994 and have been featured in several newspapers.
The current weeks strip is at
Chambers earned a bachelors degree in graphic design from Eastern
How did you get started drawing cartoons?
Ive been drawing cartoons as long as I can remember. The first
book I ever remember reading was a Peanuts book. I met Charles Schulz
a couple of times, and he called me on the phone one day to talk about
a book idea I had based on his characters. He was a very nice person
and easy to talk to. Over the years Ive met several of the major
cartoonists. Ive also met and talked several times with Lynn Johnston,
who draws "For Better or for Worse." I sent her a copy of
my book and she sent me a copy of her new book. She is such a sweet
lady. For the most part, a lot of the really big names in cartooning
are quite approachable.
I wanted something different. The characters are completely computer-generated.
My wife does hair on the side, and she designed all the characters
Where do you get your ideas for the strips
and the characters?
Just from my life experiences. My friends. Listening to people. When
Im watching television, a word or a phrase may spark an idea.
Sometimes my wife will come up with an idea or Ill bounce my ideas
off her. If only one of us thinks an idea is funny, then we know it
needs more work. Most of the characters are composites of people Ive
known. The two male characters are based on friends I had growing up.
The book incorporates photos of many towns
in this area. Tell me about that.
Champaign-Urbana is the center of the universe for the book. I thought
people might enjoy seeing some photos of their towns integrated into
the comic strip rather than computer-generated backgrounds. When I started
out, I was hoping to photograph every single town within an 80-mile
radius of Champaign-Urbana, but I had no idea there were so many. There
were several towns I didnt photograph, but I didnt purposely
leave out any. It took me a year to travel to all these towns and take
all the photos. I just wanted to have the book published before I turned
40. The most frequent comment I get is I never thought Id
see a book with my town in it.
Did you have any unusual experiences while
you were shooting the photos of the towns?
I had lots of them. I was asked for money. I was turned in to the police
when I was taking a picture of the Mattoon Journal-Gazette office. Theyd
been publishing articles about a facility they didnt want in the
area, and people at the paper were getting death threats. They saw me
taking pictures of their building and thought I was associated with
that. I saw someone run out and take a picture of my car as I was driving
away but I didnt think much about it. Then the police called me
and wanted to know what I was doing. Sometimes I probably did just grab
a picture of a place and run because I was in a hurry, and it probably
did get some people suspicious.
What will be the theme
of your next book?
Im going to focus on the Midwest and counties in southern England
to give the book a broader appeal. Ive already done all the photographs
and half the strips. My wife and I took our honeymoon in England, and
I did a few pictures then. But for the most part, Ive been contacting
the tourism departments and seeing what they have on file. I would have
loved to have just taken a month off and gone to England and taken all
What are the challenges of your job at WILL?
Theres a creative challenge to making sure that the images and
the quality are consistent among the three stations. Also its
challenging trying to tie in the graphics created for print with the
Whats your favorite part of your job?
Probably the chance to do lots of different things. Theres always
a chance to try anything you want to do, whether thats working
in the scene shop or on the set or learning new programs or working
as a volunteer in WILLs fund-raising activities.