By Lin Parkin/Quinte Arts Council
Five years ago, the Bay of Quinte beckoned its call to Jeffrey Caulfield and his wife Terry. After spending most of their working lives in Toronto, they sought a quieter place to delve more fully into their creative pursuits.
Caulfield, who majored in Fine Arts from York University, spent most of his career writing and producing projects for radio, theatre, films and documentaries, many of which were featured in Toronto Fringe festivals.
His creative outlet has taken a decidedly different turn in more recent years. “I never was a 9 to 5 person. I’m not an office person. I just have to be creative in some capacity,” he says. “I started to do the cartooning a little later in life. And now that I’m a retired old fellow, cartooning is what I do.”
Caulfield partnered with illustrator Alexandre Rouillard to create the cartoon Mustard and Baloney. After being well-received on GoComics.com, they released a paperback collection in 2014 titled Definitely. Out to Lunch. The two went on to release a second collection called Butt Seriously.
After years of working together, Rouillard moved on to other projects and Caulfield sought out a new illustrator. He was introduced to Brian Ponshock who instantly ‘got ’Caulfield’s sense of humour. They co-created a new cartoon titled Yaffle, named so after the English green woodpecker known for its unique laugh-like call. Their Yaffle is hidden in each cartoon panel in a “Where’s Waldo-Esque” hidden challenge.
“We like to layer each panel so there’s a lot going on in it to further enhance the joke, rather than just the punchline,” he says. “It’s like a tapestry. You want to weave it all together and make it be a full quilt for people to keep them nice and warm and entertained.”
It’s a gift for Caulfield when he sees someone reading one of his books. “At least for that moment, they are out of the realm of what they were thinking. People need something to put a smile on their faces. During difficult times, like during COVID, now more than ever, that’s what people need. I think that’s important, to be able to help people in that way.”
Caulfield gets his inspiration from the everyday life around him. “When I’m out wandering around or driving I might see a sign and, for some reason, my brain just takes what I see and it flips it all over the place.” Once home, Caulfield fleshes out the idea and sends it to Ponshock via Dropbox, who then uses his interpretation of the joke to add imagery to the piece.
This collaborative, yet remote way of working has allowed Caulfield and Ponshock to continue their work on Yaffle throughout the past year. “For us, the pandemic hasn’t really affected anything. I’m usually in the house a lot anyway,” he laughs. “Other than [the lack of] trade shows and festivals, it has not had any adverse effect on what we do. After the back and forth between Brian and I, it’s done. And then I just load them up online.” Caulfield plans to release Yaffle in paperback in the near future. For now, find it at gocomics.com/yaffle
This article was originally published in the Summer 2021 issue of Umbrella magazine.