Highlights magazine showcases Chuck Dillon’s art of block party in Philly


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Growing up in the Tacony section of Philadelphia, Chuck Dillon’s family didn’t have much money, so the only time he got to read Strong points children’s magazine was in the library or in the waiting room of her doctor’s office.

“It was always very frustrating when someone had already completed the hidden images,” he said.

But now Dillon, 47, is the one drawing the pictures for Strong points, and his latest illustration of a Philly block party for the magazine’s August issue delivers a heavy dose of nostalgia to anyone who’s ever leafed through Strong points’ pages like a child.

Dillon’s drawing, based on a real Tacony street, appears on the back cover of the issue under the title “What’s Wrong?” feature, which is a silly drawing that challenges kids to find all the things that are out of place.

No, Dillon’s illustration does not show people swimming in a garbage pool or children running through an open fire hydrant, which are some of the playful criticisms he has heard from a few Philadelphians before. .

“Someone said I didn’t have enough garbage on the floor,” he said.

Dillon must remind people that Strong points – now in its 74th year – is a children’s magazine and the publication doesn’t want to portray someone behaving inappropriately.

“If I have something crazy that I want to do, I usually have a squirrel that does it, but a small squirrel bin pool would have been very confusing,” he said.

But there are a few Philly references hidden in the illustration. In almost all of his drawings, Dillon tries to hide the word Tacony somewhere inside, to scream at the neighborhood where he grew up. It usually includes a “V” somewhere too, like a nod to Vogt Park, where he spent a lot of time as a boy, and his 10-year-old daughter, Virginia, who reads Strong points magazine.

The frame for Dillon’s illustration is based on an actual location – an alley in the 7000 block of Marsden Street – where his childhood friend lived and where they played Wiffle ball while growing up.

The drawing actually started out as a Wiffle ball game, Dillon said, but his editor at Strong points suggested that she do a block party instead.

Patrick Verdâtre, Strong points’ design director, said he chose Dillon for the piece because the “What’s Wrong” feature requires depth, detail and humor.

“Chuck delivers them consistently,” he said. “We also know he loves Philly, and I think he really captured the vibe of an urban community perfectly.”

For Dillon, who has created more than 250 illustrations for Highlights – including more than 100 Hidden Pictures – portraying city scenes in children’s publications is important.

“What I noticed about Strong points and other children’s magazines, a lot of what they do is in the suburbs, ”he said. “But I love the city, so about 90% of my stuff I try to keep it in an urban setting, with a lot of it based in downtown Philadelphia or Tacony.”

As the youngest of four children who grew up in a three-bedroom townhouse, Dillon didn’t have much, but every now and then his mother would bring home a ream of paper that he and his brothers had on them. and sisters drew for hours.

After graduating from Father Judge High School in 1991, Dillon attended the Hussian School of Art (now Hussian College) in Center City. During that time, he had several big breaks, including a weekly comic he called “The Inside Dirt,” which appeared in a now-defunct teenage section of the. Philadelphia Daily News.

When an editor of Strong points came to visit Hussian, Dillon showed him his portfolio and he got his first job, doing five pages of illustrations for the magazine.

In 2000, Dillon began teaching Hussian figure construction, Photoshop, and character design. Around the same time, he also began working in the Philadelphia Zoo Volunteer Office.

“One day I had to go to the art department at the zoo and brought some of my drawings with me,” he said. “They gave me a drawing job of 150 bugs or something. It was a big break.

As Dillon was drawing cartoons for zoo visitors on a hot August day in 2002, a woman approached with her two grandchildren. She noticed that, frankly, he looked rather miserable, but she pointed out that at least he was starting to draw. The woman started talking about some cartoonists she knew and pointed to the Peanuts clock on the Dillon easel.

“She said ‘My husband created it.’ It was the wife of Charles Schulz, the first lady of the cartoon! said Dillon. “She put her hand on my shoulder and said ‘Take care of your gift.’ “

And he did.

For the past six years, Dillon has worked strictly as an illustrator, primarily for children’s publications, although he also works with other artists on an adult research and research book.

Three years ago, Dillon and his family moved for his wife’s work in the pharmaceutical industry to Dunstable, Mass., Just north of Boston, but his heart remains firmly anchored in Philadelphia, as evidenced by his latest work.

Dillon even included himself in the play as a child. It’s the young boy in the lower right, drawing on the sidewalk in chalk, taking care of his gift.

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Amanda P. Whitten

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