By THERESA WINSLOW
The Capital of Annapolis

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Even the mundane can mean business for Jim Hunt.

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Take a visit to the MVA. While he was there, he spotted some brochures he thought would look a whole lot better with some of his illustrations. The Annapolis resident made a few inquiries, and it led to some work on internal publications.

Or channel surfing. He paused the remote one day and noticed a cable show was using canned images. He sent off some information to the host and the next thing he knew, some of his political cartoons were in a new book. Dylan Ratigan’s “Greedy Bastards: How We Can Stop Corporate Communists, Banksters, and Other Vampires from Sucking America Dry” came out in January.

“I look at everything and see opportunity for illustrations,” Hunt said. When he first started out more than 20 years ago, other illustrators told him to vary his style. But Hunt didn’t feel right with that approach and varied his clientele instead. “What I’ve found is that you can’t follow a formula,” he said.

His cartoon cottage industry has come to include illustrations for textbooks, coloring books, children’s books, television shows and commercials, maps, federal and state government publications, T-shirts, restaurants, editorial pages, trade magazines, humor magazines, puzzles, candy dispensers and greeting cards.

He’s also created crowd scenes for various businesses and corporations, including Google.

“There’s so much to look at,” said Sheri Finn, owner of Country Road Cafe in Colorado, a client. “He did a fabulous job for us.”

About four years ago, Hunt expanded into yet another area, “save the date” wedding maps showing the locations of various festivities. Amy Udani of Los Angeles, who got married in Dubai earlier this year, heard about Hunt through a wedding blog and hired him to do a map and a comic strip.

“Just one email from me with a few details about our wedding plans and he brought our destination wedding to life!” Udani wrote. “Besides his illustrations, Jim is a warm person, very easy to work with and absolutely brilliant.”

Animated existence

Hunt went to art school, but his degree is in art education, not cartooning. His biggest influences have been Chuck Jones of “Looney Tunes” fame and “Calvin and Hobbes,” which was created by Bill Watterson.

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“I’m still doing what I did in elementary school,” Hunt said, “just doodling.” But there’s always purpose behind the pencil.

Hunt’s sustained his career because he spends as much time marketing as he does drawing. He used to mail out flyers to spread the word about his work, but now he’s tied in to social media.

“Like many jobs, half is talent and style, half is professionalism,” he said. “Reputation is everything.”

When the recession cut into one area of work, such as trade publications, another picked up for the 50-year-old married father of two.

“It’s tough out there,” said Stephanie Armstrong of Raleigh, N.C., art director for two construction industry magazines which have used Hunt’s illustrations. “Other freelance illustrators know how to draw, but they don’t know the business. People could take notes from him.”

Hunt typically creates a sketch in pencil, then inks it with felt-tip markers before finishing in watercolors. Prices vary widely depending on the cartoon and how it’s used. Wedding maps average $385, while a crowd scene might run $1,000 to $3,000.

“I love his stuff,” said Joe McGovern, one of the owners of Stan and Joe’s Saloon in Annapolis, for which Hunt has done a lot of art work. “It’s fun and there’s a humor in it, even without a punchline.”

Hunt’s office is filled with plenty of art supplies, but also an eclectic mix of hockey memorabilia, old metal lunch boxes, a movie poster for “Pulp Fiction,” and panels of Wacky Packages, stickers which parody household products. Hunt’s cartoon bucket list includes having his work featured on Wacky Packages, something he’s working on, and in MAD magazine, which he already accomplished.

Although he approaches cartooning like a job, it’s never felt like one. “I just feel like the luckiest guy in the world,” he said.

Hunt wants his legacy to be reflected both in how he’s dealt with people and the work he’s created. “I like very much that the work is recognized,” he said, “and that my work makes people smile.”

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(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)