Jeff Pert, a Brunswick cartoonist known for humanizing lobsters and moose with edgy humor, died unexpectedly Friday. He was 55.
Born in Bath and raised in Winslow, Pert was a successful cartoonist whose work appeared in books and magazines and was sold in gift shops from Maine to the Caribbean.
His cartoon “How’s the water, Bob?” depicting a frantic lobster headed for the stockpot, was among his most popular sketches.
“His cartoons are really part of the Maine brand. I see them in diners and gift shops all along 95,” said Mike Lynch, a fellow cartoonist and friend who lives in New Hampshire. “That’s thanks to the high demand and appeal of those cartoons.”
He did not eat seafood, his brother Jonathan Pert said, but illustrated endless crustaceans in compromising positions.
As a boy he “was always doodling and drawing,” Jonathan said. “He never took anything too seriously. As you can imagine, he found humor in most anything.”
Even his last minutes on earth.
Jeff was dining out with a friend at Local Sprouts Cafe in Portland when he started to experience chest pains. “He said, ‘Maybe we should go to the hospital,’ and he was joking in the car,” said Jonathan. “He was being the humorous, sarcastic Jeff to the very end.”
He passed out on the way to the hospital, said Jonathan, and never recovered.
As news spread through the Maine comics scene Monday, many recalled Pert as a vintage cartoonist whose style could be identified across a crowded gift shop.
“I’m still a little in shock,” said Rick Lowell, owner of Casablanca Comics in Portland, who knew Pert for 20 years. He considered him both a friend and business associate.
“His work is so recognizable. I’ve traveled the East Coast down to Florida, walk into gift shops and see his work everywhere,” said Lowell. “He has a niche for the type of cartoons he was doing.”
Lowell carried Pert’s book, “Cartoons From Maine: How’s the Water, Bob?” published by Down East Books, and said it was a top seller last year. At Pert’s book signing, the line was out the door. “He was overwhelmed by how many people showed up,” Lowell recalled.
Pert studied English at the University of Maine at Augusta before attending Emerson College in Boston, where he graduated with a bachelor of fine arts in Mass Communication, according to his obituary.
Even though he studied out of state and lived briefly in California, he referred to himself as “a Maine (born and breaded, like a clam) cartoonist.”
Pert was “always willing to help out” a friend or family member, his brother said, and was equally generous with young cartoonists.
He mentored aspiring artists and held workshops to teach people how to draw, said Lowell. He was a palpable presence at the Maine Comics Art Festival and will be missed at the event next month in Portland.
“He was a big cheerleader to younger artists in the state. He would give advice and they took his advice to heart,” said Lowell.
Though technically competitors, Lynch said Pert, like all cartoonists, was one of “the nicest people. We help each other out, talk about professional contacts. That’s the way it is.”
Though he won’t be creating any more moose musings, his jovial spirit lives on.
“It’s his appeal and sense of humor and cartoon style that will draw people forever to his work,” said Lynch.
Visiting hours will be from 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 9, at David E. Desmond and Son Funeral Home, 638 High St., Bath.