Thursday, March 16, 2017


Ink-Slinger Profiles by Alex Jay: John Sunley

John J. Sunley was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on November 26, 1915. His birthplace was determined from census records and birth date was from the Social Security Death Index.

In the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, Sunley was the sixth of seven children born to William, an electrician, and Elizabeth. The family resided at 5617 Whittier Avenue in Cleveland.

The Sunleys’ address in the 1930 and 1940 censuses was 1692 Wayside Road.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer (Ohio), April 12, 1932, announced the winners of the Tarzan coloring contest. Sunley won a pair of tickets to see Tarzan, the Ape Man.

The Plain Dealer, June 5, 1938 and June 4, 1939, reported the May Show at the Cleveland Museum of Art and mentioned Sunley’s freehand drawing.

According to the 1940 census, Sunley, an artist, and his oldest brother, William, a comic writer, worked for a weekly newspaper.

Link, the Cleveland Institute of Art Magazine, Summer 1983, published highlights of Sunley’s art career based on his letter (see page 11). He was in the museum’s class of 1939 and earned “a living as newspaper illustrator and cartoonist, as staff artist at Newspaper Enterprise Association in Cleveland, and as free-lancer for the Akron Beacon.” He served in the Air Force during World War II.

El Reno Daily Tribune 8/18/1941

El Reno Daily Tribune 8/19/1941

Two more samples of Sunley’s art are here and here.

American Newspaper Comics (2012) said Sunley produced the first two strips of the NEA’s Ticklers, dated June 30 and July 7, 1941. He was followed by Bob Moyer, Bill Arnold, Bob Moyer (again), William Hayes, and George Scarbo. Sunley also did the close-end series The Easter Story, from April 3 to 8, 1950, also for NEA.

In 1951 Sunley moved to Buffalo, New York, where he worked as editorial staff artist on the Buffalo News. He retired early in 1978. Sunley continued work as a freelance courtroom sketch artist for television.

According to the Guild Reporter, June 12, 1958, Sunley was one of several artists to receive a trophy at the Buffalo Newspaper Guild annual Page One Ball.

The Buffalo Courier Express, October 20, 1959, said Sunley was elected to active membership in the Fine Arts League. Sunley’s prize was reported in the Courier Express, September 12, 1960, “John J. Sunley, 139 Doat St., received a first prize gold medal for a boy and dog portrait ‘Chris and Lassie.’”

Sunley passed away March 7, 1993, in Buffalo. His death was reported the following day in the News. Sunley’s wife, Ellen, passed away March 25, 2014.

—Alex Jay


John and Ellen Sunley were my grandparents. I have a lot of my Grandad's newspapers art and courtroom sketches, if there is any interest in adding more of his work to this site.
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