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Capturing Cambria compiles a selection of Arthur Van Rhyn's cartoons published in The Cambrian between 1991 and 2020 

click to enlarge RENAISSANCE MAN Painter, sculptor, house builder, civil engineer, cartoonist, and airplane builder Arthur Van Rhyn (right) stands with friend and pilot Gordon Heinrichs in front of Legal Eagle, the single-person aircraft he built, which he donated to the local Experimental Aircraft Association chapter.

Courtesy Photos By Christine Heinrichs

RENAISSANCE MAN Painter, sculptor, house builder, civil engineer, cartoonist, and airplane builder Arthur Van Rhyn (right) stands with friend and pilot Gordon Heinrichs in front of Legal Eagle, the single-person aircraft he built, which he donated to the local Experimental Aircraft Association chapter.

For almost 30 years, Renaissance man Arthur Van Rhyn aimed his acerbic wit at all things Cambria, generating a weekly cartoon for The Cambrian weekly newspaper. Now 150 of those cartoons have been compiled into a book, Capturing Cambria: One Artist, One Town, A Partnership in Paradise.

Van Rhyn retired from cartooning in 2020 at the age of 90, but Cambrian columnist Christine Heinrichs took on the job of collecting and preserving the more than 1,100 comics, which were snapped up by the Cambria Historical Society for its permanent collection. Heinrichs also curated the selections for the book and wrote the accompanying text, which gives context to the various single-panel cartoons.

click to enlarge CAMBRIA TOURIST For almost 30 years, Arthur Van Rhyn offered his wry view of Cambria, the place he's called home since 1983, in weekly comics published in The Cambrian. - CARTOON IMAGES COURTESY OF ARTHUR VAN RHYN
  • Cartoon Images Courtesy Of Arthur Van Rhyn
  • CAMBRIA TOURIST For almost 30 years, Arthur Van Rhyn offered his wry view of Cambria, the place he's called home since 1983, in weekly comics published in The Cambrian.

"His cartoons were eagerly anticipated by locals for their skewering of local misadventures and human foibles," Heinrichs explained. "Cambria has plenty of material! He's over 90 years old now, and when I heard he had no future for the cartoons, I stepped in. I spent about two years on this. I organized the cartoons—put each one in a plastic sleeve and organized them in binders—and wrote the text. Those binders take up about 6 feet of shelf space available for future collections. The cartoons span national as well as local issues, so future collections could be organized around other subjects."

During a phone call with Van Rhyn, an important issue was settled once and for all. Is it CAM-bria or CAME-bria?

"CAM-bria," he exclaimed. "There's no 'E' in Cambria."

He built and designed his own house and studio, built and designed an airplane; he's a painter, sculptor, and civil engineer; and he's created more 1,100 astute political cartoons. Mr. Van Rhyn, please tell us something you're bad at.

click to enlarge SAFETY NOT GUARENTEED Legal Eagle was designed and built by Arthur Van Rhyn, as was his Cambria house and studio where he still lives and works. - COURTESY PHOTOS BY CHRISTINE HEINRICHS
  • Courtesy Photos By Christine Heinrichs
  • SAFETY NOT GUARENTEED Legal Eagle was designed and built by Arthur Van Rhyn, as was his Cambria house and studio where he still lives and works.

"Oh, I'm bad at so many things. Thankfully, I'm blessed with the ability to laugh at myself," he said.

Have his political cartoons ever brought him grief from his fellow Cambrians?

"Oh, a few times, yeah," Van Rhyn said. "You can't poke fun at somebody without them getting back at you. One or two got a little virulent. After one particularly nasty one, I followed up with a blank panel, under which was written, 'In which the cartoonist, in his never-ending search for humor in the human condition, achieves a work that does not offend anyone on the basis of race, religion, ethics, politics, morals, or individual rights.'"

click to enlarge IN WHICH HOMETOWN PRIDE IS IMPORTANT Many of Van Rhyn's comics, some of which were cooked up on deadline day, skewer Cambria's sleepy reputation where people drive at glacial speeds and tourists wander aimlessly in the streets. - CARTOON IMAGES COURTESY OF ARTHUR VAN RHYN
  • Cartoon Images Courtesy Of Arthur Van Rhyn
  • IN WHICH HOMETOWN PRIDE IS IMPORTANT Many of Van Rhyn's comics, some of which were cooked up on deadline day, skewer Cambria's sleepy reputation where people drive at glacial speeds and tourists wander aimlessly in the streets.

Is his gallery still open and is he still making art?

"I haven't done a damn thing in a year because of this pandemic, but I'm leaning back in that direction," Van Rhyn said. "We've all got our shots, or many of us have, and my gallery is only open on the weekends. My hours are 11 a.m. till boredom."

At this point in his life, Van Rhyn could live anywhere. What keeps him in Cambria?

"Because it's Cambria! I'm here on the beach with the best view in world," he said. "The weather is exactly what I want: It's one thing in the morning and something else in the afternoon." Δ

Contact Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.

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