Toby Dugan


Earlier this week my wife and I hosted a couple for dinner, illustrator Toby Dugan and his wife Vonnie. Toby is a retired artist, evangelist, and magician and one of my wife’s long-time family friends. He was kind enough to bring his portfolio to my studio which was a real treat!

For much of his career Toby was a commercial artist on staff with Bethany Fellowship, a ministry here in the Minneapolis area that later grew to include Bethany House Publishers. Over the years he worked on both religious and secular projects but the income was always funneled back into the ministry.

For many years he was the organization’s lone artist, working in the pre-digital era when artwork was created with real pens and brushes on real paper. Mistakes were hard to fix (there was no “undo” button). Page layouts were done by hand with an exacto knife and rubber cement. Printing limitations often meant you could only use two or three colors for an entire illustration. Artwork had to be separated for printing which meant drawing different parts of the illustration on different sheets of paper. How far we’ve come in the last twenty years!

Now in his eighties, a hand tremor has left Toby unable to draw like he used to but his mood is still bright. He is sharp as a tack and every bit the gentleman. We talked shop, he shared stories from his evangelist days doing “chalk talks” (preaching and drawing at the same time), and after dinner he entertained us at the table with some slight-of-hand magic.

Meeting Toby was inspiring. He is an example of a life well-lived. I have tremendous respect for Toby. My guess is that had he chosen a different path he could have made a lot more money and built a brighter career, but he had his priorities right and invested in the greater Good. That’s a good challenge for me to keep in mind as I build my career.

After dinner I asked Toby if I could scan some of his artwork to post here on the blog. Although the styles are dated (it was a different era) it’s fun stuff and I wanted to share it with my readers. It’s my little way of honoring him for what he’s done.

(All artwork is copyright © Bethany Fellowship. All rights reserved.)