Matt Bartone holds up the two editorial cartoons that won him the Buffalo News contest and New York Press Association award.
Doodling in class can land most students in detention, but for Matt Bartone, it jump-started his artistic career.
“I have always been artistic, I like drawing pictures for my friends,” said the Frontier student.
When Bartone’s seventh-grade English teacher Amber Chandler noticed him drawing during her class, instead of reprimanding him, she encouraged Bartone to enter The Buffalo News’ annual editorial cartoon contest.
“I won the overall contest,” said Bartone, who submitted a cartoon poking fun at how, after much vacillation, Bass Pro Shops never moved into Buffalo’s Memorial Auditorium.
“It felt great to win,” he said, adding that he was both honored and humbled to have been chosen when the contest was open to students as old as 18.
Yet Amber Chandler saw in Bartone a potential to compose cartoons on a professional level.
“He is a really great kid - really smart and really motivated,” she said. Amber added that Bartone excels at both drawing and having a keen sense of what is topical and ironic. “He has the total package,” she said.
Amber took the cartoons home to her husband, Matt, the associate editor of the Buffalo Law Journal. He was immediately impressed by Bartone’s work.
“The very first cartoons he sent me were excellent from the beginning,” said Matt Chandler, who took on Bartone as an intern for the legal newspaper. At only 14, Bartone was responsible for weekly editorial cartoons seen by thousands of people.
“His ability to convey current events, legal issues and hard news is remarkable, especially at such a young age,” said Matt Chandler, who added that many Buffalo Law Journal readers have provided positive feedback on Bartone’s work.
Bartone, now 15 and entering his sophomore year at Frontier High School, said he is mainly responsible for generating ideas for his cartoons.
“I’ll come up with my own, and if there are no big news topics, I will come up with a fun cartoon about sports or a joke,” he said. “The actual drawing takes me about an hour and a half, but I will spend all day thinking of maybe five ideas and I will pick the best one. It takes a while, it’s a lot of thinking.”
Bartone said that the internship experience has helped him gain a better perspective on his community and current events.
“I pay attention more now,” he said, adding that the experience has made him more responsible and caused him to do better in school.
He has seen much improvement in his drawing ability as well.
“I’ve grown, I have become more detailed,” said Bartone, who added his shading and cross-hatching have dramatically improved.
Some of his favorite work include the cartoons he drew about the plans for the Buffalo waterfront, the jury for the Dr. James Corasanti trial and school bullying.
This spring, Bartone’s editorial cartoon commenting on the controversial issue of hydrofracking earned him a prestigious New York Press Association award.
“I didn’t expect that at all,” said Bartone, smiling widely. “I get a lot of good feedback. My dad always likes to brag, ‘My son is the cartoonist for the Buffalo Law Journal and he’s 14!’”
Still Bartone does not let his success get the better of him. He is grateful to the people, including Amber Chandler, who have helped him get to where he is today.
“She has helped me a lot. I have to thank her for that,” he said. “There has been a lot of people that have helped push me on.”