Local Cartoonist, Dill Beaty, Illustrates Politics
Inspired by Art
Beaty dons his alter ego, Captain Dill Pickle. This uniform makes its appearance when he reads to children at the Destin library.
Dill Beaty’s life and career has taken him from the Christian music scene in Nashville, Tennessee, to political cartooning in Destin, Florida, with stops in between in San Francisco and Monterey, California.
Beaty grew up near the Cumberland Plateau in eastern Tennessee, where his father, who was also a bluegrass musician, served as a highway patrolman and owned a Western Auto Supply store.
Overlooking the Destin Harbor, the 77-year-old admits he had no idea where his life would take him after high school — a time which he says reminds him of an episode of “Happy Days.”
“My mother had seen an ad in the newspaper for an art school in Nashville, so I went there and studied commercial art for four-and-a-half years,” he says. “I had always had a penchant for drawing and was told I had a modicum of talent.”
His studies ultimately took him to Italy for a semester, where he and his classmates studied during the day and took weekend trips to explore the art galleries and museums in Rome, Paris, Florence and Amsterdam. His travels exposed him to a variety of philosophies, writers, religions, artists and composers.
“This was a period of great influence in my life,” he recalls. “Travel is a good education.”
Travel would end up being a theme in Beaty’s life: After art school, he and a college buddy packed their bags into a VW Bus they bought for $600 and headed to San Francisco, where they lived in a cheap hotel and survived off of peanut butter and bread.
As time passed, the crowds changed and the drug scene took over. Beaty, who had married, decided it was time for change, too. “Too many people went there for the wrong reasons,” he says. “It became an unsavory place to live.”
Enter Monterey, where Beaty worked in a factory making carpets for automobiles during the day, then drove to Carmel at night to work in a theater. As had happened in San Francisco, Monterey began to change. It became a tourist mecca, Beaty says, so he and his wife decided to head back to the Volunteer state, where he began to work in the Christian music industry.
“You might say we were like the early explorers of Spain,” Beaty says. “We had come to find these new places in the New World, then everyone else followed.”
The time came when Beaty considered moving from Tennessee to the Gulf Coast. Before making the move, he asked some friends who lived in Destin if they thought the community would morph into a tourist destination like Panama City Beach, where he had previously visited. He was assured that it wouldn’t happen.
Well, Destin has certainly changed since Beaty first moved there, and it has become a tourism hotspot. But tourists are a little easier to live with when you also live in paradise.
For more than a decade, Beaty has shared his unique take on the local political landscape in the pages of The Destin Log. As the paper’s cartoonist, Beaty has created more than 1,100 cartoons. His work has earned him honors from the Florida Press Association.
“Over the years, I’ve maybe had, like, three to four ideas rejected,” Beaty says.
While Beaty has had quite a bit of creative freedom, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t ruffled a few feathers over the years.
“At the time when Destin Commons was expanding, they changed the name of the street that’s now Danny Wuerfuell Way, and when they did that, I did a cartoon about that scene with construction and all. I had a road sign that was prominent, and it read ‘Danny Awful Way,’” Beaty says. “A letter of complaint was sent to the editor of the paper.”
Fortunately, aside from that one experience, Beaty’s career in cartooning has been smooth sailing.
While he is definitely an artist, Beaty is also an appreciator of the arts. In particular, he enjoys reading. “Books are like old friends to me,” he says. He has shared his love of reading with his four children and eight grandchildren; but he also shared it with visitors to the Destin library when he donned a conductor’s uniform — inspired by the classic children’s book, “The Polar Express” — and became the special storytime guest, “Captain Dill Pickle.”
With more than seven decades of life behind him, Beaty says he strives to never stop learning, reading or having a good time — which is why he’ll commonly sign off from emails with “Pazzo Beaty.” Pazzo can be translated to mean “crazy,” in Italian.
As for his life, Beaty can sum it up simply by borrowing a line from the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia: “It’s been a long, strange trip.”
You can view Beaty’s creative and hand drawn interpretations of daily life in Destin, ranging from fishing to politics, in The Destin Log newspaper and online.