Don Bousquet, who turned 67 this St. Patrick’s Day, was born in Pawtucket, but his parents moved the family to South County where they both worked at the University of Rhode Island. One of seven children, Don attended Chariho High School where he met his wife, Laura. He went on to the University of Rhode Island to study anthropology.
When asked how he knew he had a talent for cartoons, he recalls a story of an incident in Spanish class at Chariho High when he was egged-on by other students to draw a caricature of the teacher on the blackboard. He took the challenge, and was sent to the principal’s office for discipline. However, both the teacher and the principal were amused and impressed, so Bousquet later did caricatures of teachers and administrators for the Chariho yearbook. His budding career as an illustrator was interrupted in 1968 when he was drafted. He served in the Navy not in Vietnam, but as a photographer based in Washington, DC. In that post, Don did airplane photography, a subject that suited his long-time interest in aviation.
After his discharge from the service, Don’s photographic experience earned him a job as a private investigator for the Pinkerton International Detective Agency. After a brief tenure with Pinkerton, Don took a position with a vocational resources company in Providence that found jobs for people with emotional challenges. At age 32, Don left this post to embark upon the career for which he seemed destined as a youth–that of cartoonist and illustrator.
Exercising customary initiative, he drove to the Newport headquarters of a new publication called Rhode Island Magazine and showed the editors some of his cartoons. They bought two of them and, thereafter, bought two every month. Don recalls that they paid $50 each for his art–not much, but it was a start. Before long his cartoons were running in the Westerly Sun, Narragansett Times, and the Providence Journal.
Don estimates that 60% of his work is about Rhode Island, but he was also featured in the prestigious Yankee Magazine for 25 years and his work has appeared in national publications, including Reader’s Digest. Don has also done commercial work for several local companies. He did his first collection of cartoons in 1982 and has now published more than 20 books, ranging from cartoon collections to his popular The Rhode Island Dictionary which he co-authored with Mark Patinkin in 1993.
Relying on his early experience as a Navy photographer, he started a business he called “Don Bousquet and Son Aerial Photography” in partnership with his son, Nathan. Much of their work is for real estate agents who use low altitude images to market their properties. In addition, Don and Nathan have taken about 200,000 aerials of Rhode Island landscapes and landmarks. This inventory is a treasure trove for future historical and ecological research about Rhode Island. Don ended his work with the Providence Journal last year to spend more time with his wife Laura, his sons Nate and Mike, and his granddaughter Norah. He may be winding down, but his pen and his eye are still sharp.