This special exhibition celebrates the work of artist Jim Petrie, who died in 2014. A former student of Dundee College of Art (now Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design) and Dundee Training College (now the University’s School of Education, Social Work & Community Education), Jim later became a popular art teacher at Kirkton High School but is best known as the man who drew the "world's wildest tomboy" Minnie the Minx for 40 years in DC Thomson's famous comic The Beano.
The exhibition includes many of his classic Minnie artworks along with other examples of his comics art and some of Jim's paintings and drawings, revealing the full range of his artistic talents. The show has been created with the assistance of Jim's family and DC Thomson & Co Ltd.
Image of Minnie the Minx (left) copyright DC Thomson & Co Ltd
Jim Petrie (1932-2014)
The son of a weaver and a lorry driver, Jim Petrie was born in Kirriemuir on 2 June 1932. He attended school at Webster’s Seminary before enrolling at Dundee College of Art in 1950. One of his fellow students was the architectural historian David M Walker, who recalls: “As a student he was quiet and reserved, always smartly dressed. He was a most excellent figure draughtsman and his painting had a quiet distinction in low-key colour.”
Petrie went on to train as an art teacher at Dundee Training College, taking up his first post at Coatbridge. In 1961 he returned to Dundee to teach at the new Kirkton High School (now Baldragon Academy). He was introduced to comics publishers DC Thomson by artist Bob McGrath, who drew strips for The Beano and who had been at the Art College two years below Petrie. His first ‘Minnie the Minx’ strip was published in June 1961 and he became her regular artist the following year.
One of his pupils at Kirkton High was the photographer and illustrator Rikki O‘Neill. “I had the great honour of having Jim as one of my art teachers,” he recalls. “Often when the class were sketching, perhaps a still life, Jim would be at his desk preparing one of his many Minnie pages. Jim knew I was fascinated by cartoon illustration and through him I managed to get a career-building opportunity in the art department of D C Thomson. It was his influence that set me on the road to a very successful career in illustration.”
Petrie gave up teaching after ten years to work full-time as a freelance artist. Over the next 40 years Petrie would illustrate many other DC Thomson strips including ‘Says Smiffy’ and ’Fatty Fudge’ for The Beano, ‘The Sparky People’ for Sparky, ‘Freddie Stare’ for The Topper, ‘Sneaker’ for The Dandy and ‘Charli’ for Hoot. He also worked for rival publishers IPC on ‘The Incredible Sulk’ for Jackpot, ‘Softy Sir’ for School Fun and ‘The Cavers’ for Whoopee.
Comics artist and blogger Lew Stringer has written: “Jim Petrie's pages were always a pleasure to behold. The body language of his characters kept the strips alive and entertaining. Whether drawing slapstick scenes or quieter moments, Jim handled it like a true master.”
Craig Ferguson, who wrote scripts for ‘Minnie the Minx’ and ‘Fatty Fudge’, later recalled his work with Petrie as “one of the highlights of my working life. Jim is a supremely talented guy and one of the nicest people it has been my good fortune to meet.”
Petrie retired in 2001 after completing his 2000th ‘Minnie the Minx’ strip. He had never given up painting and was now able to devote more time to this, exhibiting regularly at the Dundee Art Society. As well as colourful paintings of fruit, he also created surreal ‘dreamscapes’ with floating figures, inspired by his experiences hand-gliding.
He was persuaded to return to The Beano on a few final occasions, the last being a ‘Fatty Fudge’ strip in 2011. He died on 25 August 2014 aged 82.
You can hear an oral history interview with Jim Petrie on the University Archives' comics page.
Minnie the Minx
Described as “the world’s wildest tomboy”, Minnie first appeared in The Beano in 1953, drawn by Leo Baxendale. Acting as a female counterpart to Dennis the Menace, she may also have been inspired by the popularity of Beryl the Peril in another DC Thomson comic, The Topper.
Petrie’s first Minnie the Minx strip was published in June 1961, acting as a temporary stand-in for Baxendale and ‘ghosting’ his style. When Baxendale left DC Thomson in 1962, Petrie took over as the strip’s regular artist, and soon developed a distinctive style of his own.
The strip grew in popularity under Petrie’s hand, moving to two pages and then eventually into full colour. New characters were introduced including Minnie’s cat Chester and arch-rival Fatty Fudge, both of whom later appeared in their own spin-off strips.
In January 2001 Petrie retired after completing his 2000th weekly strip. He also claimed to have drawn Minnie stories for 40 annuals, 35 summer specials and 7 Beano Comic Libraries. Speaking to the press on his retirement he said “Little Minnie has been very good to me. She has kept me in porridge all these years."
Tom Paterson took over as Minnie’s regular artist, and the strip has been drawn by various others since then including Ken Harrison and (currently) Nigel Parkinson. In 2001, the same year that Petrie retired, a statue of Minnie was erected alongside Desperate Dan in Dundee city centre.