RIP Roy Peterson
Across Canada, throughout the U.S., and around the world cartoonists are today coming to grips with the sad and sudden news of the passing of one of our greats, Roy Peterson. For more than 45 years he held the position as editorial cartoonist at the Vancouver Sun, and many Canadians became familiar with his beautifully etched ink and sometimes colour caricatures which often graced covers of MacLean’s magazine, or illustrated columns written by Allan Fotheringham.
For many of us younger editorial cartoonists Roy was more than just a mentor, he was the draftsman of such an unattainable skill he made monkeys of us, enticing wannabes like me to trace his work and still not getting the nuances right. For any kid inspired by Roy’s work the mandatory medium of editorial cartooning in the 70’s and 80’s was pen and ink cross-hatching, which, following in the steps of Duncan MacPherson, was made a standard for several present day cartoonists thanks to cross-hatching giants like Roy Peterson, Terry Mosher, and John Larter.
Growing up in Hamilton my main inspiration naturally came from the local cartoonist at the daily newspaper, and throughout those years that guy was Blaine, who passed away just last year. If Blaine’s cartoons were the inspiration for taking up the brush, Roy Peterson’s work was a prime motivator of not just adding 3-D depth to ink line drawings, but employing really nicely exaggerated and convincing facial features without going overboard.
I have since given up the cross-hatching technique but I will always be a huge admirer of the medium. I told Roy a few years ago at a cartoonist convention that I had to give it up because it was causing my eyes to get bloodshot after a days’ work and I was afraid if I kept doing it I’d become permanently cross eyed. He pointed at his own medical condition which caused his right eye lid to appear droopy in his later life as a good reason not to keep cross-hatching, a comment to which brought us both to laughter.
Tim Dolighan, a fellow 40 something cartoonist based in Oshawa who draws for the Sun chain once said that we Canadians can go down to American editorial cartoonist conventions and never get the time and day given to us from some of the puffed up Pulitizer prize winning cartoonists that show up at gatherings down there but we could always trust our Roy would happily sit among us regaling us with great stories of the past and chortling along with the antics of the present. Ten snooty Pulitzer prize cartoonists could never be match to our Order of Canada winning Roy Peterson.
Since his rather abrupt, disrespectful and unceremonious boot from the Vancouver Sun a few years back a few conventions have come and gone without Roy’s attendance. His decline in his health was no doubt hastened by the thoughtless bean counters who obviously put more effort into cutting the talent than realizing the folks like Roy were truly responsible for maintaining admiring subscribers. It’s this kind of treatment along with the ruthless chopping of other great cartoonists in this country that keeps the rest of us doodlers still lucky to be employed wondering when the next axe will fall and on whose neck it will hit – but I digress.
Roy Peterson leaves this world with a solid reputation as one of the great masters of editorial cartooning in Canada. His catalogue of work is his legacy, along with fond memories of a great and gentle soul, surely to endure in the minds of many who will continue to be inspired by him for generations to come.