Over the past few days I gathered in Sacramento with editorial cartoonist colleagues at the annual conference of the AAEC (Association of American Editorial Cartoonists.) How wonderful it was to get together with old friends and make new ones.
Beyond the collegial atmosphere found in the cocktail lounges, there was a packed schedule of presentations from across the editorial cartoon spectrum. Our friends in New Zealand were in full force led by Kiwi powerhouse Sharon Murdoch, and backed up by Rod Emmerson, Nigel Buchanan, and Toby Morris.
I turned 50 during the convention, and was presented this wonderful caricature drawn by the great Brian Gable of the Globe & Mail. It was followed by a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday by convention attendees!
We Canadians took to the podium, first by our godfather, Terry Mosher AKA Aislin, who extolled the virtues of the slate of Canuck cartoonists and our perspectives of the U.S.A. satirizing in the era of Donald Trump.
Yours truly, alongside ACC (Association of Canadian Cartoonists) President Wes Tyrell, presented a short documentary praising the importance of local cartoons. We included a slideshow featuring the need for regional cartoons, and as an example, the recent repeal of the sex-ed curriculum in Ontario was highlighted.
Another highlight was a presentation entitled, “Evil Editors & Pandering Publishers”, by Rob Rogers, formerly of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The 25 year veteran of that newspaper was unceremoniously terminated after he refused to water down his criticism of the Trump administration. A series of his cartoons were spiked by editors leading to an ugly divorce and an insulting severance package. Rob, standing by his principles, has been suffering considerably, and while he knows the newspaper’s brand has received damage, he leaves many friends still working in the newsroom whom he wishes no ill-will.
A very emotional slide-show was presented by California graphic novel cartoonist Brian Fies who chronicled the tragedy of his home burning down during one of that state’s horrendous brush fires. “A Fire Story” is a compelling short documentary which won an Emmy Award. As Brian stated to our gathering, “it’s great to win an Emmy, but I’d rather have my old house back.”
Nicaraguan cartoonist Pedro Molina was presented with the Courage in Cartooning Award, on behalf of the CRNI (Cartoonists Rights Network International) by Malaysian editorial cartoonist Zunar. The Locher Award for aspiring editorial cartoonist went to the talented Charis Jackson Barrios of NYC. In recognition of those whose cartoons are rejected by editors, a competition ensues among members for the Golden Spike Award. This years’ recipient was Rob Rogers, for obvious reasons, and was awarded a giant golden spike. This year an inaugural award called “the Gable”, was issued by the ACC to an American cartoonist who embodies the most Canadian qualities in terms of world outlook. The 2018 recognition goes to Washington Post cartoonist Ann Telnaes.
The icing on the cake at the closing gala at this extraordinary convention was being awarded the 2018 George Townsend Award, or “Townsie”. Since 2015, the Association of Canadian Cartoonists has presented the George Townsend Award, named after the first Canadian cartoonist, to two members (one English, another French) of the association it deems to have created the best drawing of the year. I was presented this award for a cartoon I drew February 3, 2017, commenting on the saturation of news related to President Donald Trump. What a huge honour for which I am truly humbled.
Graeme MacKay and ACC President Wes Tyrell at the awards ceremony
Big thanks goes to my friend, and the host of this convention, Jack Ohman, the very talented editorial cartoonist at the Sacramento Bee (also the 2016 Pulitzer Prize winner!) Much of the pull to bring our Canadian bodies down to the California capital was due to his charm, but also to the dynamic enthusiasm of Canada’s Association President Wes Tyrell, whose leadership has energized our group in such difficult times facing our craft. A big tip of the hat goes to these two gentlemen, and we look forward to the next joint gathering of our two associations in Ottawa in 2020.
As conventions come and go it’s nice to take stock and review the highlights of such events. This past weekend’s gathering of the Association of Canadian Cartoonists in Toronto was packed full of great venues and intriguing discussions. Tip of the hat goes to Wes Tyrell, whose energy and passion fuelled the conference like no other before this. Here are some of the sights and delights of #ACC2016.
Gathering with cartoonists and willingly herding ourselves into classrooms should go quite counter to our very beings. Doubly amazing is the fact that even with a table full of Tim Horton’s coffee and baked items in the back of the classroom, nary a trouble maker abandoned themselves from the stimulating talks to linger around near the exit. During the Friday sessions we were updated by free expression champions CNRI Dan Murphy, crocodile Nik Kowsar, and No-Fly Shahid Mahmood. Preservation superhero Christian Vachon reported on the repatriation chronology of a hoard of Duncan MacPherson cartoons from an American college to the permanent collection of the McCord Gallery in Montreal. Robert LaFontaine extolled the virtues of Quebec’s 1001 Visage Caricature festival, which won over the crowd, and will play host to the next gathering of the ACC in 2018.
Beginning the Saturday morning session a passionate trio of fine art scholars, Josée Desforges, Julie-Anne Godin-Laverdiere, Nancy Perron Rogers, and Professor Dominic Hardy of UQAM dove into a facsinating presentation on Quebec illustration, and in particular, how art influences cartoons. One of the students recalled the time in 1965, when a Department Store donated to a Montreal shopping centre an exact replica of Michelangelo‘s Statue of David. There was a public outcry from some people, and a public debate ensued about the appropriateness of such a display of male nudity in a shopping plaza. Veteran Toronto cartoonist Mike Constable made a rare appearance and showed off some of his quirky digital animations. Philip Burke took to the stage after a slick short documentary of his life made its debut. The amazing Buffalo born illustrator whose art has graced Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and Time, to name a few answered a few questions in advance of his afternoon live painting at the Bedford Academy (see below). Ann Telnaes of the Washington Post and Jack (P-word) Ohman of the Sacromento Bee showed their work reflecting the state of U.S. politics with everything Donald Trump, and presented some of their animations. Jack’s very personal long form comic strip chronicled his dad’s final years and left many eyes in the room wet.
My little YouTube Movie “The Life of An Editorial Cartoonist” made this venue its world public premiere
And this delightful video by the wonderful and clever Dan Murphy, made its debut,
Zoomer Studios, Liberty Village
Friday afternoon was spent at Moses Znaimer‘s Zoomerplex in the west end where the topic of editorial cartoonists and the work that we do was featured for an upcoming issue. The show was moderated by Faith Goldy, peppered with the commentary of her sidekick, and longtime target of satire, Lord Conrad Black, Baron of Crossharbour. Pictured below at the Zoomer roundtable are L-R: Sue Dewar (Toronto Sun), Conrad Black, Terry Mosher (Montreal Gazette), Faith Goldy, Wes Tyrell (Zoomer Mag & ACC President), Michael de Adder (Halifax Chronicle Herald), Andy Donato (Toronto Sun), and Malcolm Mayes (Edmonton Journal). A game of musical chairs happened in-between ads when visiting U.S. cartoonists, Jack Ohman (Sacramento Bee), Kevin Kallaugher (Baltimore Sun), and Ann Telnaes (Washington Post) added their own take on politics to the south as the 2016 appears to be shaping up to be a Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump contest.
Royal Ontario Museum
Our Friday evening was spent at the big old building on University Avenue famous for its ancient mummies and Grecian urns. It began with a nicely attended public panel called Drawing the Line: Conversations on Press Freedoms. It included two of North America’s great editorial cartoonists, Canada’s Brian Gable of the Globe & Mail, and from the United States, Kevin (Kal) Kallaugher of the Baltimore Sun, and the Economist magazine. Both presented slide shows of their past cartoons and even gave the audience some how-to-draw lessons. Brian taught the gathering how to draw Justing Trudeau, Kevin meanwhile showed the amused crowd how to draw Donald Trump. The third panelist was Mohamed Fahmy who drew nothing, because he had to make a hasty exit, in order to catch a flight… the next morning. If he stayed around he could have joined convention attendees who made their way down the hall to the museum atrium which had been turned into a nightclub where music boomed and food and cocktails lubed the assembled partiers. The theme of the night was called “Punchline” and it featured a recurring show of our editorial cartoons projected on a wall opposite the Futalognkosaurus skeleton. See the short clip below to get a feel for this unique event.
For a sense of our evening entertainment here’s a YouTube clip filmed by Wes Tyrell from “Punchline” featuring the work of cartoonists
Philip Burke at the Bedford Academy
What a treat ACC convention attendees experienced when the the upstairs of the Bedford Academy of Yorkville became the venue for a Saturday afternoon show by Philip Burke who painted a spectacular portrait of Wes Tyrell. All the while, we downed pints and ate finger foods while Philip worked his magic and Wes had to sit very still, for 4 hours. This moment was the culmination of year long blossoming friendship by the two that all began because of a simple FB compliment Wes delivered to Philip after being dazzled by the works on exhibit at Buffalo’s Burchfield Penney Art Centre from April 10 – September 13, 2015. Philip’s a very kind soul and is the latest illustrator to associate himself with a group which was traditionally been made up of just editorial cartoonists. He joins other notables such as Anita Kunz, Barry Blitt, and Matt Diffee, as an effort to broaden our scope to involve more like-minded satire artists. All part of the reason we now call ourselves the ACC, formerly the ACEC, the Association of Canadian Editorial Cartoonists.
Encapsulating the afternoon here’s another YouTube clip by Nik Kowsar
The Bata Shoe Museum
The final evening of the Toronto convention was spent across from the Bloor Street hotel at the Bata Shoe Museum. There, Premier Kathleen Wynne and her partner Jane Rounthwaite joined in to celebrate the lifetime careers of Andy Donato, of the Toronto Sun, and Terry Mosher of the Montreal Gazette. Newspaper big wigs including Andrew Phillips, Lorrie Goldstein joined Post Media grand poobah Paul Godfrey to toast the combined 100 years worth of cartoon stardom. Wes Tyrell, on the eve of his being reappointed for a record 3rd term as Association President wore a splendid pac-man styled suit, which was warmly acknowledged by the Premier in her opening remarks. The occasion was also used to announce the 2016 winner of the ACC Townsie award. Dale Cummings won for his english language submissions, while Christian (Fleg) Daigle won for his French language entry. The final hours were spent trying on some of the wacky shoes and making the most of a tremendous convention. Hats off to Wes and the Toronto team for a great job. Now looking forward to Val David in 2018.
Photos courtesy of the following, Christian Vachon, Scott Burns, Tim Snyder, Wes Tyrell, Jennifer Jones, and Nik Kowsar. For more precise descriptions of each photo please visit this album on Graeme MacKay’s Flickr Account
The Toronto Sun sent a reporter to the Bata Shoe Museum reception. Here’s the text of their coverage:
Donato’s 50 years of work celebrated – even by premier
Veteran Toronto Sun cartoonist Andy Donato draws it the way he sees it.
In one of his memorable pieces, Donato drew Hamilton East voters with “butt heads” after the city re-elected then-beleaguered Liberal MP Sheila Copps in 1988.
The mayor of Steeltown threw a fit and immediately got on the horn with Postmedia’s CEO Paul Godfrey, who was publisher of the Toronto Sun at the time.
“He said, ‘Mr. Godfrey, it’s the mayor. Your paper with that guy Donato embarrassed us like never before. I know how many calls I’ve had. I know how many calls I’m getting. I want Donato fired and a pledge that you’ll never do that again to the people of Hamilton,’” Godfrey recalled Saturday night at the Bata Shoe Museum, where Donato was honoured for his 50 years of work.
When Godfrey and the mayor agreed to speak off the record, Godfrey asked if he thought the cartoon was funny.
“He basically said, ‘You promise you won’t tell anyone? I found it hilarious,’” he said, as Godfrey’s audience erupted in laughter. “I told him, ‘When you hang up, you tell your people you called me as the publisher of the newspaper and you demanded all those things. That will let you off the hook.’ He hung up. Two minutes later, he calls back. ‘When this fury does down, can I get your original?’”
The Association of Canadian Cartoonists honoured Donato, 79, and prolific Montreal cartoonist Terry Mosher by presenting them with personalized hockey jerseys.
“It’s a great honour,” Donato said at the awards ceremony. “I’m just kind of knocked out that the premier is here. I’ve been tough on her and she’s a delight. That’s the problem with this business is we attack these people. I’m still going to criticize her, but that’s part of the job.”
Donato said he is proud of the aforementioned Hamilton cartoon, but also the drawing of “The American Dream” in 1979, depicting the soldiers raising the Iwo Jima flag from the backside of Ayatollah Khomeini, which won an award as best editorial cartoon in the world the following year.
“We had posters printed out, it was on T-shirts,” he said. “All the customs guys at the airport had buttons.”
King Wes Tyrell
Wes Tyrell, president of the Association of Canadian Cartoonists, said Donato continues to thrive, even in the digital age.
“He has been able to consistently deliver when many careers for many other cartoonists would last for five or 10 years, Andy has proved he is trans-generational,” Tyrell said. “That’s not an easy thing. That’s an element that gets a lot of respect from cartoonists.”
Premier Kathleen Wynne expressed gratitude for editorial cartoonists.
“I will just start by saying, I hold no grudges,” she said. “The work you do is so important. It does make us laugh, but I know you’re very serious about what you do. You’re speaking truth to power and your cartoons really capture where we’re at as a society.” (Source: Toronto Sun)