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.
Ward Sutton, the true man behind the Onion’s parody editorial cartoonist Stan Kelly had the audience rolling with laughter with his genius cartoons and his rise to stardom.
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.