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Graeme MacKay
An Average Day

8:00 to 9:30 am
-- Arrive at work.
Check email, which is mostly made up of Nigerian urgent assistance pleas, and notes with subject headings without any text or a lot of ?????'s.

-- Peruse Internet to see what other cartoonists drew.

-- Read through newspapers like The Toronto Star, Globe & Mail, and National Post. Check out the headlines on
Bourque.com and Nealenews.com.

9:30 - 10:30 am
-- Editorial Board Meeting. Sit in on editorial discussion attended by 2 editorial writers, 1 columnist, the Editorial Page Editor and frequently the Editor-in-chief, and occasionally the Publisher.

10:30 - 11:45 am
-- Think. Read more papers. Doodle. Surf for stuff on eBay. Phone cartoonists to find out what issues they'll be drawing on. Think more. Sketch something.

11:45 - 12:15 pm
-- Eat lunch and watch tv. Clear head and catch the tail end of The Price is Right including the showcase showdown. Wonder how I'd react if I won both showcases by correctly bidding within $250 of my own showcase.

-- Watch news at noon on CBC's Newsworld, CNN, or catch a glimpse of where ever Matt Hayes is doing his lunch hour weather report.

12:30 - 1:00 pm
-- Sketch and conceptualize. At least have a subject figured out by now.

1:00- 2:00 pm
-- Draw, erase, Tear up and start over.

2:00 pm
-- Ask myself how long it will take North American society to figure the benefits of embracing and mimicking the seista work ethic of such places as Spain.

3:00 - 3:30 pm
-- Inking deadline. The bristol board should now have the inking process of the cartoon well under way.

3:30 - 5:00 pm
Photoshop magic period. After having the original scanned into the computer the process of shading croping and fine tuning takes on the final 2 hours or so of the work day.

4:30 - 5:15 pm
The formatting process. Boring system of formatting several different copies of the final cartoon for the newspaper computer system, syndicates, website,  and archives.

5:15 - 6:00 pm
Down time. Surf net. Find out what happened in the news. Delete email messages pertaining to work place refrigerator needing to be cleaned up and people soliciting offers of girl guide cookies and chocolate bars.
Born in 1968, Graeme MacKay grew up in Dundas, Ontario, Canada.  He's always been a "news geek" and was the kid who never stopped doodling. He would draw his teachers and classmates, a sure way to win a chuckle or two. In the fourth grade, he drew the whole class, and ran off photocopies for them all, on demand. He also attended junior art classes at the Dundas Valley School of Art in the late 1970s.

Once he graduated from Parkside High School in Dundas, Graeme attended the
University of Ottawa.  There he submitted cartoons to the student newspaper, The Fulcrum, and and became the graphics editor. In 1992 he went to Europe with sketchbook in hand and honed his skills. But he also put in time as a bacon butcher at London's luxurious Harrod's department store, serving aristocrats and aging James Bond movie actors.

After returning to Canada in 1994, he submitted cartoons to various newspapers.  His work caught the eye of the
Hamilton Spectator and in 1997, he was hired as a full-time editorial cartoonist.  Since then, his wit and often biting cartoons have graced the pages of his hometown paper.

Besides creating five editorial cartoons per week for the Spectator, Graeme's work occasionally appears in
MacLean's magazine and in papers throughout North America. (Posing here with a group of colleagues.)  He is nationally syndicated through Artizans.  His work is published in several books and is presented annually in Portfoolio, Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year, and Political Cartoons of the Year.

Graeme  resides in Hamilton, with his wife Wendi, and their beautiful daughters,
Gillian and Jacqueline.

-with files from the Hamilton Spectator
If you've ever found yourself dangling from the end of a cartoonist's javelin-like pen, you know it can be a humbling experience.

A couple of years ago, the Spec's resident editorial cartoonist, Graeme MacKay, drew a caricature of me, a drawing that was to accompany a story by columnist Susan Clairmont who made a baseless and outrageous claim -- in print, no less -- that suggested I am to high fashion what Henry VIII was to self-deprivation, namely, a relative stranger.

(Most people think Susan is on a leave of absence, but she's actually toiling away in a news bureau created just for her. That poke-fun-at-the-boss humour plays really well in Puslinch.)

But back to Graeme.

Personally, I had a hard time seeing any resemblance between myself and the drawing Graeme eventually submitted. His caricature portrayed a bulbous-headed, fleshy, middle-age guy with thinning hair, a BiWay tag hanging from his shirt sleeve. I mean, what was he thinking?

Others, however, were effusive in their praise of Graeme's drawing, particularly, as I recall, the manner in which it captured that "massive expanse of forehead."

If there is a fundamental truth about cartooning, I suspect it might be that there is an inverse relationship between enjoyment of a particular cartoon and whether or not you're actually the subject of that cartoon.

That thought crossed my mind again Thursday as I chuckled over our editorial cartoon. You may recall that Graeme's offering was a roomful of monkeys, some swinging from the ceiling, others scratching rude parts of their anatomy, still others throwing budget documents in the air. The crest in the middle of the cartoon read: Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board.

Now I happen to think that cartoon was very funny. But I'd hazard a guess -- not much of a guess, actually, given the calls that came into the newsroom -- that school board members found the cartoon less amusing.

Fair enough.

That dichotomy of opinion illustrates the complicated relationship a newspaper cartoonist has with his or her audience, some of whom, by necessity, become the subject of public lampooning. In English, it's not easy being the butt of someone's joke.

Some take that lampooning in the spirit it is intended. Others, well, react like scalded monkeys.

So whose opinion do you see reflected in an editorial cartoon?

Most readers understand that unlike editorials, cartoons don't necessarily reflect the opinion of the newspaper.

But what many readers might not understand is that cartoons don't always even reflect the opinion of the cartoonist who drew them.

Take Thursday's cartoon, for example.

Graeme says most of his cartoons start with a simple image that he finds amusing. Wednesday, he came to work with an image of monkeys in his head. (Don't ask me to explain that. A cartoonist's brain is a mysterious organ that defies easy scientific explanation.)

It was only later in the day that he married his mental image of monkeys with the controversy involving the school board and its contradictory budget claims.

The result was Thursday's very amusing cartoon, a cartoon that owed more to Graeme's sense of humour than his personal opinion of the school board.

If you are at all familiar with Graeme's work you know that he has one of those world views -- call it the cartoonist's gene -- that routinely sees humour in the mundane. In his world, monkeys are reasonable, even expected, participants in public policy debates.

I count The Spectator hugely fortunate to have a cartoonist of Graeme's talent on staff.

The Spectator's role is to reflect the community, and Graeme does that every time he puts pen to paper. Although, like a house of mirrors, his reflections sometimes challenge our perception of the world.

Graeme's cartoons are quirky, but intelligent. And while his commentary is often pointed, it is never cynical or mean-spirited.

And I almost forgot, he's hugely funny.

Graeme grew up in Dundas, attended the University of Ottawa and travelled in Europe, sketchbook in hand, before eventually taking on the role of editorial cartoonist.

If you have any remaining doubts about Graeme's world view, you should know that he cites an early incarnation as a butcher at a local grocery store as good training for his subsequent career in cartooning.

At the top of this column I suggested that the subjects of cartoons are often those least able to appreciate them.

Actually, that's probably not true.

However loudly they might complain publicly, those that have found themselves pinned to Graeme's drafting table are often the first to pick up the phone, and ask if they can acquire the original for framing.

And for the record, in the bookcase behind my desk, in plain view for all to see, is a laminated MacKay drawing of a bulbous-headed, fleshy, middle-age guy with thinning hair. I don't know who the guy is, but I have a soft spot for the drawing, all the same.

Some of Graeme's work is featured on this page. But he also maintains his own Web site (mackaycartoons.net). You can also reach the site by going to thespec.com -- click on news, then editorial and follow the links to editorial cartoons.

Better yet, look for Graeme's work in The Spectator. Barring a flood of monkeys, Graeme appears every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Primates and other pen pals
By Dana Robbins, Editor-in-Chief, The Hamilton Spectator
Published August 17, 2002