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Monday, November 3, 2008

Mighty Ink




When Kevin Kallaugher was middle school, he thought it might be funny to draw a cartoon of his teacher. After he drew it, it soon started getting passed under desks and collecting giggles from every corner of the room. He was feeling proud and confident of himself, until, by some terrible stroke of bad luck, his teacher got hold of it. She was appalled by the image, which stressed her most prominent feature: a loud talking mouth. She made Kallaugher come up to the front of the class where she shamed him, making him promise that he would never do it again.

Kallaugher did not keep his promise; in fact he did the direct opposite. Today, Kevin ‘Kal’ Kallaugher is the chief cartoonist for The Economist Magazine, where every week, his distinct ink cartoons shed some light and humor on the generally dour state of affairs in the world-at-large.

He spoke last Saturday to a full house at the Edison Theatre, in the second of a series of programs hosted by The Economist Magazine. Audiences were made privy to the ins and outs of a professional cartoonist’s life; a highly specific line of work that he says, “maybe only roughly 80 people in this country actually make a living from.”

“The pen is powerful,” Kallaugher warned, as he spoke of the Muhammad cartoon controversy in 05’, in which a Danish newspaper printed cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, “People got angry, people were killed. There were riots,” he said, “That was because of a cartoon.”

Kallaugher explained that the “trick” to political cartooning, is to identify the signature features of your subjects, and accentuate on them. “Sarah Palin is a hard one to draw,” he said, as he started giving us an actual demonstration on a big white paper board, “because she has this one eye that keeps on blinking.”

McCain, he explained, “is Piranha-like” as he drew the candidate with a chuffed angry face, and John Kerry has a “massive chin,” for which he taped another sheet to the base of the first one to draw fully.

Kallaugher stressed the importance of political cartoons, and why we love them, “Cartoons are empowering to those under authority,” he said; they can poke and chide. “Our job is not to make you laugh,” he said, “its to make you think.”

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