Cartoonist contributor gets to meet his hero
If you ask a kid who their cartoon superhero is, you’re likely to get ‘Superman’, ‘Ironman’ or a similar character with unparalleled strengths. Growing up in Baddeck, Josh Kaiser was drawn to a different sort of idol. His hero took a ‘pen is mightier than the sword’ approach as he fell politicians and celebrities with a single stroke (or two) of ink. As an aspiring illustrator, Josh’s hero was, and still is, Bruce Mackinnon, the awardwinning cartoonist for The Chronicle Herald.
Unlike most fans, Kaiser recently had the chance to not only meet his hero, but discuss the art of illustration over dinner. A close friend of Kaiser volunteers for the Chisholm Services for Children charity which holds an annual “Blind Date with a Star” fundraiser in Halifax. Through a series of fortunes, Kaiser won the chance to have dinner with Mackinnon, along with several other attendees of the event.
“I was sitting at the other end of the table, so I didn’t get a chance to talk with him directly at first. Then there was an opening and I monopolized him for the next 45 minutes. Just a class guy. You certainly didn’t feel like he was waiting to get out of there.”
Kaiser says the table talked a lot with him about how to balance satire with sensitivity when a topic is controversial. The two then zeroed in on the technical aspects of illustration, discussing paper types, watercolours and which pens they use.
Just how influential has the cartoonist been for Kaiser, who now lives and works in Halifax?
“I’ve followed him for years. I pick up the Herald and the first thing I do is flip to the editorial and look for his cartoon. As a kid, it [the cartoon] really helped develop my own ability. I would save all his cartoons and copy them. I would sit at home and draw a Bruce Mackinnon, but turn it into a comic book character, essentially stealing his style.”
Although Kaiser says he is still developing his own style, he says laughingly that his artistic influences have been a mix of Monet and Bruce Mackinnon.
“I always liked the impressionist approach. When you look at it closely, it’s just a mess. But when you pull back, it all comes together and you get a beautiful image. His was a different style but the same principle as a Monet.”
Mackinnon himself started his drawing career early when he began contributing a weekly cartoon to Antigonish town and county newspaper, The Casket. Mackinnon has been the regular political cartoonist for the Herald for 31 years. In that time, he has collected numerous awards, including 18 Atlantic Journalism Awards, 6 National Newspaper Awards, the World Press Freedom Award (2014), the Order of Nova Scotia (2011) and the Order of Canada (2016).
Kaiser says Mackinnon looked through his portfolio and was extremely complimentary, noting the breadth of mediums that he has been willing to explore. As the evening came to a close, the two exchanged contacts and the cartoon giant with the long red cape told the aspiring Kaiser to stay in touch.
Editorial cartoon contributor to The Victoria Standard Josh Kaiser poses with his longtime idol, award-winning Halifax Herald cartoonist Bruce Mackinnon.