Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Kal profiled in "The Economist"

"Drawing much more than a line" in The Economist.

KAL, Calendar for The World in 2013

After a day when we were all mulling over big data, small food, cyber-warfare, rising economies and fiscal cliffs, Kevin “KAL” Kallaugher, The Economist’s editorial cartoonist, summed up The World in 2013 Festival in New York as only he can—with a whiteboard, a Sharpie pen and his uniquely witty take on the likely events of 2013.

In fact, the year 2013 has a particular meaning for KAL: it will be his 35th year with The Economist. As he admits, it wasn’t quite supposed to be this way. Although he had always wanted to be a cartoonist, KAL had imagined creating a comic strip or becoming an animator. Fate took him in another direction when, after graduating from Harvard, he set out on a bicycle tour of Britain. He settled in Brighton where he became player and coach to the Brighton Basketball Club (he still shoots hoops with an assurance that should put some NBA millionaires to shame). To make a living when the British failed to embrace basketball with quite the enthusiasm the sport deserves, he drew caricatures of tourists in Trafalgar Square and on Brighton Pier and became a busker and ventriloquist. He even worked as a maintenance man tearing wallpaper off the walls of a local school—but not before illustrating the walls with cartoons. One of the teachers saw his drawings and put him in touch with an art director who, in turn, suggested he tried pitching his work to the newspapers and magazines up and down Fleet Street.

One pitch was to The Economist, who gave him a one-day trial and a brief to draw Denis Healey, a politician well known for his extravagantly hirsute eyebrows. Luckily, KAL had spent the previous evening practising drawing Healey (the only British politician he’d heard of), as he was being interviewed on television—and so The Economist got its first resident cartoonist.

In 1999, KAL was asked to do a regular political cartoon for the paper in addition to his weekly caricatures. He draws (no pun intended) a distinction between political cartoons, which reflect the cartoonist’s personal viewpoint, and caricatures and illustrations, which represent someone else’s point of view. This role of the political cartoonist as journalist can have serious repercussions. Although cartoons rely on humour and satire to make a point, the power of a sharply drawn illustration can have very unfunny consequences. KAL points out that in a majority of nations, cartoonists cannot draw their own head of state for fear of political—and often physical—reprisal. The strong demand for political cartoons in those dangerous areas reflects how much people long for freedom, KAL says, and want to see their world represented with wit and satire.

New platforms, driven by technological advances, have helped to some extent in giving cartoonists more ways to distribute their work. Technology has also brought KAL back to his early ambitions; a selection of his animations can be found on YouTube and on “Sketchblog”, and a new series of animations commissioned by The Economist explaining certain economic terms will be launched soon. There is even a KAL app for your smart phone, and now some experimenting with 3-D caricatures. A retrospective book, tentatively called "Daggers Drawn", that reprints much of his work at The Economist, will be published in the spring of 2013, accompanied by exhibitions and shows.

KAL will be popping up in various places around the world in 2013, but one place you can often find him is in his own drawings—witness the calendar for The World in 2013. Readers with sharp eyes will see a tiny self-portrait tucked away among the flying saucers, Bollywood dancers and the Kentucky Derby. And they can also spot him on the cover of The World in 2013. Cassandra looks forward to taking out the magnifying glass and spying a mini-KAL in his calendar for The World in 2014.

The Economist’s Kallery
World in 2013 calendar

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