I’d like to drop a line from Canada. A few lines, actually. Meandering, searching, elegant lines, but the right lines, telling ones which I hope portray and reveal faces, well-known faces, in different and arresting ways.
I’m Anthony Jenkins. For 40 years I was an illustrator, editorial cartoonist, and caricaturist at Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail. I’ve recently taken early retirement to live the life of a country squire tending 17 acres of land just beyond commuting range of Toronto.
But I continue to freelance, accept commissions and love the work—if it is such—of drawing and caricaturing.
I’ve had a lifelong love of human faces. I’ve drawn them, painted them, photographed them. In my living room, I’ve displayed galleries of portrait photographs taken during my backpack travels while on extended leaves from the newspaper—84 countries to date. Most of these portraits are smiling, almost all wear a hat and all are connected with me for a few moments, somewhere far away from home.
I love to play with faces, to find lines and curves and pathways around them. It is an instinctive process. Caricature is not taught formally. In university and beyond, I’ve been instructed in painting, watercolours, etching, woodcuts. But caricaturists are born. They develop idiosyncratically. We learn from each other’s work and spend those 10,000 Malcolm Gladwell hours getting comfortable with, then good at, an art that has no rules.
For decades I “crosshatched,” modeling a face in the traditional manner, sculpting it into a fine web of lines. Often I was more satisfied with the scribbled preliminary “roughs” I drew getting familiar with a face, using simpler, sparer, quicker lines. Gradually, my final drawings evolved, becoming ever simpler as the crosshatching was shed. That this more minimal style helped meet the deadlines of a daily newspaper was a bonus. The likenesses were better, purer and becoming distinctively “mine.”
It got to the point where I’d even edit out features, discard an eye, a mouth, or even a full face, if I felt the essence of an individual captured without them. Less became more.
At first, editors and readers didn’t always approve. “Where’s the other eye?” they’d ask or write, as if they were getting short weight at the butcher’s. But gradually the style was accepted, embraced, and enjoyed.
With my “elegant line” caricatures, I endeavour to capture a likeness, but also to make the line itself beautiful, sinuous and organic. One time I did a drawing squatting before a wizened, nearly-naked headman in an Iban longhouse upriver in Borneo. He looked solemnly at the finished drawing, nodding approvingly. He then did so holding it upside down and sideways, one way, then the other. Puzzled, I soon realized that the man was visually illiterate, utterly unfamiliar with images on paper. He saw the image not as “him,” but as a beautiful composition of elegant lines.
If my caricatures work like that, I’m pleased.
Fidel. The line here is almost scribble. Done slowly, but made to appear not so.
Ray Charles. One of my favorite drawings. Done quickly, but it works.
Chaz and Camilla. Full features are redundant, but I don’t believe he or she are.
Ali. The mouth is the man.
Trump. Perhaps too kind. There is something unbalanced in the image, and in the man.
Philip. Adding lines and spots for nine decades.
Arafat. A face only a mother or a cartoonist could love.
Dick Cheney. World class alpha male, oversized everything,
with features and policies unbalanced.
Fellow Canadian, Neil Young.
Less is more is Kurt Vonnegut. An explosion of spirals.
Bin Laden, Caliphate Dreaming.
Christopher Hitchens, we miss you in our hour of need.
The Dali Lama. Smile lines with a great man attached.
Duke. Without the darks of the keys and the sleeve, it is unbalanced.
Billie Holiday, who, Sinatra said, “taught me how to sing.”
A “woodcut” technique here reflects the embodied Americana of iconic Canadian-American roots rockers The Band.
I was born in Toronto, Canada and spent a very happy childhood there. I enjoyed school and attended the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo, graduating with a B.A. in English and Fine Art.
Between graduation and working for a living, I did the classic backpacking student summer around Europe. And was hooked….
My life’s work has been as an illustrator, cartoonist and occasional writer at the Globe and Mail, Canada’s National Newspaper, the best in the country.
My formal training in old-school silkscreen and woodcut techniques are evident in a search for elegant, as well as functional line and a simplifying and flattening of colour.
Crazily extensive (eighty-four countries to date) backpack travels on leaves-of-absence from a newspaper where I worked working mostly in black and white engendered an abiding love of dramatic colour (The African nation of Mali presents an eye-popping riot of colour in a landscape of unrelenting Saharan beige.) and a heightened fascination with my overwhelming favourite subject – the human face.
I’ve freelanced; my work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Maclean’s Magazine, The South China Morning Post, The Melbourne Age, The Straits Times in Malaysia, in the Lonely Planet line of travel guides and on the covers of many books for various publishers.
‘Traveller’s Tales – An Illustrated Journey through Australia, Asia and Africa’ which I wrote and illustrated with my travel sketches, was released by Lonely Planet in 1985.
More recently, ‘A Fine Line; The Caricatures of Anthony Jenkins’ was published in 2013. It is available at nestlingspress.com.