KAL (Kevin Kallaugher)


In a distinctive pen and ink cross hatching style that sometimes seems to carry forward the tradition of the great Thomas Nast, Kevin Kallaugher, who signs his work as KAL, has been skewering the insanities, abuses and tragedies of American politics and society at large for over 17 years from his position as editorial cartoonist for the Baltimore Sun.

Although his eye for events has always been up-to-the-minute, in many ways, KAL is traditional – from his obvious affection for traditional pen and ink artists and cross hatching techniques to his staunch support of the tradition of political cartoonists doing their best to find the absurdity in government and social institutions wherever it may lie, not just in having a party line axe to grind.

His drawing style is a wonderful study in contrasts. It can be loose and sketchy, with objects and figures suggested with just a few quick lines on one part of a drawing, and rendered with fine-lined tonal detail in another part of the same drawing. His caricatures are evidence of the fun he finds in exploring the surface and geometry of a face and mapping out in detail the facial “landscape” that makes an individual’s appearance unique.

His drawing style and editorial voice are part of what makes him unique and part of what has given the Baltimore Sun (a paper I often read and enjoy) its unique character for a long time. Sadly, the paper is losing a lot of that character, and many people, myself included, feel that the once shining Baltimore Sun is beginning to dim.

I’m sorry to say KAL’s cartoons will no longer be seen in the pages of the Sun (article here). As of this January he “retired” from his position, accepting a buyout that is part of Tribune Co.’s wrong-headed attempt to cut costs by dropping editorial cartoonists from the staffs of its newspapers. Tragically, this trend is not limited to Tribune Co. papers, although they are perhaps the most aggressive of the newspaper conglomerates in devaluing the place of editorial cartooning in their papers.

Hmmm… let’s see… circulation is down, so let’s throw away the unique voices, incisive viewpoints and talented visionaries that make our papers unique and appealing, and instead make everything more bland, ordinary and homogenized; sweeten it up an dumb it down. We’ll jam our papers so full of ads, phamphlets, leaflets, flyers and other junk that you won’t even be able to find the content and we’ll shrink what little content there is down to the point where there’s nothing left to buy the paper for, and then we’ll sit around and cry about how the internet is ruining newspapers. Great idea.

But we’re actually to blame, us, all 300 million of us. America has made its choices: Wall-mart instead of community businesses, McDonald’s instead of great little diners, Thomas Kinkade instead of earnest local artists, Katie Couric instead of Bob Scheiffer and another page of supermarket ads and syndicated astrology columns in place of insightful editorial voices like Kallaugher’s. (You’ll notice I resisted the enormous temptation to include a political statement there. Really bit my tongue on that one. Yessir. No suggestions about America making bad political choices here!)

There are still some who recognize the value of a great talent like KAL, and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore has mounted an exhibition of his work: Mightier than the Sword: The Satirical Pen of KAL, that will run from June 18 to September 3 of 2006.

There are also collections of his work; some are out of print but still available through used book services at Amazon and elsewhere: Kal Draws the Line, KAL Draws a Crowd, Kaltoons: A Collection of Political Cartoons from the Baltimore Sun, and Drawn from the Economist: A collection of caricatures.

In the meantime, here are some places on the web where you can still see the talent and vision that made Kallaugher one of the greats of American editorial cartooning.

Exhibit link via Art Knowledge News.

 
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5 Replies to “KAL (Kevin Kallaugher)”

  1. WE ARE TRULY UPSET ABOUT THE DETERIORATION OF THE BALTIMORE SUN. WE LIVE 9 M0NTHS IN FLORIDA AND SUMMER FOR 3 MONTHS IN BALTIMORE. THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE ST. PETERSBURG TIMES AND THE SUN IS ASTOUNDING! WE WERE REALLY SHOCKED LAST SUMMER BY THE NEW FORMAT OF THE SUN, BUT THIS YEAR, WITH THE ABSENCE OF SOME REALLY EXCELLENT WRTITERS, AND OF KAL, WE WEEP FOR WHAT ONCE WAS. IT CERTAINLY SEEMS FOOLISH TO CUT THE BEST TALENT TO MAKE THE PAPER MORE PROFITABLE. REALLY-THE DUMBING DOWN OF AMERICA.

  2. Well for more than a year now after discovering Kal’s cartoon.. I’m still mesmerized by everything about his work. Man nothing changed my life more than his work. Yes I literally gave up my career, to pursue political cartooning; it’s been a year now. It’s a honor for me indeed to comment about him or for that matter his work for to me I had been a follower of Mad comics for ages now, but one fine day I saw his first work in the economist, and believe me I had not seen any thin like that b4…. he’s a genius…I cant even believe that some one could ask him to quit…!?! Whaaa? WHY wud any body do that??? Crazzzyyyyy.. Everything’s getting crazy…I’m from India Bombay…. and honestly over here there’s very lill scope in this field…there are however a few around but the works are completely different ..The thought behind, the humor, it doesn’t carry that passion I can say… If I could pass a request around to Kal..I did be thrilled if he had his own site….tht wd be a treat….daily……

  3. Idalea, I agree. Sadly, it’s happening across the country as managing companies, accountants and lawers make idiotic choices in trying to make newspapers with flagging circulations more profitable.

  4. KAL….ES UN GRAN CARICATURISTA.
    UN GRAN OBSERVADOR DE LA REALIDAD

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