Blog / A High “KAL”iber artist



By Danielle and Kirstie

Roars of laughter came from the corner of the Nasher Museum Cafe this past Wednesday, as visiting artist Kevin KAL Kallaugher and his lovely wife, Sue, dined with two privileged Duke students. KAL has been resident cartoon artist for The Economist for 32 years, almost to the day! KAL’s work has appeared in more than 100 publications worldwide,  won countless awards including the Nast Prize (2005) and been exhibited in the prestigious museums such as the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. His work is on view now in the Nasher Museum’s exhibition “Lines of Attack: Conflicts in Caricature.”

KAL shared his incredibly fortuitous story of starting out as a street ventriloquist and scraping wallpaper for $1.50 an hour in London, to becoming an esteemed and groundbreaking political cartoonist. Strangely enough, this Harvard grad was discovered for his talent when he drew cartoons on public school walls before scraping away wallpaper, just to spice up the job. When he started at The Economist, the publication was purely black and white text, “like a bible,” he told us.

KAL also shared some deep insights into very serious topics of animation technology, the fall of print media and the future of caricature in media. What is the way of the future? According to KAL, political cartoon and caricature will find a home in satirical animation shows, modeled after  British born “Spitting Image” to the American icon “South Park.” He envisions this genre picking up with the popularization of Web TV. “I’m loving the transition to animation myself, but I am lucky because I have one foot in the old world.” Another promising development that KAL clued us into was Mark Fiore’s achievement this April: he won the first Pulitzer Prize for Animated Cartooning.

KAL’s take-away message was an emphatic reminder of the necessity of taking chances in the creative world.
“You can always go the safe route relying on the what you know you can do well again to a high caliber,” he said. “… Over time though, that safety route will get you nowhere and 10years from now you’re not going to get any better. Being an artist is all about taking chances and pushing the envelope. I would like to think I’m going to be better 10 years from now.”

So with all of this risk taking, where does KAL draw the line? “One area that I think just shouldn’t be done is children of politicians,” which he described as unnecessary and in bad taste.  But generally, for him the “line” is always shifting depending on his audience. He tells us, “It’s more about understanding the audience,” which is trickier now, because on the internet “the audience is the world.”

KAL was inspired to be a cartoonist when he saw Daumier’s figures at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
“When I was a sophomore in college I was in an art class and they sent us to MFA Boston. I was wandering around and I stumbled upon this room with Daumier’s statues in it. Daumier is a big hero to a lot of cartoonists.”
KAL was impressed by some of the Daumier-like work in the caricature exhibition at the Nasher Museum: “For me to be in the same room with Daumier, or even in the same paragraph is like, wow, awesome.”

Danielle Garver is a Duke Senior. Kirstie Jeffrey is a Duke Junior.

IMAGE: Photo of Kevin Kallaugher on Anderson Street by Wendy Hower Livingston.

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