Chronicle cartoonist Rob Kernachan has been capturing the essence of issues in the Cowichan Valley and beyond for a quarter century, and as far as he’s concerned, he’ll be at it another 25 years if he doesn’t lose his grip before then.
Home is Saltair, and he’s lived and worked in the region all his life; and as far back as he can remember, Kernachan has loved drawing and painting.
His tooning appeared in the Newsleader Pictorial; he’s done cartoons for the newsletter at the lumber mill where he works; but most consistently his drawings have appeared on the editorial page of the Chronicle.
I sat down with Rob recently to talk about the agony and ecstacy of cartooning: the agony of sometimes being stuck for an idea when deadline day is looming; the ecstasy of nailing a topic so that people get a laugh out of your art, or maybe wax outraged enough to write a blistering letter to the editor, or (less likely) are piqued into sending a thank you for your unique point of view.
Asked to see his studio, Rob showed me his high tech, portable tablet – a clip board with a sheaf of letter sized paper clamped onto it. His art space was not in a state for entertaining nosy journalists.
Cartoonists have a different perspective than ordinary folk, and their art allows them to raise things that can’t be easily broached in the black and white of printers’ ink.
“I always have at least two meanings to a cartoon,” Rob said. There’s the obvious jab that viewers respond to, sometimes viscerally; then there’s the alternative interpretations, that give people pause on second glance.
The first Kernachan appeared in the Chronicle July 16, 1991. “I submitted five cartoons to be used over a trial period,” he said, recalling the original of originals 1,300 weeks later.
Along the way Kernachan has earned kudos, jeers and one law suit (which was abandoned) – all of which suits him just fine. “It’s all about waking people up,” he said, adding that he doesn’t much mind if they wake up snarly or with a smile.
Official recognition wasn’t long coming for Rob. After finishing second at the BC & Yukon Newspaper Association awards in 1992, he achieved the pinnacle of success the year after with his cartoon lampooning tree-spiking (below), a favoured tactic of extreme opponents to B.C. forestry practices during the ‘war in the woods’ era.
Craig Spence, Editor