Caricatures by Kerry Waghorn
art art art

Early rock posters
Gary Bannerman


Kerry Waghorn, a native of Vancouver, Canada, was thrust into prominence during a 20-year tenure at the San Francisco Chronicle, syndicated world-wide by Chronicle Features. He is the creator of Faces in the News, which celebrated its 35th anniversary in November of 2012.

Caricature artist Kerry Waghorn

Waghorn began his career as a caricaturist with the student newspaper, The Peak, while attending Simon Fraser University. During the 1960s, he moved his art to The Georgia Straight, a trend-setting and controversial flagship of the underground press (still going strong in 2013). The Straight syndicated his cartoon strip to a number of alternative newspapers, including the Los Angeles Free Press, the Detroit Free Press and the Berkeley Barb.

Through these connections, he became a favourite illustrator of the rock promoters of the era, regularly producing posters advertising stars and groups that would achieve legendary fame. He worked closely with a well-known artist and promoter, Bob Masse, who remains prominent in the field 40+ years later. Many of these early Waghorn posters (Led Zeppelin, The Beach Boys, Elton John and many others) and album covers (Paul Horn, Laura Nyro et al.) continue to be eagerly sought by collectors.

From these first public roots, he eventually graduated to the city's largest daily, The Vancouver Sun, as a regular contributor. One day he walked uninvited into the offices of The Sun and asked to see the newspaper's nationally recognized editorial cartoonist, Roy Peterson. Peterson was a welcoming host, critically reviewing Kerry's portfolio.

Among the impressive newspaper people he met was then features editor and subsequently assistant managing editor, Mike McRanor. "I started hanging out and occasionally they would mention my work. I left three unpublished cartoons with them," Kerry remembers.

One day, he woke up to discover in that day's Sun, one of his cartoons on the cover of Leisure, the newspaper's weekly magazine, which McRanor edited. Inside, there was a big article written by the newspaper's entertainment and hospitality columnist, Alex MacGillvray, a household name in British Columbia. It was titled, "MEET OUR NEW CARTOONIST," thrusting Kerry into local prominence for the first time.

His work for The Sun would rapidly elevate his craft into the mainstream, learning as fast as he could from two masters, Peterson, and the equally famous local icon, Len Norris. Peterson was en route to Canadian national greatness in the domain of the country's editorial art superstar, Duncan Macpherson of The Toronto Star. But Norris had a different gift. If Macpherson and Peterson were the heavy artillery, Len Norris was the pulse of a nation, beloved by all. His characters were every man, and every woman, frequently sitting in their kitchen and living room making poignant and sometimes hilarious comments about the world around them, a less slapstick and more socially relevant incarnation than the life of another Canadian cartoon character, Jim Unger's Herman.

"I learned from them all. Roy, who launched my career, and I are still good friends, but there will always be a very special place in my heart for Len Norris," Kerry says. "When he died, I was highly honored to be the recipient of boxes of his files, his work and records, both the published and the unpublished. I have no greater treasures in my possession."

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THE EARLY DAYS - The fisheye lens captures Kerry in 1970, working in his studio at 1 Alexander Street in Vancouver's historic precinct, Gastown. Enlarge Image

Concert posters by Kerry Waghorn

San Francisco and the World

Visiting San Francisco in 1971 with his partner in the production of rock music posters, Kerry decided to pop into The Chronicle unannounced, hoping to show his art portfolio to cartoonist Robert Graysmith, who later achieved fame as the author of the book and subsequent motion picture about the Zodiac murders. The receptionist advised that Mr. Graysmith was not in but, after Kerry explained who he was and what he did, she asked if he would like to meet the Features Editor? Somewhat overwhelmed by his good fortune, Kerry was escorted in to meet Stan Arnold.
(See In Memorium, G. Stanleigh Arnold)

This was the chance meeting that would change Kerry's life. Arnold, The Chronicle's Sunday and Features Editor, had been instrumental in launching the careers of Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury), Gary Larson (The Far Side), Abigail Van Buren (Dear Abby), William Hamilton (of The New Yorker), Phil Frank (Fraley), and Cathy Guisewaite (Cathy). He had also played a key role in the early stages of Charles Schulz' march to immortality, as the Peanuts gang warmed their way into American culture.

Arnold and DoddsArnold, who died in 1997, would become Kerry's mentor, manager, car pool partner, best friend and fishing buddy.

Shortly after that fortuitous first meeting, Kerry began a life of two cities, migrating back and forth between Vancouver and San Francisco, and contributing to both daily newspapers, among other clients.

But San Francisco was indisputably big time and Chronicle Features, under Arnold and Stuart Dodds (principal marketing executive when Kerry began and Arnold's successor as editor) had become one of the most formidable syndication services in the newspaper world. Eventually, Kerry Waghorn moved to San Francisco, where he lived for 10 of the happiest years of his life.

Gradually, something else began to evolve within his work. Out of his art and cartoon creations, a unique gift began to dominate, and that was his talent for caricature, seeming to be able to drag the depths of a subject's soul and personality, into the visible plane.

Chronicle Features launched Faces in the News by Kerry Waghorn in 1977.

"I felt truly gifted during that era - with Stan Arnold's guidance and Stuart Dodds' incredible salesmanship, my work started appearing all over the world," Kerry remembers.

Over 9,000 images later, his current agent, Kansas City based Universal Press Syndicate (now the world's largest independent and most respected syndicator), helped him celebrate his 30th anniversary in 2007.

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Universal Press Syndicate

Chronicle Features was purchased by Universal Press Syndicate of Kansas City in 1997, a subsidiary of Jim Andrews and John McMeel's ANDREWS MCMEEL UNIVERSAL, founded in 1970.

Today, Waghorn enjoys the most extensive caricature service in the world. Waghorn's caricatures appear as a daily feature in many countries. His drawings have been published in more than 400 major newspapers and magazines world-wide, representing about 60 nations. Among the journals that have published his inimitable creations are the Miami Herald, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, The New York Times, New York Daily News, Atlanta Journal, Montreal Gazette, Japan Times, Sydney Morning Herald, Hamilton Bermuda Business, Korea Times and New Zealand Herald.

Included among the more familiar personalities who have acquired their original caricature by Waghorn are Tom Selleck, Chevy Chase, Michael Ovitz, Bryan Adams, Billy Joel, Bruce Willis, David Bowie, Michael Eisner, Malcolm Forbes, Michael Jackson and numerous U.S. and world political leaders.

Waghorn is regularly commissioned by international companies, publications, organizations and governments.

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Without the direct professional ties to San Francisco and the retirement or passing of many close associates, the "City by the Bay" had less relevance. Kerry decided to return home in 1993.

He bought a waterfront house on Bowen Island, a Vancouver retreat that feels as remote as a resort, but which is just 45 minutes from the heart of the city, including a 15-minute ferry trip.

"It was a wonderful way to come home, sitting on a patio overlooking the ocean - whether working or just daydreaming - once again feeling very much part of the west coast of Canada."

Over the course of years, however, despite Bowen Island's proximity to the larger city, it became increasingly inconvenient professionally, difficult for couriers and business associates, and somewhat behind the curve in terms of modern communications infrastructure.

One of his sideline projects during 2005 and 2006 was illustrating a book, a comprehensive expose of Canada's health management, titled Squandering Billions. This required frequent meetings with the late journalist/author Gary Bannerman and co-author Dr. Don Nixdorf, a noted Canadian health professional.

Amid all this, he sold the Bowen house and resettled where he had grown up, in North Vancouver, just across the harbor from downtown.

Kerry's parents and a brother, who all are in good health, also live in North Vancouver. He remained a bachelor until 2009.

A few years ago - following an encounter arranged by a mutual friend - Kerry rekindled a relationship with Amber, who had been his prime romantic interest during school years. Even though they had drifted apart and life had taken them in different directions, they had never forgotten each other. Amber and Kerry were married in April 2009.

Kerry has little time for hobbies, but enjoys dominos and fishing for the big Pacific Coast salmon. Among his most memorable adventures since returning home have been long boat trips up the coast as far as Alaska with his friend, former song writer and recording star Terry Jacks (Seasons in the Sun, The Poppy Family et al.), an environmentalist and passionate outdoorsman.

He is also enjoying a new dimension in his work, experimenting with different media in colored images.

"For 20-years I worked in nothing but black and white and most of the newspaper demand still is to publish in grayscale. But, gaining momentum for 10 years now, particularly the explosion of the Internet and how it multiplies exposure for any published item, is the demand for color."

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Caricatures of musicians by Kerry Waghorn
© Kerry Waghorn. All rights reserved.