Ann Telnaes, Editorial Cartoonist and Member of Six Chix

1 November 2002

   Wielding her sketching pencil like a polished blade, Ann Telnaes slices through rhetoric and bafflegab to expose the bare funny bones of the political issues of the day. She takes direct stabs at the foolishness and irony displayed by government, authorities and those in the public domain. She does it with engaging caricatures, clean, crisp art and very few words to clutter up the distinct visual message.

    Born in Stockholm, Sweden, Ann’s family was transferred often with her father’s employment with IBM. Living in America at different times as a child, Ann became a citizen of the United States when she was a young teenager. She graduated from the Reno High School in Nevada in 1979 and went on to study at Arizona State University with the goal of being a veterinarian. Science was not her strong suit, so she changed her direction to art and journalism. As a student, she had no interest in cartooning or politics.

    Leaving Arizona State University after 2 ½ years, Ann transferred to California Institute of the Arts to further her studies in commercial art. She earned a BFA in 1985, majoring in character animation. Upon graduation, she freelanced as animator and layout designer for a number of studios around the world, including in England and Taiwan and for companies such as Disney and Warner Bros. Later, Ann worked in the Imagineering division of Disney for six years as show designer with a pen in on creating rides, shows and characters.

    Ann Telnaes was spurred the mostly-male career of editorial cartooning in 1991 after watching the televised horrors of Tiananmen Square - frustration and outrage as she watched the massacres unfold drove her to pencil and paper. Her first cartoons were not beautiful, but a “horribly bloody, yucky mess that I did, but I just had to do it. After that, I kind of played around with a few more, but I didn’t approach it seriously until the Anita Hill hearings. I did a series of cartoons on that, and then I sent them out.” The Los Angeles Times was first to print her work, and by 1992, Ann was being published in numerous newspapers on a regular basis. *(1)

    The bold, direct panels created by the cartoonist are fuelled by her chagrin with politics, gender bias and outright harassment of women. She points her finger with biting humour and sarcasm at the inane actions not always obvious to others. Using a pencil to draw her sketches, she then traces the art in ink and scans them into her computer for colouring. Ann’s honed talents as an artist are obvious. Her art is smooth and distinctive and her take on the issues is hilariously insightful. One particular panel showing George W. Bush drawn as a little boy, held up between VP Cheney on one side and his father on the other, with George Senior saying, “Stand up straight, boy,” is an excellent example. Notes Ann in an interview with RC Harvey in December of 2000, “… an Editorial cartoon is a hard thing to do, I think. But I enjoy it because it has a lot of impact.”

    Under self-syndication, Ann submitted her cartoons to large newspapers around the USA. After some success on her own, her work was added to the North American editorial cartoon package. She joined Los Angeles Times Syndicate in May, 2000, just before the Chicago Tribune Syndicate took it over, and is one of the few editorial cartoonists in print that does not work from a “home” newspaper. Ann is also one of the “Six Chix,” a daily cartoon that debuted in 2000 under King Features Syndicate. Her comic panel is diverse from her editorial jabs but still points to the empowerment and rights of women. It appears every Thursday.

    The Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Ann for Editorial Cartooning in May of 2001, only the second woman cartoonist to receive the prestigious honour. The first was Signe Wilkinson in 1992. Since she had no newspaper office to bestow the good news upon her, the notice of winning was delivered to Ann by telegram. It came only as confirmation; unfortunately, she had already seen an announcement on an internet site the day before.

The awards list for Ann Telnaes:

  • 1996 Best Cartoonist by the Population Institute XVIIth Global Media Awards.
  • Best Editorial Cartoonist in the Sixth Annual Environmental Media Awards.
  • Nominated for the NCS Reuben for Best Editorial Cartoon.
  • 1997 The National Headliner Award for Editorial Cartoon by the Press Club of Atlantic City.
  • 2001 The Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning.

   Living in Washington, DC, with her attorney husband David Lloyd, Ann Telnaes has an unending supply of motivating material to keep her sharpened pencil busy and her fans entertained and enlightened.

*(1)  Interview with RC Harvey

Ann Telnaes home site:http://www.anntelnaes.com/

The Pulitzer Prize Award for Ann Telnaes: http://www.pulitzer.org/year/2001/editorial-cartooning/bio/

Check out Six Chix at King Features: http://www.kingfeatures.com/features/comics/sixchix/about.htm

© Susanna McLeod 2002
TheCartoonists.ca
(Originally published in The Cartoonists on suite101.com.)