The Cartoonists by Susanna McLeod        Susanna@thecartoonists.ca

   

Lisa Benson, Inspiring Editorial Cartoonist of the Daily Press

October 30, 2013

   

Her pen lines are graceful, smooth and exacting; her humour is also smooth and sharp as a honed blade.   Lisa Benson took up cartooning when she was raising her family.  It wasn’t long before her knives cut, er… pens created, an indelible mark in editorial cartooning.

   

Lisa Benson

Surrounded by creative siblings, Lisa Benson naturally leaned toward the arts.  Family encouraged art, including her sister and brother-in-law who are both artists, teaching drawing skills at Pasadena’s Art Centre.  “Her only interest was art, and she took every class offered at Rim of the World,” said Don Holland in “Q & A with Lisa Benson” in the Victorville Daily Press, April 18, 2011. (Rim of the World is a high school located in Arrowhead, California.)  Daily cartoons were a favourite and before long, editorial cartoons caught the eye and heart of the young artist.

On graduation, Benson moved to San Luis Obispo and found an office job with an accountant.  She also found her future husband, an architecture student at Cal Poly.  The pair married in 1978.  Soon expecting their first child, the family moved to the High Desert of southern California, northeast of the San Gabriel Mountains.  The area was perfect for a home designer since sections were newly under development.

The Benson family took root and blossomed with four children.  Surviving recessions, the family needed an income boost.  Working as a paste-up artist for the monthly magazine “The Senior Advocate” in 1990, Benson also did advertising design and cartoons.  It was that “glamorous choice” of cartooning or fast food, Benson said.  Two years later, the busy mother decided to venture further afield. 

   
 
Self-portrait by Lisa Benson (This is my favourite image created by her. It describes her immense talent in one swoop.)  

“I was so confident the [Victor Valley] Daily Press needed my services back in 1992 that I stuffed ONE sample cartoon in an envelope and mailed it to the opinion page editor,” Benson said in her Cartoonist Profile on The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists.  The editor contacted her and she was hired “to do two cartoons each week.” 

In the mid-2000s, the editors of the Washington Post Writers Group received samples of Lisa’s work from her Victor Valley editor.  They were more than impressed – they loved her work.  “Conservative describes her politically,” said Alan Shearer, Editorial Director of Writers Group.  “Brilliant describes her artistically.  A combination of artistic talent, moral indignation and strong point of view mesh somehow to produce some of the finest work I have ever seen from a local cartoonist.” 

Lisa Benson  
© Lisa Benson  

Benson was hired.  Cartooning on national issues, Benson’s wonderful work debuted in syndicate newspapers and sites in 2007 and she hasn’t looked back.  An affirmation of her skill, talents and responsible attitude, she received full creative freedom from her Washington Post editors.   

Lisa Benson

Even before syndication, Benson’s efforts were award-worthy.  In 2000, Benson received First Place from the California Newspaper Publishers Association awards and earned Second Place in 2004.  The Society of Professional Journalists’ Inland Southern California Chapter awarded Benson’s panels Second and Third Place in 2005. 

But the life of Lisa Benson has had its share of bumps.  Along with recession worries, she was deeply involved with family.  Taking two years away from editorial cartooning in 2002 to 2004, she took time to attend to both of her aging parents and her father-in-law, all in nursing homes. 

Working from her home studio, Lisa and her husband Greg Benson live in Apple Valley, California.  What makes her tick, asked Holland in his interview?  “Coffee and Rush Limbaugh,” stated Benson. 

© Lisa Benson

And with all those political foibles, she’s no doubt got enough to keep her sharpening her pen at the drawing desk for a good long time.  Good for you, Lisa Benson!

   
© Susanna McLeod 2013
TheCartoonists.ca