“Where’s the other guy whose work I actually thought was interesting.”
“Young Kim, you’re a racist. Obama looks like a monkey.”
These were the welcoming words I received when starting off my career as the editorial cartoonist for The Huntington News four years ago.
To be fair, my first cartoon was a bit “dumb.” It was a depiction of Barack Obama telling everyone, “don’t let Scott Brown take you for a ride,” while Brown was in a truck with an “X” over the number “41,” referring to him being voted in as the 41st GOP senator. I was a Jan-start coming from a small suburban town in Colorado, so I didn’t understand the full political context of Massachusetts in order to best draw that cartoon. Nonetheless, I needed to draw something, and the damage was done.
The comment that bothered me most wasn’t about my understanding of politics, but that I was a racist by drawing Obama’s ears too big so he looked like a monkey. I brooded over the fact that it was a caricature and cartoonists morph real people all the time. I still wish I took some art classes.
The comment affected the way I drew for a while until I was invited to meet a panel of professional editorial cartoonists coming to Northeastern for a gallery exhibition. There, I met my role model Daryl Cagle whose website I look at everyday. I also found new role models like French cartoonist Jean Plantu of Cartooning for Peace. Something I’ll always remember from listening to them is that editorial cartooning is a dark art. We draw things that often scrutinize an issue through unflattering imagery. Yet, there’s a satisfaction in seeing how a cartoon can stir public debate.
I showed the professional cartoonists some of my work, including the Obama one. Disregarding any context to the picture, the professionals actually enjoyed my first rendition of Obama, saying it was my own auteurs’ signature. That boosted my confidence again, and I’ve been cartooning on and off for The News ever since, which is why I had a hard time coming up with my final cartoon for college.
You always want to end things in a big finish when you know your expiration date. There’s always a plethora of issues and ideas, whether it’s serious or light-hearted, that would be fun to draw on paper. Deciding what profound final comic I should draw was the last thing on my radar. There are too many other things to focus on with life after college. Hey! That’s a cartoon right there…
Now it’sI’m? off to the real world, where I’ll be accused of being dumb, uninteresting or racist no matter what I do. But over the years, I’ve come to terms with that. Because the people that consider me smart, quirky and open-minded are the ones for whom I always pick up my pen and sketchbook.
-Young Kim is a senior journalism major and the editorial cartoonist of the Huntington News.
Photo courtesy Young Kim.