In this interview series where we ask questions to people who are making a difference, it can be big, it can be small, it doesn’t matter, what matters is their contribution to our society. It can be anyone from any walk of life and from any country. Please, do send us suggestions of people whom you think we should interview for this series.
Terry Wynne is a freelance cartoonist whose cartoons have appeared worldwide. He lives in Camillus, New York with his wife, Noghma, his daughter, Gabrielle and his mother, Marianne. His work includes sight gags, comic strips, childrens books, political cartoons and caricature. He devotes his time to cartooning, charity, golf and softball.
- Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I love everything about cartooning. Generating the ideas, the rendering, trying them out on my friends to see if they are funny. Sticking with them if I have gut feeling about them. Doing many and selecting a precious few that works.
- How did you get into cartoons and drawing? What are some common themes behind your work?
I’ve been cartooning since I was five years old and have been consistently at it my whole life. I love visual wit, especially sight gags. Caricature is a challenge, but some faces come easy to me. Political cartoons can create a stir and that is rewarding. Comic strips are close to my heart, growing up reading the daily newspaper strips. My influences are eclectic, from Charles Addams, Peter Arno, Chon Day and Sam Gross, to Charles Schulz, George Herriman and Chic Young, among many others.
I studied at the School of Visual Arts for many years under Arnie Levin and Peter Porges. I also took classes at Parsons School of Design with Mort Gerberg. Each one of these incredible cartoonists helped me find my way. I owe them a great debt.
My cartoons have appeared around the world, including “The Oldie” in the UK, “Feathertale” in Canada, as well as Brooklyn Newspapers, Manlius Publishing, “Office Life,” “Level Renner,” “Ayernews,” “Bozell Opinion,” “The Syracuse New Times.” and “The Indian Periodical.”
Cartooning is my passion, my life.
Life is very difficult. Sometimes excruciating. Humor helps makes life more palatable. My passion for cartoons has given me a vehicle of expression to make it all bearable. Most of my heroes are underdogs who are fighting to survive. I usually lampoon the powerful and entitled. In real life, the underdogs rarely win. But in my cartoon world, they get the last laugh.
- What would be your advice for aspiring cartoonists out there?
My advice to aspiring cartoonists. Don’t quit. Even though magazines, newspapers are dying, the digital world is opening up opportunities. Truth be told – it’s a very hard way to make a living these days. Best to have a day job and keep at it. Keep drawing and get working on ideas. Study the published cartoonists. Study the underground cartoonists. Soak it all in and follow your passion.
- What is the freedom of expression in your opinion?
The freedom of expression. Most children are born with it. My daughter drew all the time until she started grade school. My nieces and nephew all had the potential to be artists, with their vivid imaginations and storytelling. Then it slowly receded. Makes me sad. School stymies expression. The artist in most of us is killed at an early age through conformity and forced memorization. The imagination we are all born with has to take a back seat in our society as we grow up to make room for lawyers, accountants and corporate managers. Those of us who try to keep it going are facing long odds. Artists are necessary. We should nurture freedom of expression.
- In your experience as a cartoonist, have you ever felt pressure because someone got offended from your drawing, if yes, how did you handle it?
Yes, I have had problems with censorship, not so much with editors, but with publishers. Once, back in 1979, I did a political cartoon advocating for a group home for special needs adults in the village of Camillus. My cartoons had been a big success at ”The Camillus Advocate” up until this point. When I took on the county relocating the dump in Camillus, I won favor with readers. But this group home irked a lot residents. They didn’t like the way I drew the town folk who opposed it. The Publisher intervened and said he didn’t want any more of this type of cartoon. I quit on the spot. Big mistake on my part. The paper was giving me an apprenticeship and I could have gone much farther in cartooning if I stayed on. I stood on principle, but curtailed a good opportunity. No regrets.
- In the aftermath of Charlie Hebdo and also Jyllands-Posten cartoon controversy, do you think newspapers and publications have started avoiding sensitive topics when it comes to cartoons? What’s your take on it?
Charlie Hebdo has been doing this brand of outrageous satire for a few decades. I applaud their bravery. The pen is proving to be more powerful than the sword. On the other hand, people are dying. The magazine is way out on the edge and offends almost everyone. You need that edge. You need the satirist to go out beyond the boundaries. Makes people think. Personally, I don’t like to offend people’s religion. I wouldn’t do it myself, but I think art has been a bit dangerous at times.
- In your opinion is there a line that cartoonist should not cross or everything is a fair game?
I don’t enjoy offending people. My humor is mostly visual wit and I enjoy taking on pomposity, arrogance, greed, sloth and all the human foibles.. I enjoy poking fun at my religion, Catholisism, but it’s never brutal. Some of the great cartoonists like Robert Crumb love to offend and they are brilliant. Crumb crosses the line many times, but he is such a big talent and he came up in the 1960s underground cartoon revolution, that he is expected to shake things up. Pat Oliphant takes no prisoners in his political cartoons. He generally hates all politicians. I don’t have that anger within me and there are more than a few politicians that I like. I did political cartoons in the past and enjoyed them, but you almost have to have the mentality of a character assassin to be effective at it. It just isn’t in me to make a career of it. I don’t like to hurt underdogs. I always make the joke on the big shot. I respect women, minorities, the elderly, the sick, children, the poor. Making fun of them is not in my sensibility.
- Your message for our readers?
My advice for your readers – follow your passion. Whether you are a computer whiz, mechanic, plumber, engineer or anything, you will not find true fulfillment unless you follow what makes you whole. With me, it was cartooning. Making the world laugh, or least smile wryly, is what makes me get out of the bed every morning. I don’t even look at it as work, though it takes patience, perserverance, sweat and skill. To get a good cartoon, you have to come up with a half dozen or so. Show them to friends and family you trust. Make sure they are clear, concise and easy to understand, Most people don’t encourage artists, so don’t expect a pat on the back if that is your passion. Most of us have to fight great odds. But it is worth it.
I worked at cartooning all while I had a career in corporate public relations at NW Ayer, Bozell and McCann Erickson advertising. Even though I made my living in the corporate world, I never stopped drawing, I kept taking classes in cartooning at the School of Visual Arts and Parsons – I never stopped trying. It was not only something I wanted to do, it was something I needed to do.