New stamp honours award-winning editorial cartoonist Brian Gable

October 5, 2021
4 minute read
Gable uses sharp wit and humour to connect with readers and capture their voices

Brian Gable’s journey to the editorial pages of The Globe and Mail began with doodling in notebooks. He started as a kid and continued through university.

One day at the University of Saskatchewan, a classmate noticed him doodling and told him the student newspaper was looking for an editorial cartoonist. Gable dropped off some scribbles at the newspaper’s office and soon had his first published editorial cartoon.

Several decades and some 10,000 cartoons later, random doodling remains the foundation of his award-winning work and has helped Gable become one of Canada’s most widely known editorial cartoonists.

Gable is one of five editorial cartoonists being honoured by Canada Post with their own stamp. The other four cartoonists being recognized are Serge Chapleau (La Presse), Terry Mosher (Montreal Gazette), Duncan Macpherson (Toronto Star) and Bruce MacKinnon (The Chronicle Herald).

Gable’s work is instantly recognizable, his style unmistakable. He regularly uses satire and sarcasm to poke fun at decision makers and institutions, and to highlight important issues facing our country and the world.

For Gable, humour is a way to connect with readers. He has loved cartoons since he was a kid growing up in Saskatchewan, especially those in MAD magazine. He has harnessed that love of humour in his drawings.

“Throughout my career, funny was important to me because I think funny opened the door to letting the meaning of the cartoon in, in a way,” he explains. “If you’re laughing with something, you tend to be in agreement with what you’re laughing at.”

“Hopes and Aspirations Day”: The dream of the child who wants to one day buy a house is seen as less realistic than those of living in another galaxy, ruling a magical kingdom, or saving Earth from an alien invasion. Image courtesy of Brian Gable / The Globe and Mail

Gable tries to reflect the voices of average citizens in his cartoons and how they see the decisions made by the powers that be.

“It’s the little guy laughing at the hubris of power that editorial cartooning works well from. And I think I use that approach myself very often,” he says.

Gable has been making Canadians laugh at his witty editorial cartoons for more than 40 years, including more than three decades as the editorial cartoonist for The Globe and Mail.

He has a degree in fine art from the University of Saskatchewan and an education degree from the University of Toronto. In 1977, he began freelancing editorial cartoons once a week for the Brockville Recorder and Times while teaching high school art in Brockville, Ontario. In 1980, he became an editorial cartoonist for the Regina Leader-Post; he joined The Globe and Mail in 1987.

Gable has won seven National Newspaper Awards for editorial cartooning. In 2018, he was invested as a Member of the Order of Canada.

“He entertains and informs Canadians with his work, which embodies our national sense of humour, namely our ability to laugh at ourselves and our institutions,” said his citation.

“Fall 2010 : A kinder, gentler Parliament promised.” Image courtesy of Brian Gable / The Globe and Mail

Despite his success, Gable says editorial cartooning doesn’t always come easy. Even today, his cartoons usually begin with random doodling as he sharpens his focus on an issue or news story. He can often doodle for more than an hour before a cartoon takes shape.

What makes a given editorial cartoon great has a lot to do with how readers receive it and digest it, he notes.

“There’s an alchemy to it. It’s a magical process, it’s not scientific… it’s an accident often,” he says. “And when (the cartoons) speak truthfully and powerfully, if you’re lucky the cartoon can become a great cartoon. It’s not a common occurrence.”

Human trafficking – 21st Century. Image courtesy of Brian Gable / The Globe and Mail

Capturing the essence of Canadiana is often a signature of Gable’s work. The cartoon on Gable’s stamp features a beaver drinking a beer, seated on a Muskoka chair and waving a small Canadian flag.

He says the Canadian beaver is an image “of the little guy.” What’s reflected on his stamp represents the spirit of our country because it’s not an aggressive image, he says, but of someone “being friendly and open to their neighbours across the nation.”

While Gable’s cartoons often bring a smile to readers, they are also an important medium to communicate information quickly, hold political leaders accountable and introduce “a sense of oxygen into debate,” he says.

“Images are powerful. And if they’re used effectively, they can be extremely powerful,” he adds. “In a democracy, debate is central so editorial cartooning definitely has a role to play.”

New stamp issue celebrates Canada’s wealth of talent in editorial cartooning

Available now