by BK Munn
Political cartoonist Blaine MacDonald died February 6 in Hamilton. The colourful MacDonald, who signed his work “Blaine”, was the cartoonist for The Hamilton Spectator for 30 years until his retirement in 1993.
Born and raised in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Blaine dropped out of art school and drew his first cartoons for The Cape Breton Post where he worked for several years. In 1961 he moved west and landed a temporary gig filling in for Globe and Mail cartoonist Jim Reidford before being hired at The Hamilton Spectator, where he remained for his entire professional career. It was at the Spec where Blaine built a large local and international following, churning out cartoons on all subjects during the years of Diefenbaker, Pearson, Trudeau, Kennedy and Nixon.
In 1963 Blaine was reportedly the Grand Prize winner at the first Salon de Caricature in Montreal. His work was syndicated internationally and he published two collections of his cartoons, winning the National Newspaper Award, Canada’s highest award for political cartooning, in 1974 and 1982. In 1969 he won the coveted Award for Editorial Cartooning from the National Cartoonist Society in the U.S. His work also appeared in high-profile U.S. magazines like Time and Playboy. Most recently, Blaine was honoured at the 2011 convention of the Canadian Editorial Cartoonists.
As Peter Desbarats and Terry Mosher noted in their book The Hecklers, Blaine was “a master of brush technique.” His cartoons, falling somewhere between Duncan MacPherson and Jack Davis in style, are a mass of thick and thin brush strokes. The faces of his caricatures have a layered, oatmeal-like quality, enhanced by an arsenal of textural details, ranging from folds to cross-hatching to a fascination with wood grains.
Blaine also won many accolades from his peers and from the political figures he lampooned. He was a friend to the young Sheila Copps in her journalism days and a mentor figure to The Spectator’s current cartoonist, Graeme MacKay.
In his personal life, Blaine cultivated a wild appearance, with a fondness for colourful apparel, cars, and motorcycles. He was a black belt in karate and a guitarist/songwriter who reportedly recorded with Canadian singing icon Anne Murray.
In recent years, Blaine had suffered a stroke and undergone heart surgery, with the resulting partial paralysis giving him trouble speaking and breathing. A resident of the Macassa Lodge retirement home, Blaine was taken to Juravinski Hospital after watching the Superbowl, where he is said to have died peacefully with his family at his side. Blaine is survived by his second wife Ildiko Horvath, a son and daughter, and four grandchildren. A funeral service was held February 10th.