Thursday, June 04, 2009

Canada's Forgotten Cartoonists: Des English, Ken Zeeley

Here's what I can tell you about Canadian cartoonist, Desmond English: absolutely nothing. Talk about "forgotten"!

Really, I was lucky to find a couple of credit lines that included a first name... until then he was simply "English" to me.

At first I wondered if he was even from Canada, because Canadian magazines often 'picked up' (bought second printing rights to) American illustrations and cartoons. But the topic-specific artwork in the column below convinced me that English must have been specifically commissioned to do the related cartoons.

Des English was a very regular contributor to both of Canada's biggest consumer magazines, MacLean's and Chatelaine, in the early 50's...

... he seems to have dropped out of sight later in the decade. I found no hint of him anywhere on the Internet.

Next, Ken Zeeley, who had two pieces accepted into the 2nd Art Directors Club of Toronto Annual in 1950. I can tell you a bit about Zeeley, since I was able to speak with someone who knew him.

Gerry Sevier began illustrating in Toronto in the late 1950's, working at a studio called Bomac. Gerry believes that Ken Zeeley was also at Bomac during the late 50's - but left for another studio called Art Associates. He says Zeeley not only left Bomac, but that he left cartooning as well!

This 1962 piece below may be some of Zeeley's last work, because according to Jerry, Zeeley became a salesman at Art Associates around the time Gerry joined that studio in 1962. Gerry says, "I don't know how long he (Zeeley) stayed there, but after a few years he left to become an art director at CBC."

The two men continued to enjoy a professional acquaintance for many years, and Zeeley occasionally commissioned work from Gerry. We can only guess why Ken Zeeley chose to leave cartooning, but Gerry seems to feel that he may have had trouble getting enough work. "The business really changed around 1960," he says.


  1. Great stuff Leif!
    I remember hearing the Zeeley name from some of the older AD back many moons ago.
    The doug Wright story brought back many a memery as a kid,reading his panels on the Saturday cartoon section of the Ottawa Journal(NOW DEFUNCT)

    I sure wish you would do a story on the GREAT Duncan McPherson and his ACID dripping pen of which he bore Fantastic editorial Cartoons for the Toronto Star.
    I highly DOUBT the RED STAR would ever use a artist like that again(thats another story)

    Duncan could hold court over ANY politician aand make them go fetal with his work.
    A awesome draftsman and a mind sharp like a tack.

  2. Charlie Allen3:46 PM

    Thanks for a most enjoyable week, Leif. All of these artists are funny....and all very different. Artists have to have a built in funny bone to be real cartoonists. I could cartoon....but lacked that sense of humor. I'm pretty sure a certain percent of humanity sees life with humor. In a barracks full of guys in the army, no matter how grim or tough the situation, one or two would crack us up with humor and jokes. Gracias, again.

  3. Harley4:54 AM

    I really like the clean, modernist style of these two artists. This type of stuff is much harder to do than most folks might suspect.

    Thanks once more.