AS A YOUNG MAN discovering the true power of political cartoons, Kevin Kallaugher found the form enchanting in its ability to distill the news of the day down to a point as sharp as a pen.
Now, four decades later, the Overseas Press Club has awarded Kallaugher its Thomas Nast Award for cartooning on international affairs. In announcing the honor, the club lauded Kallaugher’s own graceful clarity of thought and point.
“In a strong year for political cartoons, Kevin Kallaugher’s work stood out for its clarity, visual élan and mordant humor,” the contest judges wrote. “From the war in Syria to the power struggle in Egypt to the Obama Administration’s use of unmanned drones, Kallaugher’s finely wrought sketches offered consistently provocative and often surprising takes on the year’s biggest international stories.”
The awards were presented in a ceremony Thursday night in Manhattan, at which the Associated Press, National Public Radio and the New York Times received multiple prizes.
Kallaugher previously won the Nast Award in 2002 and 2004.
“When I was back at university in the mid ’70s, I learned the power that cartoons had to educate, illuminate and inform readers about the important issues of the day,” Kallaugher tells The Post’s Comic Riffs on Thursday. “Watergate was in the headlines. The front pages were overflowing with stories on the subject.
“But it was overwhelming,” continues Kallaugher, who draws for both the Economist and the Baltimore Sun. “I had a hard time unraveling the who’s, what’s and where’s of the news stories. That was until … I looked at the editorial cartoons. The cartoons distilled the gray mass down to black and white. Accessible. Irresistible.”
Since becoming an Economist cartoonist more than 35 years ago, Kallaugher — who goes by the nom-de-toon “KAL” in his work — has applied those powers of distillation to global issues.
“Since being a professional in this honorable craft, I have aspired to fulfill our educational promise,” Kallaugher tells us. “Especially when it comes to dealing with International affairs. The world is a crazy and complex place and it is hard to keep up with what’s going on in our neighborhood, nonetheless what’s happening in Tadjekistan.
“So it has been my long-term professional goal to tackle these complex but important global events with gusto and make them accessible to American audiences,” says Kallaugher, who last year published a career retrospective, “Daggers Drawn.” “Learning that I had won the Thomas Nast Award from the Overseas Press Club was a particular honor as it suggests that perhaps I have had some success toward reaching that goal.”