Chatting with Bruce MacKinnon on National Cartoonists Day

Chatting with Bruce MacKinnon on National Cartoonists Day

Although he never completed his time at NSCAD, Bruce MacKinnon (DFA 2013) remains a valued member of the NSCAD community. In celebration of National Cartoonists Day, we wanted to share his fantastic work and take a look into his career as an artist and the Editorial Cartoonist of the Chronicle Herald.

What did you do in your time at NSCAD?

I studied graphic design, (‘viscom’ is what we called it back then). The program also allowed me to dabble in photography, art history and other areas. It was a very well-rounded program and it really helped my art develop in a more holistic sense.

What have you done since leaving NSCAD?

I worked for a short time in a graphic design office, and then freelanced from home while caring for our newborn daughter. My wife worked in a law office at the time… she was bringing home the bacon and I was changing diapers. Within a year or two, I began freelancing editorial cartoons for the Chronicle Herald, and I was hired full-time in August 1986. A lot has happened since then but essentially that’s been my career to this day.

What are you currently working on or have you most recently worked on?

For 35 years I’ve been doing daily editorial cartoons and though I’ve had to forego freelance work more recently, I have been working on longer-term projects which mostly involve large-scale caricatures done in acrylic on canvas.

What continues to inspire your work?

Mainly the art and artists that I’ve been able to see and meet from all over. Editorial cartooning has opened doors for me. I don’t think there’s anything that has helped my work evolve and improve as much as meeting other cartoonists, illustrators and painters from around the world and being exposed to so much unique and fascinating work.

What was your favourite part of NSCAD?

My favourite part of the NSCAD experience was being challenged to solve visual problems and having a large and talented group of students around me struggling to solve the same problems. It’s a unique environment and a liberating feeling. When you’re stumped and you think a problem can’t be solved, or all the ideas have been done, then you observe a classmate who comes up with something completely fresh, that’s when you realize there’s so much still there, the possibilities are endless. The learning doesn’t just come from the profs. There is always support and inspiration coming from your peers. It’s like being part of a team.

Were there any professors that particularly impacted you during your time at NSCAD?

Yes. Horst Deppe. Without question, Horst was the best prof I’ve ever had in any program at any university, and I’ve been to a few. He was like a father figure: kind and soft-spoken, motivating and inspiring, and he could clearly communicate to and connect with any student who walked into his class.

What is the proudest moment of your art career?

Marrying Peggy MacDonell, the birth of my daughter Robyn, and playing music with my son Jay, all happened during my art career… but I’m guessing those moments probably don’t qualify. Receiving the Order of Canada was more directly related to the work I did during my career, so let’s go with that.

What do you wish you had known when you were a student?

I wish I had known that it’s not so much about the mark you get on the project as it is about the experiences you have. It’s about what you learn from the mistakes you make and the fundamentals that you walk away with. I bounced around three different Maritime universities trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I had to leave NSCAD prematurely to go into the working world when my daughter was born. I never got the diploma, but it didn’t matter. I did OK in the end. What really mattered was what I learned in the process of being there.

To see more of Bruce’s work, you can take a look at his Twitter account here:, or pick up a copy of The Chronicle Herald.