Regional editorial comics on display at UT Downtown Gallery

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — They say a picture is worth a thousand words. So what about a comic?

Step into the world of regional newspaper comics at the University of Tennessee’s newest downtown gallery exhibit called “Point of View,” featuring names and topics you’ll probably remember.

You’ll spot comics about Tennessee football and Tennessee health care.

“It’s the Volunteer State and I’ve called it the voluntary state because right now, vaccines, mask mandates are all voluntary,” said Dan Proctor, an illustrator.

Drawings about national stories and niche problems only your neighbors will remember are included in the gallery.

One of the latter is someone sitting on a lawnmower, unable to cut the grass.

“We have the Grainger County Commission when they were trying to do their budget-cutting,” said Robert Turner, Creative Director at Grainger Today.

These and all newspaper cartoonists are there to put top-of-mind stories into a single picture.

“Maybe you’ve got to dig a little bit to understand it, but sometimes it’s just funny,” said Proctor.

Bigger than their newspaper counterparts, these original drawings are on display at three different UT galleries across Knoxville. But the ones at the UT Downtown Gallery focus on regional issues, politics, jokes, news and sports.

“It’s a great honor to be able to have my art down here at the museum,” said Turner.

Turner, Proctor and renowned local cartoonist Charlie Daniel are three of the cartoonists whose work you’ll see on display in this gallery. The three men are all prolific artists who don’t call themselves comics.

“Creative director,” said Turner.

“Illustrator,” Proctor said.

Daniel and Proctor spent decades at the Knoxville News Sentinel. Proctor now draws for Cityview magazine, and Turner still works and draws for Grainger Today.

“In cartooning, idea is 98% drawing is 2%,” said Daniel. “The idea is what counts.”

These artists get their ideas from everywhere and everything, it just depends on the day. People can see their cartoons from decades past, covering topics that will make you laugh, make you think and maybe make you uncomfortable.

Proctor said they’ve illustrated versions of what an editorial or opinion column may cover.

“I don’t plan to make anybody mad,” said Turner. “I just plan to make people think.”

These artists admit they don’t always remember the point they were trying to make in every cartoon.

“It was meant to be meaningful on that day, that week,” said Proctor. “I dig through my old stuff and 2 years later, I just look at and go, ‘What the heck was that about?'”

Even with a floating meaning, these three cartoonists know the power of the illustrated word.

“You afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted,” said Proctor.

They hope by displaying their work, someone else will see its power, too.

“As long as they don’t say, ‘I don’t get it,'” said Daniel.

This exhibit is free to view at the UT Downtown Gallery on the 100 Block of Gay Street.

“Point of View: Regional Editorial Cartoons” is on display through February 26.

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