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Cartoonist Ted Zemek packs his pens for retirement

Avid sailor Ted Zemek will now have more time to enjoy being on the water. - submitted
Avid sailor Ted Zemek will now have more time to enjoy being on the water.
— image credit: submitted

Cartoonist Ted Zemek has packed his pens and called it quits after 14 years of commenting on Cowichan life in the News Leader Pictorial.

“I’m retiring because I’ll be traveling widely, and will spend this winter in Arizona and southern California,” said the ink-stained 65 year old, sitting with wife, Carol, aboard their sailboat, Minotaur 1, on Tribune Bay off Hornby Island.

“I can’t really keep up (cartooning) when I’m on the road — it makes it difficult, even electronically.”

The political animal said he found plenty of fresh prey on which to comment in the Leader.

“Echo Heights is the news story that’s like the energizer bunny — it never stops ticking,” Zemek said of skewering North Cowichan council’s long debate toward finally preserving 91% of the Chemainus public forest.

“I was talking with the mayor (Jon Lefebure) and he said ‘It’s over and finished, and won’t raise its head again.’

“I said ‘You’ve got to be kidding. Something will happen and it’ll raise its head.’ Maybe they’ll find an archaeological interest there.”

Zemek also cited his satirical take on the sinking of several relic barges off Chemainus.

“That (issue) was always a good one,” the former graphic artist and printer said, predicting global climate change will impact Cowichan, and offer future cartoon fodder.

“The biggest story coming is global warming.”

The idea, he explained, is to simply comment about an issue, then let readers figure it out.

“You can’t go on about something too much, or people just turn off.”

Zemek switched on his creativity in his former home studio, “but we’ve moved several times, so I do (cartooning) at the dining-room table, and have done it on the boat.”

He always hit the opinion target, explained Leader editor John McKinley.

“Ted could be obscure at times, but his skewed lens is also his greatest gift. When he hit the mark with you, he really hit it.

“Strictly from a professionalism sense, he has been a treat to work with. Ted always had ideas, and always made deadlines. What more could an editor ask for?”

Zemek simply asked readers to mull messages in his cartoons.

“All my cartoons stand by themselves.

“People may stand around thinking ‘I don’t get it.’ Some people are obtuse. I do have fans and people who say ‘Good cartoon, Ted,’” said Zemek, who fed off pressure.

“I enjoy the process, and working according to a deadline.”

Some deadlines were easier to meet than others, depending on his subject, and the public grip on current events Zemek followed in the Leader, other valley publications, or just by talking to local folks.

“Sometimes (my message) was painfully obvious, like Queen of the North sinking, and 9/11.”

It boiled down to being pointed, and punctual.

“You’re professional, have a deadline, and have to fill the space, so they have to be good.”

It was also good of Leader owner Black Press to hire local cartoonists “which is very commendable.”

Zemek started cooking food for thought “at an early age, and shaped a knack for it. I’ve been drawing all my life.”

With more time now, he may issue a book of his work.

“That crossed my mind, about select cartoons. I’m particularly proud of the work I did on the Iraq war where I proved to be right. It was a debacle and we (global forces) never should have gotten into it.”

Zemek will delve further into his muse during retirement.

“I draw and paint, and I’ll continue. These days I do stuff for my own enjoyment,” he said.

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