Knoxville Cartoonists Share Deadline Humor at Downtown Gallery Exhibit

In February 2019, at the age of 89, editorial cartoonist Charlie Daniel retired from the Knoxville News Sentinel. During a six-decade career at the Knoxville Journal and later the Sentinel, Daniel created approximately 20,000 reflected images.

At a First Friday Feb. 4 event at the UT Downtown Art Gallery, Daniel was quick to answer a question about retirement. “No, I don’t miss the pressure and the stress of getting to something in five hours,” he said.

UT Downtown Gallery presents “Point of View: Regional Editorial Cartoons” through February 26 in conjunction with A Serious Look at the Funnies: 100 Years of Comics at Ewing Gallery through February 28; and Encore: Comics Beyond UT through February 21. The exhibits feature the work of Daniel, as well as the caricature of other local artists.

“Technique has changed,” Daniel continued, pointing to an early illustration. “I used ink and a brush, and the original was sketched in blue pencil, because it didn’t show (on paper). You can see where I used a razor blade to cut out some things and how I added the shading.

Cartoonist Charlie Daniel chats with an attendee of an exhibit featuring his original work published with other regional cartoonists at the UT Downtown Gallery on Gay Street, Friday, Feb. 4, 2022.

Adding color to newspaper printing helped rejuvenate Daniel’s work. And later, he mainly used a light board and colored markers.

Daniel thinks he was not good at caricatures. “There are certain characteristics that you notice in someone when they walk towards you from a distance. Once I recognized that I started there,” he said of his process With Richard Nixon it was the nose, later it was Jimmy Carter’s smile and teeth, Ronald Reagan’s hair, then Donald Trump’s hair, he said.

The Charlie Daniel Collection is archived at the John C. Hodges Library at the University of Tennessee.

Mike Berry, director of the Downtown Gallery at the University of Tennessee, matted and framed all the works on display. “We went through hundreds and hundreds to get a good cross section,” Berry said at the Feb. 4 event. “It’s good to see the collages and patches and the timeless work of the 1960s and 1970s.”

Cartoonists Dan Proctor and Robert Turner chat during an exhibit featuring their original published works with other regional cartoonists at the UT Downtown Gallery on Gay Street, Friday, Feb. 4, 2022.

Berry said the process took time. “You wanted to read everything. Some are easy to read, but Charlie’s work is so poignant that I could have selected it blind and been happy.

Why two exhibitions? “We wanted to tie the Downtown gallery with the Ewing Gallery exhibit on campus,” Berry said. “These are simultaneous shows with a different theme.”

Editorial cartoons are a good way to talk about something that’s hard to understand, according to Berry. “It’s art with humor, and the talent of the cartoonist blurs the lines and brings people together,” he said.

The mix of artists includes hand drawn art and digital art. “You can make a quick point in an image — to poke fun or draw attention to an issue,” Berry said.

“It’s kind of funny, we talked about it in the 1980s, but if you left it to the artists, we never would,” said Knoxville freelance editorial cartoonist Daniel Proctor, who also attended the First Friday event.

Proctor, who worked at the Knoxville News Sentinel until 2011, said he was encouraged to compete against Charlie Daniel while working at the Knoxville Journal. Later, while they both worked at the News Sentinel, Proctor said they developed a “good cop, bad cop dynamic.”

A sign hangs in front of an exhibit featuring original work published by regional cartoonists at the UT Downtown Gallery on Gay Street, Friday, Feb. 4, 2022.

“I was just doing wellness sports cartoons. If the Vols stank, I meant it,” Proctor said. “There’s a saying, I don’t know where it comes from, that newspaper editors comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. I tend to afflict the rich and the powerful. I feel like I let them know that the wool wasn’t pulled over our eyes.

A highlight of Proctor’s career was illustrating a frozen embryo trial that garnered national media attention in the 1980s and the opportunity to illustrate in the courtroom alongside other employees of major television networks.

“I got hate mail,” Proctor said of his work. “It’s not all bad; it lets you know that people are reading your work.

For the past 10 years, Proctor has worked full-time as a graphic designer for the health department and submits monthly illustrations to City View magazine.

Other cartoonists featured in both exhibitions are Clay Bennett, Marshall Ramsey, Robert Turner, Carl Sublett, Ed Gamble and Danny Wilson.

11am-6pm Wednesday to Friday; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Saturday to February 26.

Or: The UT Downtown Gallery, 106 S. Gay St.

More info:

Attendees chat during an exhibit featuring original work published by regional cartoonists at the UT Downtown Gallery on Gay Street, Friday, Feb. 4, 2022.

10am-5pm Monday, Tuesday and Friday; 10am-7.30pm Wednesday to Thursday; 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday through February 28.

Or: Ewing Gallery of Art and Architecture: 1715 Volunteer Blvd.

More info:

8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday until February 21

Or: Student Union Art Gallery, 1502 Cumberland Avenue.

More info: