Portrait of the artist as a newspaper cartoonist

— Photo from Carol Coogan

A naturalist as well as an artist, Carol Coogan poses in front of one of the graphics she made for the state’s Five Rivers Environmental Education Center.

Carol Coogan, a freelance artist who has illustrated Enterprise editorials for seven years, tied for second place in the National Newspaper Association 2018 Better Newspaper Contest.

“The emotion of abuse, Carol Coogan captures it all here. Well done,” wrote the contest judges.

Coogan competed in Best Original Editorial Cartoon, a category for both daily and non-daily publications.

Her winning drawing shows a woman screaming, having escaped from a metaphoric glass jar while other women — of all kinds, in various postures, ranging from fear to resignation — remain trapped there.

“It was very cathartic for me, having been a victim myself,” said Coogan of creating the drawing. “I wanted to show what happens to a woman when she experiences that. The women in the jar are crumpled, depressed, devastated — your self-esteem has been ripped from you. I wanted to show a woman coming out of that jar, expressing herself, screaming F-you.”

The illustration was first published on Oct. 11, 2017 — just before the start of the #MeToo movement — with the editorial “Campus rape: Don’t rebuild the stone wall.” The Enterprise printed the drawing again, on Dec. 28, 2017 with the editorial, “The march has just begun.”

For the last two years, Coogan’s cartoons have won first place in the New York Press Association’s Better Newspaper contest.

“I have a sketchbook with me at all times,” said Coogan. “I play in it. It’s my most important tool. That’s where my ideas come from.” She said that the hardest part of drawing an editorial cartoon is coming up with the idea.

“I do get emotionally involved,” she said. “When I get excited about an idea, I feel it in my body. It’s like the art is coming through me. I’m just the vehicle. That’s a great honor for an artist.”

Coogan, who is 60, has spent a lifetime thinking about and creating art. “I always drew when I was a little girl. I’d make little books,” she said. “But my parents didn’t support me. They didn’t see art as a profession. In that period, women were going to be secretaries or nurses or teachers or wives.”

Two things made Coogan realize she could support herself as an artist. When she was a girl, Coogan recalled, “A woman who lived a block away wanted to paint me because I had long red hair.” She remembers watching a black-and-white TV with coverage of the moon landing as she posed for the artist. Later, she served as a model for the artist and her friends.

“For the first time, I realized people could make a living with art,” said Coogan.

Later, as a teenager, she was part of a summer program in Albany. “A gentleman was studying famous people at Albany Rural Cemetery. He saw I had a sketchbook — I always carried one — and he said, ‘Hey, we could use an artist.’ So I spent my days drawing the gravesites,” said Coogan, recalling the names of some of those buried there.

“I ran away from home when I was 17,” said Coogan. She lived with her sister in Burlington, Vermont. She studied at St. Michael’s College and Burlington College and then graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh. “The teachers were people who worked in the field,” said Coogan of her studies at Pittsburgh. “I learned graphic design and illustration.”

She now does a wide variety of art. For a decade, she wrote a column, “Backyard Naturalist,” with drawings she did from her observations. She has illustrated children’s books and done murals for both Thacher Park and Five Rivers.

Some of her artwork is large — like the street signs with a bold red firehouse for the Delaware Avenue Neighborhood Association in Albany, or posters for the Dance Flurry in Saratoga — and some of it is small — like the creatures she creates for Crane’s elegant stationery.

“To support yourself as an artist, you need to be versatile and you need some chutzpah,” Coogan concluded.


Carol Coogan’s “Taking the Lid Off” tied for second place for Best Original Editorial Cartoon in the National Newspaper Association 2018 Better Newspaper Contest, competing with both daily and non-daily newspapers.


NNA contest

The results of the National Newspaper Association contest were announced this week. Winners will be recognized during the association’s 132nd convention in Norfolk, Virginia on Sept. 29.

There were 1,405 entries in the Better Newspaper Editorial Contest and 202 entries in the Better Newspaper Advertising Contest for a total of 1,607 entries. A total of 478 awards were won by 115 member newspapers in 38 states.

Iowa had the most combined wins with 59, followed by California with 45, and Wyoming at 38.

Judging was performed primarily by active community newspaper editors and publishers, as well as retired university journalism professors and retired or former newspaper professionals.

Corrected on June 13, 2018: The number of years that Carol Coogan has illustrated editorials for The Enterprise was changed from five to seven.

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