Readers of The Squamish Chief may not know her name, but they are likely familiar with her astute political wit. Ingrid Rice is the artist and political satirist behind the cartoon on the editorial page of our paper each week.
A political cartoonist since 1992, Rice’s work has appeared in publications across the country.
The Chief chatted with Rice, who has lived in the Sea to Sky Corridor for almost her entire life, about her career, negative feedback and her herd of guinea pigs.
What follows is an edited version of that conversation.
Q: You originally worked in graphic design. How did you end up doing political cartoons?
A: I have always been a very avid newspaper reader and I would always write letters to the editor and they would never publish them.
Finally I thought, they don’t publish my letters – they don’t have the attention span of a gnat. Fine, I will send a picture. They published that. Then the editor said, “Where have you been hiding?”
The next thing I know, I was doing two or three papers a week. I would send “roughs” – rough drafts – and they would pick the one they wanted.
Q: Why do so many of your cartoons have someone reading a paper?
A: It is my device to get the story explained in case people have totally forgotten the event or issue [referenced].
Q: When you were a kid, did you draw cartoons?
A: Yeah, I did as a doodler. I actually got a detention once so it must have been pretty damn good because the principal recognized himself! I thought, “Oh, score!”
Q: How do you come up with your ideas for each cartoon?
A: I actually hit the Internet and see how many papers are picking up on an idea that I have for a cartoon. If only 20 papers in Canada pick it up, not enough people know about the issue or event. I like to have about 40 or 50 papers covering a topic so I know that everyone is aware. And then I watch the news to see what is happening as well.
Q: Is there a cartoon that stands out that got you a ton of feedback or flack?
A: The cartoon that got away, that I will always regret, is when [Prince] Charles was caught with those taped phone calls talking to Camilla Parker Bowles, and he said he wanted to be a tampon.
It was a brilliant cartoon. “The man who would be tampon.” The cartoon was just Charles with a string out of his head. It was clean, beautiful – simple. Unfortunately, the publisher was a monarchist. That is to me the one that got away.
Q: You were born in England?
A: Yes, then when I was 18 months old we immigrated.
Q: What do you see as your role, as a political cartoonist?
A: I think what I do is I try to say what the common man is thinking.
Q: I read that you are the only syndicated female cartoonist in western Canada. Why do you think that is?
A: As far as I know, I am. I don’t know why. Maybe it is just generally speaking, women don’t want to make trouble or piss people off? I just seem to come by that naturally.
Q: When the cartoonists were killed in France at the Charlie Hebdo offices, in 2015, what was your first thought?
A: It wasn’t an attack on cartoonists, really, it was an attack on freedom of thought.
It brings home the freedom of the press, that is for sure.
And if they can do that to cartoonists, and they get control, guess what is next? Newspapers, magazines, the media is gone.
Q: What do people not know about what you do that you would like them to know?
A: I spend a lot of time researching and writing down notes and quotes and dates and stuff.
I am up all night reading and watching the news and waiting for something to happen, trying to get that last piece of information before I draw in the morning. And sometimes something happens at like 8 a.m. and I think “Oh, I better do something on that story that just broke.”
Q: Did you ever want to get into politics yourself since you are so informed and have so many opinions?
A: Part of me would really like to do it and the other part of me realizes you do it and you won’t get to make any changes or do anything because it is always going to come down to the one in charge.
They don’t really represent us, they represent whoever is at the head of the party, which is wrong, I think.
Q: What do you do for fun?
A: I socialize, which involves drinking. I swim in Indian Arm, socialize some more.
Q: Do you get out on the trails?
A: Oh, no! Only if there’s a martini bar.
Q: What is with you and guinea pigs? I heard you have a few.
A: I have six, because that is the legal amount of rats, mice and guinea pigs you are allowed.
Q: Why do you like them so much?
A: My family was the weird family of North Van. We were the ones written up in the newspaper as having a whole bunch of different pets – 24 different kinds of pets. We had a skunk, raccoons, monkeys, you name it, we had it. The only pet that was mine was a guinea pig.
They fit in your hand, they have nice personalities. You know if they are hungry so you don’t come home and they are floating in an aquarium dead because they don’t have voices.
They have a little guinea pig condo in my house that they can come and go from at will. They kind of have the run of half the kitchen, but lately they have been coming out into the living room. They can be cute, but they can also be a pain. Some of them are very defiant.