PARRY SOUND - After close to 40 years of gracing the North Star pages with his witty and satirical cartoons, Elmar Dambergs is retiring...sort of.
Cartoonist lays down his pen after 39 years.
Elmar Dambergs is stepping down as editorial cartoonist for the North Star after 39 years.
Cody Storm Cooper/North Star
Visiting Dambergs in his quaint Parry Sound home, one cannot go in under the pretense of having a short visit.
Although nearing 90, Dambergs’ mind is agile and sharp. He speaks quickly in a thick Latvian accent and bounces from topic to topic, subject to subject, but always comes back to something related to art, artwork and artists.
“An artist lives in a different world and I don’t know where I am right now...okay, I’m not that bad,” he said with a wink and a chuckle. “I’m thinking of this and I’m thinking of that.”
Dambergs was born in Aizpute, Latvia on September 9, 1924. He had his first editorial cartoon published in a national newspaper in England on December 24, 1951 and was invited to work for a Toronto publication the following year.
He began drawing for the North Star in 1973, creating more than 1,800 cartoons in the last 39 years.
He may live in a different world, but Dambergs’ North Star cartoons featured current, political and social issues spanning a wide range of topics and genres.
Over the last few years Dambergs began slowing down, his cartoons featured monthly, instead of weekly and earlier this month, Dambergs submitted his resignation.
“I am not just disappearing, if there’s a need for something special for Christmas, I could do that, once in a while, decorate the paper. But not regularly. Not this systematic. My mind says, ‘You have to meet the deadline.’ After 40 years it drives you crazy,” he said with a laugh. “You can’t go on forever, you’re getting older and what the heck, what are you trying to prove?”
North Star managing editor Jack Tynan said he will miss visits with Dambergs.
“A highlight of every week at the North Star was a visit from Elmar,” said Tynan. “He put so much effort into every cartoon, he came in showing a mix of exhausted enthusiasm. It rubbed off, and the rest of the day following his visit was approached with renewed vigour.
“While I’ll miss those visits, and we’ll all miss almost 40 years of Elmar’s cartoons, I know he’s looking forward to a break from deadlines and more time in the garden,” Tynan continued.
In his small, tightly-packed, yet organized studio, Dambergs goes through piles of old newspaper clippings, paintings, sketches and letters.
One large painting depicts the Shadow River, in Rosseau - a favourite subject of Dambergs’ - he wanted to display outside his home, on a homemade stone canvas for passers by.
“A certain lady doesn’t like me to put that out,” he called out, presumably to his long-time partner, Raili. “I can’t do everything I want to do. In art, you go ahead, you take chances, you display maybe, questionable figures. Some people are morally against it. How can you express and control yourself at the same time? It’s very difficult.”
With his free time, Dambergs says he’s looking forward to getting back into more creative art.
He said with the editorial cartoons, he felt his creativity was restricted, stifled.
“This is a rock band, do you see it?” Dambergs said of another colouful painting. “It’s very free. It’s very free. Just the guitars there, the guys - I would like to paint like this, but I never get the chance. It’s a persnickety job, the cartooning, you have to know exactly how it fits in - it has to be right. It has to be detailed and refined. Here you can be free, so it’s quite a contrast.”