A cartoon by Gord Barney. (Submitted)

Ladysmith cartoonist documents loggers’ lives through caricatures

Gordon Barney’s cartoons tell stories of lives inside logging camps along the west coast of the Island

For the past 40 years, Gord Barney has been documenting the life of loggers in an unusual way, through caricatures.

The untold stories about life within the camps and the changes that took place over time within the logging industry, have all found their way into his many cartoons. Barney also published two books, Camp Inspector and Haywire: From the Cook-shack to the Tail-blocks.

Son of a logger, Barney began working in the logging industry at the age of 15. He began utilizing his free time at logging camps to draw cartoons. Most of it would be representations of events that unfolded during the day.

“I used to make caricatures of logging bosses to make fun of them,” said Barney who would hang up these cartoons on a common area wall that eventually came to be called the ‘wall of fame’ in the camps.

“Some of the bosses would like the cartoons and laugh along and some didn’t like it,” said Barney about people’s reactions to seeing their caricatures.

Caricatures, Barney believes, provide “another perspective” to look at events that are sometimes too serious and stressful.

“The humour of the cartoons takes away the grimness from the situation.”

As a cartoonist, he said that people look at things more comfortably when it is interpreted through caricatures.

Over the course of his career in the logging industry, he worked in logging camps all along the west coast of the Island such as Kingcome Inlet, Kendrick Arm, and Tahsis to name a few. His stories are based on his experiences at many of these places.

Barney’s fellow loggers who saw the cartoons displayed on their ‘walls of fame,’ loved the art work as it was “relatable.”

“They knew where I was coming from,” says Barney about the camaraderie that fostered his cartoons. It was often their “inside joke” and kept the loggers entertained.

During the long periods of layoffs that loggers faced back in the day when camps would shut to avoid summer fires and due to snow in winters, Barney got time to pursue his cartoons and work on his books.

The logging industry has seen tremendous changes, from being the most lucrative business to mills shutting down. Barney has captured the changing nature of this industry in his cartoons.

READ ALSO: B.C. forest companies get first test for new logging licence rules

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