What the heck am I doing here?
That was one of the first thoughts as Bruce MacKinnon waited for his induction into the Order of Nova Scotia Nov. 30.
“My head was spinning a bit. It was actually quite stirring, standing in this historic room [Government House] surrounded by some very impressive people, listening to their CVs being read aloud listing their incredible accomplishments,” the Antigonish native said.
The veteran cartoonist, whose work has become a mainstay of the Chronicle Herald for more than 25 years, said he felt a little overwhelmed and “probably looked somewhat terrified.”
“But, when my name was called and I had to get up and face the audience, I looked out and saw my kids in the crowd. My son winked at me and after that I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face,” MacKinnon added.
The first major step in an award-winning career for him came on the pages of the Casket. As a teenager, his drawings became a familiar feature of the community newspaper.
“Not by a long shot,” MacKinnon said when asked if he thought those early days would lead to an honour such as the Order of Nova Scotia.
“Of course, when you’re 14 you’re not thinking about awards and accolades. You’re thinking how much fun it is to draw people with big heads and when can I go back out and play street hockey?” he added.
If he did not get the job doing cartoons for the Casket, though, MacKinnon said none of this would likely have happened.
“It taught me the discipline of meeting a regular deadline and forced me to draw whether I was in the mood to or not. It was a tremendous experience,” he said.
When receiving such an honour, MacKinnon agreed it is a time to reflect on those who have been such a part of reaching that point.
“That kind of surprised me, that it felt so emotional. I was very lucky in a lot of ways. There were a lot of serendipitous turns in the road and I was surrounded by many wonderful, supportive people,” he said.
Topping that list for MacKinnon is his wife, Peggy, another Antigonish native. Her parents are Dr. John and Toni MacDonell.
“My parents, Neil and Barbara, were always there for me. Our house was covered in art, from Rembrandt prints to grade school scribbles from Mary MacGillivray’s art classes,” he said.
“We were always encouraged to create. I had good support all along the way,” MacKinnon added.
His signature sense of humour, which often finds its way into his cartoons, shines through when asked what’s next.
“I am going to bed. When I get up, I might have some cereal. Beyond that, I’m not sure,” MacKinnon offered.
He said he has been working on bigger colour projects in his spare time, painting acrylics on canvas.
“It has really gotten the creative juices flowing, but it’s more time consuming so not so practical for a daily paper,” MacKinnon noted.
“Still, it keeps me growing and my style changing and that’s more important as I get older,” he added.
In a perfect world, MacKinnon said he would work at the Herald until he retires, and then become a full-time beach bum.
“Maybe I’ll even move back home to Antigonish. You guys still have beaches, right? Excellent. See you in 15 years or so.”
Joining MacKinnon as 2011 recipients of the Order of Nova Scotia are Wayne Adams, former MLA; Sir Graham Day, businessman and scholar; Joseph Marshall, native rights’ advocate; and Budge Wilson, children’s author.