Newsroom artist Chris Ware makes Weekender and Gallery Hop entertaining

"We don't tweet like we used to."

This cartoon was drawn by Chris Ware for National Geographic Kids magazine
"We don't tweet like we used to." This cartoon was drawn by Chris Ware for National Geographic Kids magazine

Among the artists in the last Gallery Hop of 2014 is the guy who has been on the cover of Weekender more than anyone else.

Chris Ware's pleasant mug has never actually been on the front of our Friday entertainment guide, but his clever and entertaining drawings routinely usher us into our weekend fun.

Just yanking a handful of Weekenders off my shelf, I have his drawings of Garth Brooks, UK and Keeneland tailgaters, a sunflower welcoming fall festival season, Mark Twain sitting on a piano while composer Raymond Lustig puts his words to music, and a variation on the Shaker Village logo to reflect its microbrew festival. As we sit down to chat, he's contemplating next week's cover, which will combine Black Friday and the UK-Louisville football showdown.

That's all I'll say about that cover, but if you come down to the Herald-Leader this evening, you might get a sneak peek.

You will also see that Weekender cover illustrations are just a smidgen of the breadth of Ware's work for the Herald-Leader and for other publications such as National Geographic Kids and Cobblestone, a history magazine.

"Each day is different," Ware says of his job, which on this day includes putting together a chart on Kentucky state pensions and art to accompany a story on the Kentucky Horse Parks' Southern Lights display. "It all is part of that mission that we want to inform, we want to educate, and when appropriate, we want to entertain."

Over his 35 years at the Herald-Leader, Ware's work has ranged from amusing caricatures of public figures, including presidents and pop princesses, and the occasional blank canvas, such as a Christmas day cartoon of a nativity pageant that also was a picture find for young readers.

Not surprisingly, the father of seven draws a lot of inspiration from his kids, particularly when it comes to creating for National Geographic.

"I'll sit down with them ... particularly my two youngest, and say, 'name an animal,'" Ware says. That has led to a pair of dung beetles pushing their namesake — ummm — substance, and one sitting on top of it saying, "I'm pooped."

Caricatures probably get the most attention and most prominent play in the newspaper, and Ware says they are the most challenging, especially the beautiful people like George Clooney and Jennifer Anniston who offer the fewest opportunities to build on prominent features like Mick Jagger's lips or Mitch McConnell's chin.

Whatever he's producing, Ware says he feels lucky.

"It's a God thing for me," Ware says. "With my modest talents, I have been able to provide for my family for years doing something I enjoy."

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