Beyond a tremendous amount of art auction websites hocking his originals (showing the sheer magnitude of gag work that he did in his day), there isn’t a ton of information out there about Canadian-born cartoonist Jeff Keate. He churned out his feature “Time Out!” of sports-related gag cartoons for the Publishers Syndicate for nearly ten years, had work in Colliers, The Saturday Evening Post, Cracked, Humorama and others, and produced a hard to find newspaper strip called Rufus for just over a year. Keate also illustrated Charles D. Rice’s instructional book on cartooning Squeans, Plewds and Briffits, or How to be a Cartoonist in 1954.
Below, the rough for a gag cartoon that we stumbled upon in our collection that made our morning here at the Cartoon Library:
“Who made this pencil mark on my memo pad?”, original cartoon rough by Jeff Keate. From the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)
Ah, the beauty of the gag cartoon. Sometimes that’s all it takes! In an article about Keate from the August 19th, 1950 issue of Editor & Publisher magazine, he described his desire to intentionally make cartoons and comics with no other meaning or purpose than a laugh: “I really think there’s a crying need for humor. My page won’t carry any message.”
“I’m sure it’s positively indecent… if we could just figure it out.” original gag cartoon by Jeff Keate. From the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge)
Keate was raised in British Columbia, and attended college first in Grand Rapids, MI, followed by the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts, class of 1936. He relocated to NYC in 1945, which is where his cartooning career really took off–averaging 20 magazine cartoons per week.
Original Jeff Keate gag cartoon for the Saturday Evening Post. From the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon LIbrary & Museum (click to enlarge)
In his Editor & Publisher interview, Keate mentions that his inspiration for being a cartoonist came from his father’s own unfulfilled dreams to draw comics, and support of his sons pursuit. A lumber industry man, the elder Keate would hang frames around the scribbles that young Jeff drew on the walls of their home as a kid rather than punish him.
“We don’t just titter and say ‘Well, accidents will happen’ here, Purvis!” original gag cartoon for the Saturday Evening Post. From the International Museum of Cartoon Art Collection, The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum (click to enlarge).
If you have more biographical information on Jeff Keate, we’d love for you to share!
Speaking of great Canadian cartoonists, we are thrilled to be attending the Toronto Comics & Art Festival (TCAF) this weekend to promote the Cartoon Library and take donations for the Dylan Williams Collection- be sure to say hello!