Cartoonist Dennis Renault grew up in the Salinas Valley and in John Steinbeck’s Pastures of Heaven. He was born in 1936, attending a rural grammar school and Salinas Union High with the children of Dust Bowl refugees.
In high school, he benefited from friendships with noted Monterey Peninsula cartoonists Eldon Dedini, Gus Arriola and Hank Ketcham and he subsequently enrolled at UCLA, majoring in graphic arts, with a political science minor.
After a year in college, where he began to draw cartoons for the Daily Bruin, he departed for two years with the U.S. Army in Germany in 1955, and then returned in 1957 to marry his Salinas girlfriend, painter Marty Johnson, and to continue his studies, earning a BA in 1960.
He began his professional freelancing career in Los Angeles in 1959, selling cartoons to Frontier Magazine, Los Angeles Magazine and ACLU Open Forum. He soon broke into the national magazine market with cartoons in Saturday Evening Post, Playboy, Look, Saturday Review of Literature and others.
A subsequent move to nearby Santa Paula in 1962 gained him a weekly spot as political cartoonist for The Ventura County Star-Free Press.
It was at this time he reconnected with his former Salinas High classmate, Andy Zermeño, principal graphic artist for Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers Union.
In the 1960s Renault became increasingly involved in the farm worker movement and also in opposition to the Vietnam War, producing cartoons and posters for these causes.
In 1972, he ceased freelancing and became McClatchy Newspapers’ political cartoonist in the state capital, drawing five cartoons a week published in the Sacramento, Fresno and Modesto Bee newspapers.
In 1998, after 26 years and 6200 cartoons for McClatchy Newspapers, Renault retired, deposited his original drawings at the California State Library and retired back to Monterey County.