Friday, September 7, 2012

Dianne and Pete, sittin' in a tree …

Another ode to Oliphant:

Though not alone, Pat Oliphant is one of the best editorial cartoonists at capturing the essence of the public figures he pillories. He whittles down each victim in short time to visceral visual shorthand. Each becomes a vessel into which Oliphant pours in his idea of who the person is, not just what s/he looks like.

President Reagan began, under Oliphant's pen, a collection of sharp lines that lampoon his lionization as a silver screen idol. (Of course, Oliphant's caricature of Reagan began when Reagan was California's governor with eyes on the White House). In the end, Reagan became a juicy squidge signifying an oily pompadour, and two dots for eyes atop a crooked squiggle for a nose and a long chin.

The gubernatorial candidates show off their new personae.
Spartan, but devastating. President Clinton received the same two dots for eyes, a bulbous nose and a big chin, which sometimes morphed into W. C. Fields. President George H. W. Bush got a pinched face and often carried a purse; his son mostly showed up as a little boy in big boots and cowboy hat, asking Vice President Dick Cheney what to do.

Garry Trudeau, creator of Doonesbury and presumably unable to draw caricatures, instead depicted Bush No. 1 as empty air, and George No. 2 as empty air or a floating asterisk under a cowboy hat or Mars' battered helmet.

I was trying to be like the big boys here, establishing a relationship with my characters and turning them into symbols that would amplify my point. The cartoon atop literally shows how I went about that transformation with Pete Wilson and Dianne Feinstein, then vying for governor.

Outta my head, Oliphant! You can see Patrick Oliphant's influence in caricature, angle and
general bugaboo portrayal.
Of course, it implied I'd be drawing these two many times and would need this shorthand. This marked early days in my efforts to become an editorial cartoonist, and I expected to learn how to convey more nuanced opinion. It's a difficult trick, especially with state politics, to lampoon people and issues when readers might not even be aware of either.

These offer rather generic viewpoints: politicians are buffoons who defer to lobbyists and blame each other rather than solving problems. Nothing to see here, folks. But I like to think I was getting better.

No comments:

Post a Comment