My Secret Life as a Political Cartoonist Part I


Note: Some of these images are not appropriate for younger viewers or Republicans. Viewer discretion is advised.


There are many things you can say about the Bush Jr. years in this country. Especially in light of the current political state of affairs. Despite my personal political beliefs, one thing I can say is that George W. Bush is clearly two things.

my-life-as-a-political-cartooonist_george-bush-self-portraitFirstly, he’s one hell of a painter. I never thought I’d ever have anything nice to say about that man, but we are in the world of Trump now, so perhaps it’s time for healing. But damn, that mans paintings, particularly his self-portraits, actually impress the shit out of me.

The second thing about Bush, is he always gave me fuel for some wicked fun political cartoons! In fact, before his second term, every time I tried to draw John Kerry it always ended up looking like Herman Munster. The selfish and childish part of me was grateful when Bush got a second term because I had that shit-weasel down pat when it came to cartooning.

In light of the nature of this particular post, and it’s uncharacteristic deviation from all things urban farming, you will see some political cartoons that you may not agree with or you may find offensive. It is my recommendation that you get over this quickly because it’s coming in full force and there’s little you can do about it.

Apart from me writing this to allow you a deeper glimpse into all that is me, I also would enjoy having these images back on The Interwebs for posterity purposes. My old website as me as an artist is no longer up and all my paintings, drawings a photographs are now lost in The Matrix. So, let’s begin our journey of sharing by slapping these bad boys back online.


I began my cartooning career back in 2001. I was working at The Photo Factory in downtown San Diego and was having a bit of a existential crisis. You see, I went to college so I could be an artist. I ended up moving towards a photography degree as it seemed more economically viable than sculpture, painting or drawing. Although I love them all equally.

Around 2001 I was growing very weary of printing other peoples shitty photographs of trite and poorly exposed “tasteful” nudes. I reached out to the editor of The Espresso after seeing a tiny ad in the paper looking for an illustrator. We met in a coffee shop (of all places) and I brought some drawings of mine for him to look at.

I then told him of my crisis and said that I NEED to create again and he would be saving lives by allowing me an outlet to do so because I was about to lose my mind. Either he was impressed by my portfolio, or interested in preserving lives. Either way, he hit me with a project right away. A giant 11″ x 17″ full front page illustration for a feature article about Americas dependence on foreign oil and how it was indirectly funding terrorism. I mean this was above and below the fold here people. I’m talking bigly here. So here was my very first published illo.

my-life-as-a-political-cartooonist_the-gas-junkyIt took way longer than I had hoped and I was still coming into my own style of drawing under pressure. The old mayor of San Diego, Maureen F. O’Connor I believe, seemed to dig it though and requested a signed copy.  I think it was her and not the republican mayor after her. Regardless, it seemed I was off on the right path and all my homicidal existential angst began to melt away.

This started a nice five year side-career working with a few different publications. The Espresso based in Southern California, The Fahrenheit, a now defunct independent music and culture newspaper out of San Diego and The Beast out of Buffalo New York. Between my full time day job and three publications I was a happy busy lad.

Typically, I’d get a call in the early evening for an assignment and would have only several hours to have a completed giant drawing inked and ready for print. All those all-nighters were fuel for my aching soul and I loved every stressful moment of it!

Especially the artistic and uncensored freedom that illustrating The Beast gave me. Just gander at this gem from an article titled Bush Mayhem: Policies of a Moron

This is also the place where you’ll want the kids to be out of the room. Last warning, no more censorship from here on out. It should also be noted that not all of these reflect my political opinions. Although many do. If one really upsets you then it wasn’t my idea, I was only following orders.

my-life-as-a-political-cartooonist-03_bush-sodomizes-uncle-sam

Man oh man, I was having a blast doing these gigs! After five years, I have way more images than you have the interest in seeing. If I were to list them all here, I’m certain your eyes would start bleeding. So I’ll do you a solid and pick some of my favorites and then place some others in galleries for you to look at at your leisure. Also, my brain is as such that I don’t really remember all the context you may need to better understand the illustrations. So you’re going to have to remember for me and I’d love to hear some context in the comments below in hopes that I can remember some of the shitty things that happened during the Bush years and get all fired up again. I’ll try to recall as much as I can though.


The Espresso 2001-2005:

Being my first published paper I worked with, I had a wonderful five years with The Espresso. The editor was a blast to work with and our collaborations made for a hilarious half decade of muck slinging and GOP bitch slapping. John Rippo (publisher and editor) is still going strong with this sweet rag. Who says print is dead! The Espresso started out in 1992 and is printed in the old large style format. I currently have a few copies of every paper I was published in stashed away. I also have a few of the hand pasted front page layouts (old school!) that are framed in my living room.

my-secret-life-as-a-political-cartoonist-03b_espresso-covers

The circulation was somewhere around 38,000 at the time if memory serves. There was nothing quite like seeing these giant drawings all over town during those years. I’m getting rather nostalgic at the moment…Perhaps it’s time to see what my Trump caricature would look like…


my-secret-life-as-a-political-cartoonist-04_2-10-04-bush-on-mars
Bush and Cheney go to Mars

Published in February of 2004, This was for an ed op piece about rumors of Cheney’s infamous Halliburton company looking into drilling for oil on the surface of Mars. At the US taxpayers expense of course. With an added jab at the ongoing search for weapons of mass destruction. Remember those? Spoiler alert: there weren’t any.


my-secret-life-as-a-political-cartoonist-05_7-7-2002_cigarette-nazis
The cigarette Nazis

Published in July of 2002, this feature cover article was about new proposed legislation that would’ve made it illegal to smoke cigarettes in your car as well as you home. As a smoker, this one got my dander up.


my-secret-life-as-a-political-cartoonist-06_11-2004_rube-goldberg-e-voting-machine
Homage to rube Goldberg

Published in June 2004, another front page feature article discussing the infamous Diebold electronic voting machine and its use during the 2004 presidential election. More on that can be found here. Went with a timeless Rube Goldberg style illustration on this one, which was fun as hell to do.


Megan's Law Backfire
Megan’s Law Backfire

Published in May of 2002 for the front page feature article. This was piece was about a man being attacked by a mob of angry people due to a case of mistaken identity. He had the same name as a registered sex offender. I thought it would be fun to throw in a priest just to stir the pot a little bit.


San Diego in flames with no help from FEMA
San Diego in flames with no help from FEMA

Published in October of 2005 as a front page feature article. This article was a response to the failures of FEMA after hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. From what I recall, it was discussing the level of preparedness, or lack there of, locally in San Diego in the case of another emergency. Many surfers, listless hippies and silicone junkies were killed in the making of this illustration. They shall not be forgotten.


Jesus!
Jesus!

Published in July of 2003. I can’t remember where in the paper. I also am fuzzy on the details of this one. I seem to recall that two factors were represented here. Firstly congress had passed some kind of sodomy law and secondly I believe that congress tried to pass a new anti flag desecration law. Perhaps this will help explain. I think there was a correlation in the article about the flag becoming an almost religious symbol. Perhaps John Rippo can chime in on the comments below as he wrote it. Either way, touchy illustration/subject here.


Bush's clean air policy
Bush’s Clear Skies Act

Published in August of 2003 for an article criticizing Bush’s Clear Skies Act of 2003 and its subsequent allotment for roughly 42 million tons of pollution beyond the EPA’s recommendation. My favorite is the little dog with a gas mask.


Homage to Hunter S. Thompson
Homage to Hunter S. Thompson

Published sometime in 2003, this feature article was about the unprecedented number of journalists allowed access to the front lines during the war in Iraq. More on that can be found here. Being the huge fan of the great Doctor Gonzo that I am, I had to sneak him in there somehow. Note the name on the pocket under the press pass.


Bush's bedtime stories
Bush’s bedtime stories

Published in November of 2004. I’m a bit fuzzy on this one. I know it had something to do with the general fear tactics deployed by the administration to allow for an overreach of executive powers. So glad we’ve advanced past being controlled by fear! Oh…wait. Shit.


Where are the weapons of mass destruction?
Where are the weapons of mass destruction?

Published in February of 2004. I can’t recall on what page. Also, damn! This one is a wee bit intense isn’t it? Too soon after 9/11 perhaps? It’s pretty clear what the implied correlation is here. Did I mention that I wasn’t a supporter of the war in Iraq?


The sky is falling!
The sky is falling!

Published in February of 2005. Here’s another one I don’t remember the details of. I’m also not sure if this was in The Espresso or The Beast. I think the former. I wanna say that this was about the Bush administrations continued use of fear tactics or flat out lying about reasons for engaging in the war in Iraq. Again, if John Rippo or Paul Fallon (editor of The Beast) are reading, maybe they can shed some light.


John Kerry, meet Charles de Gaulle
John Kerry, meet Charles de Gaulle

Published in September of 2004 for a front page editorial opinion piece. In this article the writer was illustrating comparisons to a potential John Kerry presidency and how he would handle Iraq vs. how Charles de Gaulle was faced with similar challenges as president of France in the late fifties when dealing with the Algerian fight for independence. This began my struggle to get a decent John Kerry caricature, which as I mentioned above, always seemed to turn into Herman Munster.

my-secret-life-as-a-political-cartoonist-15b_john-kerry-is-herman-munster

Ah, the burden of the cartoonist.


Saving private Lynch
Saving private Lynch

Published in June of 2003 for a front page article (my thinks). An article about the false reports from the media *cough*fuckyoufoxnews*cough* reporting Private Lynch as the first POW rescued since Vietnam and the first female POW rescue. Turns out she was in a car accident and was actually “rescued” from a group of Iraqi doctors treating her injuries. Doh!


my-secret-life-as-a-political-cartoonist-17_6-11-05-bush-vs-newsweek
myah, see! Bush don’t like da Quran in the toilet ya hear. myah.

Published in June of 2005. I don’t remember where this was printed nor what the connection was between the Bush administration (John Rippo?) and the fallout from Newsweek publishing an article about a guard in Guantanamo desecrating a copy of the Quran to torture a prisoner. I do recall that it turned out to be quite true and there was significant upset in the Muslim world and may have very well led to the London bombings in July of the same year. More on that can be read here. All I know is that this one was fun to draw and is one of my favorites.


Good lord, there’s so many more. These were some of my personal picks, but for the sake of posterity and having more stuff accessible online, I’ll toss some more into a gallery. You burnt out yet? Personally, I just relived all the shitty Bush years all over again and could use a decent enema, an old priest and a young priest. While I’m doing that, enjoy these lesser images…


Okay, that was my life with The Espresso. Or at least part of it. I don’t want to overwhelm you. I was about to move onto the other newspapers but then began digging through my archives and re-reading the letters and emails I sent out to editors and publishers and got lost in nostalgia. I’ve decided to make this a two-part post so I can add some of them to the meat of this secret side career of mine. So stay tuned for Part II.

That said, I also wanted to show you some of the other drawings I’ve done over the years so you can see my more freestyle side devoid of any editorial direction or creative sobriety. So, up next is my fun stuff from college and beyond…

The Drug Years 1993 to the early aughts:

When I was a wee lad (around 4-5), my mother made the mistake of giving me a nickel for a crappy drawing I made. I think it was of Santa. Something clicked in my little cute head and I ran back into my room to begin another drawing. And another. And another, etc. I have no idea how many nickels I earned that day, but it jump started a lifelong interest in doodling.

When I graduated high school in 1992, I was hell-bent on getting my own apartment. More so than a car in fact. I could always take the bus to get around and walking to my college was only about 30 minutes. Being 18 and on my own afforded me a lot of liberties and I indulged in all of them. Including a great deal of LSD. The following drawings can be best enjoyed in light of that information. If you follow.


1993
The Artful Dodger, 1993

1993
Grandpa in Drag, 1993

Tattooed, 1994

1994
The Uninvited Guest, 1994

My Secret Life as a Political Cartoonist_1996_Gecko
Tokay, 1996

1996
Paul’s Breakdown, 1996

Buffalo Winter, 1997
Buffalo Winter, 1997

Finding the Right Words, 2000
Finding the Right Words, 2000

Tom Waits, 2000
Tom Waits, 2000

Untitled, 2001
Untitled, 2001

Some silly Dragon, 2002
Some silly Dragon, 2002

Whatsit, 2007
Whatsit, 2007

Fuzzy Whatsit, 2007
Fuzzy Whatsit, 2007

This Guy, 2009
This Guy, 2009

I think it’s safe to say at this point that this post is meaty enough and your eyes may very well be bleeding by now. So rest up those weary peepers. Next week I’ll hit you up with the letters, The Fahrenheit and The Beast cartoons in part II of this nonsense.

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my relatively unknown past. I have a few other secret careers locked away in the archives that I may or may not share with you in the future. Once we get to know each other better. I’d love to hear your thoughts or criticisms in the comments below, so don’t be shy. Until then, Keep an eye out for Part II.


21 Replies to “My Secret Life as a Political Cartoonist Part I”

    1. So many worlds, so little time. I’m actually meeting up with one of my old editors on Tuesday to perhaps begin illustrating again. I don’t have a tremendous amount of free time, but I think Trump will bring me out of retirement regardless. mwahaha!

  1. I have a similar career trajectory, started in art–abandoned in an early crisis of confidence–followed by law. Then, because my brains were exploding, I started writing novels…about art. I like the results–but it leaves me free of the gallery parade. Nice historical tour.

    1. It’s funny how life can take you down unexpected paths isn’t it? I tend to ebb and flow back and forth between financial conformity and artistic expression. Although, I do enjoy the gallery parade.

  2. Yes, mad skilz, definitely! You simply have to tackle Rump. With the cabinet he’s building, it’d be like illustrating SNL! And, you’d get to chronicle the demise of American life as we know it … until you are arrested for being a subversive. What the hell–go for it!! 🙂

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