Thursday, May 26, 2016

Legendary Cartoonist Pat Oliphant: 'We Are in a Forest Fire of Ignorance'

Pulitzer Prize Award winner editorial cartoonist Pat Oliphant is interviewed in this Atlantic magazine interview by Les Daly. The interview is from 2014, but it's making the rounds on social media and it was new to me.

"Oliphant, now 79, still delights with a boyish sense of disbelief at what he sees as the absurdity (at best) of most political figures and the things they say and do. Exploding happily at his good fortune, he says, 'They create this stuff; all I have to do is illustrate it. I just sit back and it comes at me.'

'He is less good-humored about the fate of newspapers and magazines; the educational breadth, or lack of it, of the people who read them, whether in print or online; the people who publish and edit them; and the politicians who 'keep the country going in circles.' He reads a lot of history, he says, 'to find out if they’re doing it again.'"

Pat Oliphant arrived from Australia ("a country where nothing happens") in 1964, "in the middle of the Johnson-Goldwater campaign."

"Here, the place was polarized, as it tends to be all the time. And this is a happy hunting ground for cartoonists, if you’re that minded. I think politics itself is the most boring thing you could possibly engage in. The study of the charlatans that practice it is what is enjoyable. The machinations of politics is not what is fascinating to me. It’s the crookedness of the people. Politicians are disgusting people, with some exceptions."

And there are some good Q and A about drawing. I love Oliphant's inky, energetic style. 

Daly: You seem to use lots of ink, to draw details furiously; sometimes almost everywhere you can fit it all in the frame. Aren’t you working harder than might be necessary to make the point? 
Oliphant: I love drawing and maybe I get lost in it sometimes. I enjoy it so much that I just keep drawing and drawing, and as the drawing develops you see other chances and places you can take it. When you get into some cartoons like that, you can see this is going to be a long day, but what the hell? 
Daly: You tend to gather a crowd in your cartoons whenever you can. 
Oliphant: Yes, and that always seems to happen when I’m in a hurry, too. I’m a captive to my own idiocy sometimes. The more people I put in, the happier I am. Except when I’m in a hurry, and then my enthusiasm runs up against the deadline. You have to keep up your enthusiasm. It mustn’t show in the cartoon that you’re in a hurry. It adds to the spontaneity if you’re working fast.

Go read the whole interview here.

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