More to cartooning than inky daggers - it's time to organize
Sen. Ernest F. Hollings stood in the spotlight with the kind of unflinching smile that only a presidential candidate can muster, as cartoonist Pat Oliphant drew him with a pen dipped in vinegar.Skip to next paragraph
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The drawing took 20 seconds, turning the silver-crested Democratic senator from South Carolina, who looks like Hollywood presidential casting, into a ski slope of nose and jaw. The crowd, packed into the rust-colored hotel room lined with cartoons, cheered and applauded as cameras flashed.
It was the newest wrinkle in political fund raising, a cartoon party to raise money for Art Pac, the national political-action committee for the arts. On the walls hung 200 original cartoons by artists who had donated them for the cause. Present were some of the cartoonists themselves; around them milled the crowd of political biggies, reporters, and Washington glitterati - including Sen. Claiborne Pell (D) of Rhode Island, who was lanced by cartoonist Dan Wasserman of the Los Angeles Times, and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D) of Massachusetts, who decided not to be cartoon fodder.
''They're all superb, aren't they, huh?'' said Senator Hollings as he studied a wall of cartoons priced from $75 to $1,000 each. ''More red dots, we need more reds,'' Mr. Oliphant muttered, scanning the room for the tags that signified items sold. Paul Szep of the Boston Globe and Tony Auth of the Philadelphia Inquirer stood around, plotting a conspiracy.
''We're putting a book together: 10 favorite cartoons by 10 different cartoonists,'' said Mr. Auth, ticking off the names of some of the contributors who are tentatively scheduled to collaborate on the effort. And, he kidded, ''we're going to split the money from it to go to the movies together.''
Among the other cartoonists who have donated more than 200 original drawings to the benefit are Jules Feiffer, Bill Mauldin, Paul Conrad, Jeff MacNelly, Brian Bassett, Sack, Bill Shorr, Ben Sargent, M. G. Lord, Jim Moran, Mike Peters , Bill Day, and Jim Borgman.
Pat Oliphant, whose cartoon of former President Richard M. Nixon flashing the victory sign is the poster for the show, explains why he donated a dozen of his works. He says of cartoonists, ''We're a finite resource, like oil and gas. An artist's life endures only as long as the work he leaves behind him endures. . . . It's nice to see it go to museums of universities, which can set up representative bodies of work.''
Under present tax laws, such donations of artists' work have fallen off to a trickle, because the artist can deduct only the cost of materials like paper, ink, canvas, paint - not the market value of the art. Paradoxically, tax laws allow collectors of art to deduct the full value of the art, up to thousands of dollars in the case of some paintings. Art Pac not only lobbies for the arts, but raises funds for congressional candidates sympathetic to the arts.
Its 1,000 members include a national cross section of artists, cartoonists, composers, writers, and musicians, among them famous names like artists Jasper Johns, Marisol, and Roy Lichtenstein, writers Norman Mailer and Peter Benchley, actors Cliff Robertson and Ed Asner, and composer Elie Siegmeister.
Cartoonist Oliphant says he's made some last-minute changes in his donations to include his most recent, pungent stuff. Speaking in wry fashion of the United States invasion of Grenada, which had just occurred, he said, ''Last week was such fun. It was bad for the country, but fun for cartoonists.''
Once he finds the idea for the daily cartoon he does for Universal Press Syndicate, it takes him about two hours to do the finished drawing, usually with an all-news radio station blaring in the background.
Mr. Wasserman of the Los Angeles Times Syndicate says the cartoons that are most satisfying for him to draw are ''the ones where you have a gut reaction, where you pick up the newspaper and see what strikes you as an issue. . . . The invasion of Grenada struck me as an outrageous act. . . . You look for a subject where you feel on firm moral ground.''
Mr. Wasserman says his three cartoons a week for the syndicate give him a ''somewhat more relaxed'' schedule, but he admits he sometimes feels the steely dread of deadline.