J.D. Crowe is the staff cartoonist for the Mobile Register. His darkly clever, provocative images have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Time Magazine, on CNN, and CBS Sports.
Over a long career drawing caricatures and editorial cartoons, I can report that Sarah Palin is one of the greatest gifts ever to our profession! She’s more fun than Bill and Hillary combined. She has the intellectual wattage of George W. Bush coupled with the paranoia of Richard Nixon! And that presents endless comic opportunities for cartoonists. The fact that Palin was a former beauty pageant contestant only helps matters. Contrary to what many lay people think, beauty queens and supermodels are easy to caricature.
So, I LOVE Sarah Palin! Not enough to buy her memoir, of course. That would mean a SERIOUS commitment in time and cash. Besides, Ms. Palin may have taken some “poetic license” in writing her autobiography, at least its chapters on the election, creating an alternate reality for herself. That’s what editorial cartoonists like to do — make things up as they go along. We only happen upon the truth once in awhile, usually by accident. Otherwise, we offer lazy political analysis, inflate grotesque rumors and deliver sarcastic cheap shots. Not unlike Sarah Palin’s style of governance.
But let’s get back to caricature and the subject at hand: Sarah Palin’s face. Starting with her eyes.
Eyes are the key to drawing successful caricature, as personality is most immediately expressed through them. Palin’s eyes are always wide open and quick to judge (usually harshly). They dance with sarcasm and burn with resentment. She’s got axes to grind and wildlife to skin! As for eye makeup, Ms. Palin applies it like a pro. Not in a trashy way (though it’s always fun when some political figure ladles on the mascara and eye-shadow — a la Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner). Rather, Sarah Palin could pass for a cosmetics technician at an upscale, Middle-America department store such as Nordstrom. Her makeup expertise makes my job easier!
No doubt about it, Sarah Palin looks great at age forty-five! I trust she won’t someday “airbrush” the crows feet lines away from her eyes with Botox. They add character, a touch of gravitas, and don’t in the least bit make her look “old.” And let’s not forget that chin! Palin’s facial bone structure, over all, is impressive. But few have a chin as expressive as Palin’s: jutting, clenched in defiance and certitude, in a way that comedian Sarah Silverman would describe as expressing both “arrogance and ignorance.” Palin knows what she knows (to know more would be “elitist”) — and, dang it, she knows what’s right!
As Sarah Palin sets off on her grand book tour, she has let the world know of her displeasure with Newsweek having featured her on its cover in shorts and running shoes. Seems a bit odd, as Palin, a dedicated jogger, posed for a photo spread in Runner’s World just this past August. Nonetheless, she declared the Newsweek pose undignified and the magazine “sleazy.”
I suspect another reason for her objection to the pose. “Sarah Barracuda,” the take-no-prisoners hockey mom, the fierce basketball point guard from high school, has the sturdy legs of a roller-derby queen, not a Rockette. There’s meat on those thighs, and she’s a touch thick around the ankles. Having watched her swimsuit pageant walk on YouTube, I suspect the legs might have cost her the Miss Alaska crown back in 1984. (I haven’t seen the talent part of the pageant).
In terms of faces to draw, political cartoonists have much to be thankful for these days. Barack Obama has a great head — a cranium made for sculpture, interesting in its many angles. His wide, electric smile, second in size only to Jimmy Carter’s, contrasts markedly with his strong brow and flashing eyes. Nancy Pelosi has the eyes of a dragonfly, and the habit of smiling broadly at inappropriate times. But, for the sheer fun of drawing caricature, Sarah Palin’s face is hard to beat! Editorial cartoonists wish her a long and prosperous future, at our expense!
My fantasy caricature of the former governor? Field-dressing a moose in the buff, amid the snowdrifts. Should I ever draw that cartoon, you’ll see it here first!
Well, thanks for stopping by. If you’d like to see additional samples of my work, please click here.