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Justin Bieber

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I’m not one to really follow much of the celebrity gossip. The furthest my gossip train goes is my local polititan and that’s about it. However, I realize that in order to expand my appeal in the marketplace as an editorial illustrator, I should start doing more apolitical individuals and I should try and have my pen on the pulse of the American tabloids, so to speak.

Thus, I’ve been putting together some ideas that would be a little more mainstream.

This first one was actually a class demo. I had been thinking about doing a caricature of Justin Bieber for some time, actually. His notorious brawls has been giving him a black eye, and I’m speaking figuratively, here. Perhaps he thinks this out-of-control tough-boy thing is attractive and helps his image, but to me, and my guess is that I’m not the only one, I’m starting to find it disgusting. Honestly, I feel sorry for the kid. He’s a product of the internet generation, sensationalized and thrown into this world of unreality in which he was able to hit fame with a meteoric rise. Virtues like responsibility and self-control have not been taught to him as they may have to someone else who may have to struggle harder for their daily survival.

Generally, my class demos are hit and miss. On this one, I think I hit it out of the ball park. Doesn’t always happen, but when it does, it makes me smile.

I plan on doing a few more in the more mainstream series coming up. Stay tooned!

Defending the First Amendment

The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments about whether or not Hobby Lobby should be forced to pay for their employees’ contraceptives and abortions, despite religious objections, as a part of Obamacare. Four justices have already voiced that they will side with the government. I find this to be mind bogglingly shocking. These people were put there to DEFEND the Constitution, with the very first Bill of Rights being to protect religious freedom. It should be a slam dunk case, with Hobby Lobby winning easily. That fact that FOUR of the justices think otherwise is frightening. What on earth is their justification?

Their argument is that Hobby Lobby is a corporation and that the First Amendment does not apply to corporations. Say what!? First off, that makes zero sense. Corporations are nothing more than collections of people and it is my understanding that the First Amendment applies to ALL people. Corporations are owned by people, staffed by people, managed by people. Corporations are people and in that respect they are no different than government. They reflect the values and integrity of the individuals that make them up.

But even if corporations are some strange separate artificial intelligence entity, what good is the First Amendment if it doesn’t apply to EVERYBODY?? When the government can start to pick and choose who gets protected by the First Amendment and who doesn’t, you have entered into dangerous territory, and the fact that four justices think that it’s their job to decide who doesn’t get protected by the First Amendment means that we are already there!

I brought this point up to a liberal friend and his response was, “Well, I don’t like Hobby Lobby pushing their religion on their employees.” What does that have to do with the issue? Hobby Lobby is not forcing the employees to do or not do anything. The government IS forcing Hobby Lobby to do something it finds objectionable. If Sue Employee wants to have an abortion while under the employ of Hobby Lobby, Hobby Lobby will not stop her from doing so and frankly, I don’t think Hobby Lobby cares what Sue Employee decides to do with her life outside of Hobby Lobby. But why should Hobby Lobby be FORCED to pay for that abortion? It’s Sue’s abortion, not Hobby Lobby’s. She should pay for it herself, if that’s what she wants, or find somebody who does want to pay for her abortion.

Even though Hobby Lobby does not get involved in Sue Employee’s personal life, if Hobby Lobby, or any company for that matter, wishes to establish for themselves a code of ethics on how they feel their employees should conduct themselves outside of employment, I would defend their right to do so. Sound extreme? Well then, work for another company. We do not have forced employment in this country. Nobody is forcing anybody to work for any company. Why is it that so hard to understand? If Sue Employee wants her employer to pay for her abortion, she can get a job with one who will.

What does the First Amendment specifically say? It says “Congress shall make no law regarding the establishment of religion or the free exercise thereof.” The Obamacare mandate violates this on both accounts. First, it denies Hobby Lobby their free exercise of their religion. I bring this up and I hear liberals say the First Amendment is supposed to keep people from forcing their religion on others. No, it doesn’t. Considering the fact that a lot of the signers of the Constitution were ordained pastors or ministers, I doubt that this is what they had in mind when they signed it. No, the First Amendment ALLOWS people to proselytize, Bible bash, witness, share, whatever you want to call it, to one another. Don’t like it, tough, it’s their freedom. What it DOESN’T allow is for government to force ITS religion and yes, secularism IS a type of religion. By forcing Hobby Lobby and anybody else to pay for contraceptives, the government is establishing that this is their worldview (religion) and this is their way of forcing you to acknowledge it. The failure to understand this is a failure to understand the First Amendment.

John Andrews caricature

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This is the final caricature of the series. I couldn’t not do one of the man so instrumental in getting the Western Conservative Summit up a rolling and keeping it an entertaining and smashing success year after year. It’s also a tribute to someone I am blessed to call friend. Knowing John’s affinity for climbing 14ers, I put him on top, submitting, if you will, the Colorado Mountains. Which peak depicted is not important, what’s important is that John’s efforts are herculean, much like climbing a 14er. (which I’ve done three times, so I know). Never giving up, slowly but surely we hope to influence our culture, our generation, our politics for the good.

Jenny Beth Martin caricature

Jenny martin

The caricature of Jenny Beth Martin, affectionately known as the Tea Party lady. Didn’t know her before the Western Conservative Summit, but I had a chance to meet her and we chatted a bit. Again, I didn’t mention that I was the one who did her caricature (I’m not one to toot my own horn when it comes to my art, I guess). It was fun just hearing from her and learning about her struggles and the goals she has for this country.

This is another one that I feel I just simply hit a home run on. The likeness is spot on, and speaking of spots, I couldn’t help but have her hold a spot of tea. I also loved the color scheme on this (of course, green happens to be my favorite color…)

James Golden caricature

james golden

It seemed, as I was trying to find ANY photo reference that I could of James Golden, that he is a very private individual. Because of this, I won’t call him by his pen name, but he is much more popularly known as somebody else. I’ve known who he is for a long time, but because of the business he is in, I had never seen his face before. It’s tough to paint a guy when you don’t know what he looks like. I finally found two very low resolution photos of him online, and that’s all I had to work with. I ended up making the caricature a bit more generic due to the lack of any strong photo reference.

Golden works for one of the biggest media personalities in the world. If you can catch their attention, you’re sure to make it, but both are very private and are flooded with unsolicited queries that go unnoticed. I hope, I just hope, that Mr. Golden puts this in his office and that one day, the big guy he works for will look at it and go, you know? I think I might need to hire this illustrator for my next publication.

Finally, as James Golden spoke, I couldn’t help but try and redraw him from life, so that I would have something with a little more clarity to start from the next time I wanted to do his portrait. Now that he’s right in front of me, I saw exactly what he looked like, so I quickly jotted down the following from life.

james golden sketch-web

Guy Benson caricature

guy benson

I don’t don’t have cable, so I wasn’t aware of who Guy Benson was before starting this caricature. There was plenty of reference on the web and that made a world of difference.

This was like the 13th out of the 16 caricatures I did for the Summit, so by the time I got to Mr. Benson, I was a pro. I nailed it on this one. I love the way the brush work of the underpainting becomes the pattern in his blazer. I had a great time painting the plaid, and I attempted to push the distortion and stylization of the face as far as I could and I did so while maintaining likeness. Epic score!

Guy Benson seems like a very cool guy and I like the fact that he’s young. Perhaps one day Guy will know me on a first name basis and the next time he’s on Fox News he’ll say, “oh, that reminds me of a funny cartoon my friend Benjamin once did…”

Ted Cruz caricature

ted cruz

There are few people I admire more than Ted Cruz. Knowing he is from Texas, I decided to render him as a Texas Ranger, here to restore law and order back to the Senate.

I had a fun time with this caricature. But more than that, I had the distinct and priveleged honor to meet him in person. Like the other 100 or so people, I was shuffled in line and given only a few seconds to speak with him, get my picture taken, and move on. What do you say to a guy you really admire in just a few seconds worth of time? I was scared I might choke on my words and say something really stupid, or perhaps spit in his face accidently. As you know, the constant long term use of the prednizone has wreaked havoc on my vocal chords, so I was certain I was probably just going to end up squawking in the end.

But Ted Cruz, besides being shockingly short in size, was one of the most gentle men I’ve ever met, with a firm, but reassuring handshake. He did not know that I was the one who did the caricature of him, nor did I venture to volunteer that information. Instead, I simply said, “Thank you for your courage. Never give up. We’re praying for you.” As I walked away, he called me back, “Sir!” I turned and looked. “Thank you. That means so much to me.” “Have a good day,” I called out. “You too!” he cried out in his trademark Texas drawl.

Months later, in a seemingly liberal classroom, I was giving a presentation on the art of caricature. I showed classic examples from some of the greatest caricature artists both of the past and working today. I couldn’t resist throwing this into the slide show, as I was quite pleased with how it turned out and I wanted to show how you can add other story telling elements to your piece in order to compliment the caricature. After explaining all of this to my students, I mentioned I was the artist of this particular piece. I then mentioned that sometimes as artists, our talents can sometimes give us some great opportunities we might otherwise not have, such as the chance to meet someone like Ted Cruz. I then quickly showed this slide for a few seconds before moving on, one, because it’s not a really flattering photo of me, but two, because I know how certain people feel about Ted Cruz and I didn’t want to start any trouble.

me and ted cruz-sm

But to my shock, they begged me to go back, so I did, at which point the who class erupted in “how cool!” and “that’s sweet.” Find out, Ted Cruz is admired by a lot of people for his courage, including the young generation.

Point of View

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Do I need to say more about this toon? Perhaps not, but I will.

For some, this toon may come across as outrageous. It’s not my attempt, this toon is merely an observation.

There are a few things I can’t stand… Arrogance and false accusations. And it seems to me that both are on a rapid crescendo. It’s funny how the side that claims there are no absolutes are the first to judge someone for the food they eat, for the religion they practice, for believing in certain economic theories. It’s not enough that we have differences of opinions. No, now it’s that what we believe is immoral. We’re haters for having these opinions. And because of this, the debate comes to a screeching halt. And if they can continue to promulgate this myth with false reports, items taken out of context, Democrat plants at Tea Party rallies, Facebook memes, then they don’t ever have to deal with the issues, because why bother, conservatives are simply that immoral. It’s gotten so bad, that every time I offer support to some conservative or Republican publicly on Facebook, I shed friends like a dog sheds hair at springtime. (to channel Dan Rather)

The left has made racism the most immoral thing anybody can ever do (more immoral, it seems, than even killing an unborn child), second, only to political incorrectness. So in order to shut up conservatives, all you have to do is label them whatever the most immoral thing on the planet happens to be at the time. Why is this dangerous? It’s because people can justify engaging in all sorts of retribution against those they consider immoral. Their leaders can work them up into a frenzied fury to the point that they don’t even care if they do violate their opposition’s basic constitutional rights, all the way down to the right to life, in some cases. Hitler’s Germany is a great case study. Why did the German people turn against the Jews? It’s because they were brainwashed over the years into believing that the Jews were IMMORAL.

It seems when I was younger I could disagree with my liberal friends and we would spend hours discussing policy and economic theory. And we both agreed we weren’t crazy about any politician, regardless of party. At the end of the day, we respected each other and knew that we both wanted essentially the same thing, just had different thoughts about how to get there. What happened to those days? Perhaps it was because we were teenagers and we hadn’t learned how to hate yet? Now I have liberal friends who will go behind my back and completely trash with distortions, lies and vitriol the very beliefs I hold dear in the anonymous forum of Facebook, yet refuse to engage in discussion in person. What happened to civility? Is it too much to ask to take a few steps back and realize that conservatives are not villains, not demons, not racists or any of the epithets normally leveled our way. I challenge you to consider that just maybe, just maybe they might want the same things as you: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Once that happens, then we might actually learn things from each other.

God’s Party

In honor of the CHRISTmas season, I thought it would be fun to put this out there:

This notion that the God who created the universe somehow has a party affiliation is a comical one. I remember when Jon Stewart came out with the argument that Jesus was a Democrat, Facebook lit up with everybody debating one side or the other which way Jesus would cast his vote, should he step in the booth on election day.

Some discussions from both sides got fairly heated and I wanted to just jump in and say, “you silly people, He’s neither. Duh, He’s American Constitutionalist!” But I was afraid the joke would have been lost on them, so I refrained.

The truth is, God is sovereign and ALL authority has been given by Him, whether recognized or not. The idea that God belongs to a certain political party is presumptuous on our part. God doesn’t belong to a party, we belong to Him. Instead of saying, God is Republican, we should be saying, as a Republican, we belong to Him. And that’s the big distinction.

We’ve all seen the bumper sticker that says “God is not a Republican.” That’s true. But God is going to favor the party or candidate that conducts his or her life according to Biblical principles. Right now, within the very platform of the Democrat Party are violations of certain Biblical principles, such as the right to life for the unborn. And regarding the redefinition of marriage, while Christ’s blood has made it possible for all of us to find favor in His eyes, including gays, marriage is a sacred institution and one party is working to change that definition (to be fair, both parties have long desecrated it with massive divorce rates, infidelity and the like). It’s the Democrat party that has an active coalition that is working hard to remove any mention of Christ in the public arena.

And finally, it’s only one party that is built on the idea that stealing from the rich to give to the poor is somehow compassion, when all it really does is foment covetedness, a violation of one of the ten commandments.

During the 1970s, the Democrat Party owned the evangelical vote. But for some reason, during the 1980s, they slowly started removing evangelical principles from their platform. Now I’m starting to hear Republicans complain about the evangelical wing of their base. Do Republicans also want to lose favor as well? God doesn’t hold political allegiances. If you abandon Him, don’t expect Him to take your side.

I’ve known decent evangelicals who vote Democrat as much as I’ve known those who vote Republican. In the end, this earthly realm is a mere shadow of the Kingdom that is to come, in which there will only be one party, the party of Jesus Christ.

Mike Huckabee Caricature

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This is the first caricature I attempted in this new style. When we came up with the idea to do paintings for the dignitaries of Western Conservative Summit, there was only a week and a half until the event, and I still had days in which I taught. I realized that I needed to come up with a new style, and quickly.

I reflected on the painted animations I did for our church the previous Easter. I ended up hand painting close to 60 paintings in order for the animation to work, and as a result, I stumbled upon a painting technique and ultimately a new style for my artwork that would allow me to work in a very timely manner. For Easter, I was mostly painting backdrops and landscapes and very stylized cartoon characters. I hadn’t attempted to apply this technique to an actual person. I decided to start with Mr. Huckabee.

Using the limited and (as I now know) outdated photos of him from the internet, I pieced this together. I added the narrative element of him in front of a pulpit, something I admire deeply about him is his faith and his willingness to defend it.

I stumbled through this one, learning a lot along the way, stuff that would set me up for the other 15 caricatures. I wish I would have pushed the caricature more, but I was a bit unsure about where I was going with this, so I approached it cautiously. I took an entire day to paint Mr. Huckabee, but by the time I was wrapping up, I was cranking out four caricatures a day.

Huckabee’s schedule on the day of the summit was crazy. If I remember correctly, he flew in from New York as soon as he finished his show on Fox, his flight got delayed, he finally arrived late in Denver, drove through Denver traffic to get to the Summit, gave his presentation and then had to rush back to the airport for another engagement in Arkansas. Blech, I get airsick just thinking about it.

Hold That Thought

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A pictorial depiction of how fleeting our thoughts can sometimes be.

Jonny Gomes, caricature

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A caricature of Jonny Gomes (Gnomes) of the Boston Red Sox. When I first saw Jonny Gomes hit that home run in game 5(?) I was inspired to create this caricature. As I looked at him, I thought to myself, man, he sure looks a lot like a gnome with that beard. Considering the close name relationship, I decided to create a visual play on words. This is just another in my series of caricatures. And if you are a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that I love baseball as much as politics, so this is my tribute to another great year in Major League Baseball.

Dick Morris Caricature

dick morris

I love Dick Morris. I don’t always agree with him, but that’s okay, I love that he is so animated by the power of his convictions, and right or wrong, he is willing to make bold predictions. But the one thing that separates him from so many others is that he takes ownership over the things he says, which takes real guts.

He ruffled a few feathers at the Summit when he stategized differently than Ted Cruz on a key issue. That’s okay, it’s the debate and discussion that’s important. Something conservatives welcome wholeheartedly.

 

Scott Walker Caricature

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Whether you agree with him or not, you have to admire the tremendous courage of Scott Walker. Most politicians would have caved after the vicious attacks he endured, all because he wanted to do the best for his state and bring in a little fiscal responsibility. Of course, that means putting some reins on the money train, but apparently that was enough to get out of state special interests to try and get him recalled… twice.

me and scott walker

I actually got to meet him. And I made him laugh. (always makes my day when I can get people to laugh, especially high ranking politicians.) I’m not all that crazy about the photo, however. The lighting’s weird and that glare in my glasses makes me look devious. I was having a bad hair day and my exhaustion is showing.

Because Walker wanted to avoid the appearance of all evil, he declined to take home the portrait, signing it instead (see the silver sharpee halfway down the image?), and putting it into the permanent collection of the Centennial Institute’s growing art museum collection.

Jonah Goldberg Caricature

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My portrait of Jonah Goldberg. I didn’t really know much about him before the Summit, but he ended up being one of the most entertaining presenters. Combined with Bill Whittle, the two of them provided comic relief that had the whole room in stitches. His latest book’s cover is pure red, so I decided I would use that as a starting point. I also love the way I chose not to show any definition in the jacket, instead let the sleeve and hand come out of the solid shape. I really should push for that more often in my work.

It’s About Woman’s Rights

This cartoon is probably going to get me in trouble. But here it goes anyway.

It’s partially in response to another cartoon I saw recently. It portrayed an elephant whipping a woman (with lettering on her that read “woman’s rights”). The elephant was asking, “Why doesn’t anybody like me?” What an outrageous and disgusting cartoon! It proves nothing. It fails to persuade. It descends into the lowest form of debate tactics, name calling. And to me, when the other side starts resorting to name calling, you know your argument has been won. Of all the conservative issues out there, abortion is probably the easiest to defend.

Here’s an analogy. If a woman suddenly said, “I want to cut off my right arm,” and starts to do so, we as a society would try and stop her. To say that trying to stop her from cutting her arm off violates woman’s rights is absurd! How much more valuable is an unborn child, with a separate heartbeat, than an arm? Yet somehow we can’t even talk about the issue without the other side screaming hysteria and accusing us of all sorts of awful, untrue things.

I’d rather defend a woman’s right to cut off her own arm at her choosing than the murder of unborn children. Regardless of the circumstance, the heartbeat in her womb is another human being, whose right to life needs to be protected.

Another argument often heard is, “Well, I think abortion is a terrible act, but I’m not going to dictate my morals on other people.” (Thank you Joe Biden.) Really? Then what do you call the banning of lightbulbs? Large sodas? Keystone pipeline? Are not these your morals you are pushing on other people?

If you really thought something is horrific, then yes, you would work to ban it. I’ll use an extreme to prove the point. If you think pedophilia is morally wrong, you wouldn’t be saying, “well, deep down in my heart, I think pedophilia’s a horrific act and wrong, but I don’t think it’s right for me to push these morals on other people, therefore it should be legalized.” See how absurd that sounds? It’s not logically consistent.

Going back to the other cartoon, after reading it, I was flaming hot. Heck, if he’s going to go to those depths, I can be just as outrageous. Normally I try and hold back. I’ve a reputation to maintain, after all. In creating this cartoon, I debated on whether the character holding the bag should be generic, or should it represent the Democrat Party. I realized that going with the latter would turn up the controversial aspect of the cartoon several notches. But the fact of the matter is, the Democrat Party has chosen to take the side of abortion. It’s within their bylaws. I’m not stating anything that isn’t true. And it’s the Democrat Party that has proclaimed that the Republicans are waging a “war on women” simply because we believe life is sacred. Until they change this position, the donkey stays.

Final note, the pro-life position is not an attack on women. And we certainly do not wish to leave women out to dry who may have been victims of man’s cruelty or simply made a decision they now regret. That’s why Christians have always done more than just state a position. Despite zero mentions of it in the media, hundreds of pro-life pregnancy centers exist across the nation and are staffed with compassionate and caring people who are not there to judge anybody, but are there to help protect life… both the woman’s and the child’s.

Unquestioned Reality

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Last week was the celebration of (Republican) Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic speech, of his hope and dreams of an America where race is inconsequential. Unfortunately, (Republican) Dr. King would be rolling in his grave right now at the way an entire political party has decided to use false allegations of racism against their opponent to stir up a fever pitch of fear and hate against them. It’s absolutely disgraceful to (Republican) King’s memory and legacy and it’s sickening.

Racism is a terrible thing, whether it’s white on black, Polish on Jew, or black on white. All of it God frowns upon. And false allegations of racism are nothing more than a form of racism, pitting one race against another with false fears and making that divide even greater.  Since Obama’s election, everybody was hoping that this signified the end to racial disharmony. Instead, it has only gotten worse and he has done nothing but watch his cronies stoke the flames of racial rage.

I’m a huge fan of (Republican) Dr. Martin Luther King. I grew up in a mixed race neighborhood and experienced the beauty of being exposed to different cultures. So I was looking forward to last Wednesday as being a day of unity. Instead, what I saw from other political cartoons and heard from liberal commentators on the day when we’re supposed to be coming together as races, horrified me.

Saw one cartoon that had Republicans hanging black people. No other explanation. That was their premise, no need to provide any evidence. Several others equated the Republican desire for voter ID as somehow not allowing blacks to vote. *

But the straw that broke the camel’s back was one cartoon that had all these gravestones and plaques with an elephant with a shotgun standing among them. On them were written: Jim Crow, No Japs (a reference to Japanese internment), No Irish…. And in the far corner was a border agent hauling off a Mexican.**

This is a working editorial cartoonist, working with a respected paper, drawing this. The obvious wrong in this cartoon was that what was written on the tombstones were DEMOCRAT INITIATIVES! Japanese interment… (Democrat) FDR’s idea! Jim Crow laws, written and propagated by the Democrat party! And the sign that said no Irish…? Not quite sure what he was referring to there.

It’s one thing to falsely accuse somebody of something, but to lie about history to try and gin up hatred for one party?! Absolutely disgusting!

The Democrats have found a goldmine. Racism is a crime of the mind and it is nothing that can be proved or disproved. If you accuse somebody of tweeting his junk to young gals, he will demand you provide evidence of such accusations. But with racism, no evidence is needed, nor can any be provided, for or against. You can’t say, “well open up my brain and peer in and you’ll see I’m not a racist…” Without the need for a smoking gun, the accusations stick and the despicable tactics work.

The other problem is that the public is slowly starting to believe these false charges, despite any evidence. They take them as truth without questioning whether or not there’s a motive behind them. Fear and hate then creeps into their mind, blocking their ability to look at the arguments of any issue. If only there were a way to convey this in a cartoon…

*An aside… Really? So being in favor of rule of law is racist? I’m sorry, isn’t it MORE racist to assert that somehow blacks are incapable of getting photo IDs?

**Another aside… Now the accusation is that Republicans are wholesale racists because they oppose amnesty. This is a case where there is broad and intentional misunderstanding about the ISSUE. We sit and tell a Sudanese refugee, brutally torn from his murdered family, to wait three years and to pass all these tests in order to enter our country. He dutifully does so, desiring to honor the laws of the new country he is about to come into. And while he sits and waits, we just let millions of Mexicans gain instant citizenship simply because they broke the law and snuck in. Talk about fairness, this is not fair to the Sudanese! I’m not a hardliner on this issue (read any of my previous columns and you’ll see), but I understand that a desire to implement rule of law and order to our immigration process is not in any way racist.

KT McFarland Caricature

KT McFarland

So I don’t watch Fox News, and I didn’t really know who KT McFarland was when I started her caricature. All I had was a few photos to go by and in each, she had big hair. So naturally, I exaggerated. Then when I saw her in person, she had a whole new hairdo, and she looked much younger. Oh well, that’s why it’s a caricature and not a portrait, right?

Oh, and by the way, KT McFarland, besides being a commentator on foreign affairs, held national security posts under Nixon, Ford and Reagan.

 

Mia Love, the portrait

Mia Love, Mayor of Saratoga Springs

This is my portrait of Mia Love. Mia Love is currently mayor of her small town in Utah, but has her sights on the national stage, running for congress for her district in 2014. One of her first major appearances was at the Republican Convention of 2012.

I started on this piece first thing in the morning, so my creative energies were the most in tune, and it really comes across as evident in this piece. I painted the board very dark and I could not see the pencil lines. I finally decided just to go at it, putting in quick lights and darks to define my areas and I was able to finally find the caricature from there. I had a lot of fun with the detailing in the hair, and as I finished, it only seemed appropriate to add a heart, her namesake, above her head.

Mia graciously accepted her painting and it now sits in some office somewhere in Utah, hopefully to make it one day to Washington DC.

 

Western Conservative Summit Review

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Western Conservative Summit, was, in a word, pretty dang awesome (okay, so that’s a few words). Just for reference, this past weekend Centennial Institute hosted the fourth annual Western Conservative Summit, a three-day gathering of like-minded conservatives (think CPAC of the West). The house was packed to the gills as we listened to big name guest speakers (like Allen West and Dick Morris) come in and encourage, train, brainstorm, inspire as we work to sway the country for the next few elections.

Most of the speakers were very optimistic about the future of the conservative movement.

Other observations that really stuck out for me:

Despite unfounded accusations to the contrary, the conservative and Republican movement is NOT a racist movement. (Never has been, check the history). This year, much more than last, the summit was an ethnically diverse event. Attendees and speakers were represented by all different races and colors, black, white, Hispanic, Indian, Asian, German, you name it. Not that race is important, as conservatives, it’s all about the content of your character that matters.

The Youth Vote

What WAS still missing was young people. While there was a large student delegation representing CCU, when you removed them, the amount of gray heads in the room was overwhelming. This was an issue that was addressed ad nauseum by many of the speakers. Why are the youth voting Democrat and how do we change this? True, a lot has to do with the liberal brainwashing centers otherwise known as public education, but it’s more than that. Deep down, most young folk are libertarian at heart. Nothing about liberalism is libertarian, except on social issues, and even there, the data is showing that the younger generation is actually MORE prolife than the baby boomers!

The problem is, they are believing the false narrative proclaimed about Republicans and Conservatives by the media, and Republicans do a lousy job at discrediting it. I loved what one student speaker said: Democrats and Liberals show up at college campuses all the time. If Republicans just simply showed up, who knows what kind of difference they could make (and not three months before the election, that comes off as disingenuous.)

And there may be some evidence to this. They shared some polling data from the last election. Overwhelmingly respondents voted Romney as better able to handle everything from the economy to foreign policy. Yet they voted Obama as being more likable and ultimately that’s what guided their vote.

The Third Party

Ted Cruz and several others lambasted the Republican Party for their willingness to cave in to Democrat demands, at the detriment of the country (all for the sake of perceived political gain). A few times the term “Democrat Lite” was used to describe much of today’s Republican leadership and the party in general. If there’s no distinction between Republicans and Democrats on voting day, the public will pick Democrat every single time.

Because of this, a question was posed to Jenny Beth Martin. She was asked if the Republicans continue to look more and more like Democrats, would the TEA Party break off and form a third party. She would not say no.

Use the Force, Luke!

Comic relief was provided by Jonah Goldberg and Bill Whittle. Whittle mentioned that the term “conservative” has a bad connotation for young people, and calling yourself one means instant turnoff. He suggests we change the term to something more appealing, you know, something like “rebel alliance.”

While I laughed out of my seat on that one, it does anger me that our language has to be defined for us. If it has a bad meaning, then we need to be out there changing that meaning. Conservative means freedom, it means liberty, it means charity, it means being allowed to make your own decisions. Whittle also reminded us (and encouraged us to remind our socialist utopian friends) that it’s socialism that has a history of 100 million dead on its hands. History proves that nothing good has ever come from socialism. It goes against basic human nature and requires force to be implemented.

About this illustration

So what does this have to do with the portrait of Allen West you see above, you’ve probably been asking as you’ve slogged through this editorial? I was given the unique privilege and opportunity to create painted caricatures of the speakers. The idea occurred only two weeks before the event, but because of my chalk art gig in Crested Butte the following weekend, I ended up having 7 days to work on this project.

I knew I wanted to develop a new illustration style. I’ve been playing around with a rough and painterly new modern look. I’ve been trying to represent the most amount of information with the largest brush strokes I could. I also start with a textured painted background, which I like to let come in and out of the composition, as I use more opaque paints to bring out the highlights in the foreground.

This new style allowed me to work a little faster than normal. If you do the math, that’s 2 pieces a day. Each piece took an average of 4 hours each. In addition, I still had to keep working on other client obligations. Those 7 straight days I worked roughly 12 hours each and I just cranked out those paintings. I really didn’t have a whole lot of time to think much about the painting. I just had to do it.

Each painting has a story. As I roll out all 14 over the next two weeks, I’ll reveal the story behind each one.

Allen West was the first of this experiment. I decided to add the slight indication of an army camo netting above him as part of the picture.

I then had the opportunity to meet him in person, which was way cool, because I absolutely admire the man. It was a long line, and they were cycling us through fairly quickly, so conversation was out of the question. If you had the chance to say just one thing to one of your heroes, what would you say?

When it was finally my turn I said to him, “Your courage is an inspiration to us all.” Then after the photo, I concluded by saying, “May God continue His blessings upon you.” At that, Mr. West grabbed my hand firmly and looked me straight in the eye and said, “Thank you. That means so much to me. And please, don’t ever forget to pray for me.”

Such is the man, and other events and run-ins with him the next few days solidified just how humble this guy really is. He accepted the above painting with honor, a Benjamin Hummel original, now in the home of former Congressman Allen West.

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