Insight on Cartoonists: Mike Luckovich
When a top-notch newspaper like the Atlanta Journal Constitution has a Mike Luckovich working for it, you know it not only has ‘luck’ on its side, but an exceptional artist as well. [Mr. Luckovich’s work is also featured prominently in the monthly Humor Times monthly magazine – ed.] This gives credence to the expression, “Luck of the draw.” OK. Pun over, but not the considerable talent of one who can turn out editorial cartoons that amaze, amuse and sting all at the same time.
Looking at the trove of sophisticated Luckovich material, it’s somewhat hard to think of Mike as once having been just another little fellow in the 5th grade adjusting to a new school. Already a budding cartoonist, he recalls that he drew a caricature of the teacher, passed it around, and fondly remembers, “making 30 new friends.”
Despite the early display of talent, Luckovich says that at first, his work was “mainly ignored. I’d sit in my room for hours drawing, and my parents didn’t say anything either way.” Perhaps just letting Mike find his own style and artist’s voice was the best thing they could have done for him. His British grandmother was one role model in his life: “She always treated people well and had a great sense of humor.”
Clearly, other artists have influenced him too. Though he’s fine with his “own skin,” he’d love to meet and learn from such men as Rodin, Michelangelo, Monet, Sargeant and DaVinci – a impressive role call to be sure . And among his contemporaries, he appreciates first of all, Gary Larsen (The Far Side) and Bill Waterson (Calvin and Hobbes). And Jeff McNelly, Pulitzer Prize winner, political satirist and creator of Shoe and the great Mort Drucker (Mad Magazine) are, he says succinctly, “great artists.” He’d take the works of all these fine gentlemen on that long trip to outer space for both, “the art and the humor.”
Like most of us, Mike Luckovich gets up, eats his breakfast and sets off to work. Only in his case, he relates, “My day involves procrastination followed by panic as I run out of time.” Fortunately for his readers, he does put the brush to the paper and is usually pleased with what he produces. He works really well with his editors, even allowing them to censor him on the rare occasion a cartoon is over the line. When, now and then, he’s, “down about a cartoon, it motivates me to do a cartoon that will redeem myself.”
“This is a tough business,” he counsels young artists, “with newspapers and media in general. But this assessment is fair warning; it’s NOT meant to dissuade them.”
And when I asked him which cartoon is his favorite, he brightens and says, “usually the one I’ve just drawn until I draw the next one.” Mike Luckovich has won two Pulitzer Prizes as well as several National Journalism Awards and tells me that what satisfies him most is, “seeing his artwork improve year by year.”
One thing he’d do differently (if he had the chance to) would, “be less consumed by my job and more focused on my wife.”
Always the humorist, he says his final thoughts on checking out in the far far future: “You have better things to do than listen to a 150-year old artist.”
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