Interview on 2002 GA. Perimeter College Exhibit
Foolin' Around

 Political Cartoon Strips

Political Cartoons (single panel)


The Billionaire's Club (28 page political cartoon book)

Political Cartoon Strips by Tom Ferguson & essays by Bob Darby

The Declaration of Elite Rule

Humor cartoons




Wade Marbaugh wrote:

a few questions to get you going:

1. Background: Age, birth place, grew up where, family members, ages

b.1944, Marquette, Michigan (on Lake Superior - 200+ inches
of snow per year) 5 siblings
present: Atlanta, Grant Park w/spouse & 16 year old daughter

2. Formal education - formal art education
5 semesters Layton School of Art, Milwaukee, WI,
Painting 1966-69
B.S. Northern Michigan University 1973 Painting
MFA Michigan State University 1976 Painting

3. What led you to become an artist? What inspired you to begin
political cartoons? Norman Rockwell, Disney, Saturday Evening Post -
covers & cartoons, Mad Magazine, Editorial Page, daily newspapers & later alternative, "underground" publications. The political cartoon interest didn't develop until i began to look beyond the mainstream for
explanations of how our society works in the 60s & 70s. outrage at
injustice. Frankly, my self esteem was pretty thin & the spark of talent i had for drawing, pretty thin itself, gave me a direction where no other
presented itself. it wasn't until art school that i was shown that disciplined practice is necessary to develop skills & sophistication, at least for me. Art dispelled a listless & vague boredom, helped me to realize I could be acompetent person and it enriched & enriches me with the pleasure of its making and its speaking back to me and to my friends in this fine place.

4. When did you start art - political cartoons?
I had a romantic attraction to journalism & cartooning but
didn't start doing my own political stuff until about 1971 when i
had developed drawing & my own views enough to begin using that
medium as a form of activism. In 1971 I began publishing in the
weekly student newspaper at NMU, then the daily in grad school at
MSU, for the old Atlanta Gazette in 1979, peace & justice &
environmental newsletters 80s, 90s & continuing, the great
speckled bird's revival in 1984-5, a series of exhibits as at
Perimeter College starting in 1995... published The Billionaire's
Club in 1995 - a 28 page toon, my web site in 1997 to today

5. How would you describe your political cartoons? My statement in the trifold i think sums it up. and... taking pot shots from the cornfield at the march of folly. The making of political cartoons is for me, as i said, a form of activism, but it is also involved with the pleasure of working in the medium, forming little gestalts of ideas w/ink (or computer).

6. What other art do you do, paintings, murals, etc.?

I'd say my art commitment is to:
1. painting,\
2. political cartooning,
3. songwriting... allowing my interest to determine which i focus on at
any given moment. paintings (oil mostly), I show with Sandler Hudson
Gallery, have shown at the High Museum, The Contemporary, Fay Gold Gallery, & other venues in Atlanta and in the southeast - New Orleans, Birmingham, Winston-Salem, NC, Nashville, Louisville,... Michigan, Wisconsin, New York City, Sweden, Italy, Argentina... Art School introduced me to art beyond illustration, the history of painting, esp 20th c. I do some sculpture and my songs are more often than not
political carTUNES.

7. How would you describe your other art?
Minimal, Pop, Conceptual, Cubist, Abstract Expressionist, - art as means to being in the world, vehicle for growth, play, development, being in the world... I love Joseph Campbell's statement that we don't crave meaning we crave depth experience of reality.
subject: fictional portraits, single objects, appropriated children's
drawings, improvisations, collaborations...
surface: impasto evolving into thin, scumbled de
vivre, celebration,
Color: evolution of, exploration of, color as keyboard for
improv...emotion, contemplation, dance

8. Who are your favorite political cartoonists?

Wright - Miami, McNally - Chicago (deceased ­ great drawing master but infuriatingly conservative), Mike Peters - Ohio, Oliphant (don't see him much anymore), Conrad - L.A., R. Cobb - L.A., Doonesbury... Doonesbury for his humor & ideas. He after all called Henry Kissinger, accurately, a war criminal in 1971. I don't know of a single mainstream columnist who has done that. When Doonesbury was first syndicated he was about like All in the Family which expanded what could be said on TV. His popularity allows him, I think, to deviate as much as he does. Tom Tomorrow does a great job of consistently challenging the mainstream so of course is excluded from it - locally he runs in Creative Loafing & in alternative press, books, mags...his web site. i have to mention R. Crumb as a loveable 60s cartoonist - not exactly political but still, wonderful drawings & quirky quirky subject. did i mention Daumier?

9. What is the role of the political cartoonist in our society?
The primary role of all journalists i'm afraid is to sell newspapers &
advertising. There is a range of opinion allowable by the owners/editors (outside of which you will not be hired) and for some reason cartoonists generally tend to fall on the "progressive" end of this spectrum, much more than columnists, but as much as i admire the cleverness & drawing ability of my favorite main stream commentators, none of them is consistently radical. Radical is just a word to describe a view outside the "allowable", "respectable" parameters, as determined by the owners who are threatened by
critiques of their power, privilege & profits and the system in which they maintain it.

tom ferguson