January 19, 2018
Art, politics, angels, demons . . . and righteous dogs.

How Did I Get Mixed Up in This!?

Will see these guys (not Ding Darling) at the AAEC in Sept. Honored to be asked.


  1. ALEX MCCRAE says:


    Sounds like a potentially raucous and fun confab of pro editorial cartoonists gathering in Washington D.C. this coming September. (Oh, to be a wee fly on the wall at this confluence of satirical wizards.)

    I would surmise, hardly as whacked, or bizarro as our annual four-day Comic-Con bash out here on the Left Coast that just wrapped this past Sunday in San Diego?

    (Hmm….. What do you guys do for kicks.? Come to the convention as the doppelgangers of say the late Al Hirschfeld, or Will Eisner?…. Groan.)

    Thanks for posting the AAEC’s clever little promo montage, w/ those rather monotone, yet still most prescient words of wisdom and insight, throughout, from inarguably one of the true legendary greats of the American political cartooning fraternity, namely Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling.

    As an avid birder (bird-watcher for the uninitiated), lay conservationist, life-long nature enthusiast, animal lover, and cartoonist, I feel a modicum of indebtedness to this late, multi-talented, salt-of-the-earth, solid mid-Western visionary, who had the foresight and the dogged personal drive to publicly advocate for the importance of preserving, and maintaining our native U.S. wetlands, estuaries and open marshes; all prime natural habitat for not only the ducks he most admired, (and hunted, on occasion), but other species of waterfowl; plus herons, egrets, cranes, rails, bitterns, coots, gallinules, sandpipers, plovers, red-winged blackbirds, grackles, pelicans, flamingos, spoonbills, marsh hawks, kingfishers, and osprey, as well. (I apologize for the avian laundry list. Admittedly got a little carried away there. HA!)

    Not to mention protecting all the diverse wetlands typical flora and fauna, from the largest (say fish) to the tiniest (say algae)—- living organisms that support those aforementioned feathered creatures—-all vital players in the intricate fabric of life.

    Darling, a two-time Pulitzer Prize recipient, seemingly maintained the highest of creative standards, devoting his workaday life to 50-plus-years of top-flight newspaper editorial cartooning. Yet arguably his most long-lasting legacy will be his pioneering efforts in putting the importance of wildlife conservation in the U.S., front-and-center, in the national consciousness, w/ his establishment of the National Duck Stamp* program, while being the catalyst for, and first president of the National Wildlife Federation in the 1930s; and of course, the creation of the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, dedicated in his name, posthumously, in 1978 on Sanibel Island, Florida—- a permanent nature preserve for a rich variety of wildlife, particularly charismatic migratory birds.

    (Shoot me…. if that monstrosity was ONE paragraph. Yikes! Is there an editor in the house?)

    So Steve, “Ding” may not technically be w/ you and your cartooning cohorts at the official AAEC meeting come September, but I would offer that a bit of his fighting spirit, and firm belief that the committed political cartoonist can make a significant, positive difference towards society’s greater good, resides, to some degree, in the very fiber of all you talented rabble-rousing attending artists.

    Steve, I really like “Ding’s” ethereal etching (?) of ‘rough-rider’ Teddy Roosevelt waving, w/ gusto, from his rearing horse. Talk about ‘ghost riders in the sky’. For some reason you instinctively want to follow this guy. Darling’s version of Teddy just appears to project that American can-do spirit, upwelling confidence, and zeal for adventure that in some ways seems sorely lacking these days. But I digress.

    * “Ding” Darling actually designed the very first official Duck Stamp. Today the conservationist/ hunting advocacy group, Ducks Unlimited, promotes this valuable conservation program, w/ proceeds from the annual sale of the latest duck stamp to both hunters and bird enthusiasts alike, going into the promotion of the sensible, and robust preservation of U.S. duck populations for hunters and bird lovers alike, going forward.

    P.S.: —Steve, today I was showing my house painter/ carpenter my copy of your brilliant book, “Freedom Fries”, and frankly the guy was totally blown away. Admittedly, he’s just a simple, working-class, never-finished-high-school, late-forty-something L.A. dude, yet he genuinely seemed to be both moved and laugh-out-loud humored by your deft caricatures, and some of your grittier subject matter.

    “Man, can this guys ever draw faces… WOW!”, he exclaimed. Notch up yet another fan, Mr. Brodner.

    In revisiting your book, i couldn’t help but notice that early on in your cartooning career (the ’70’s, basically) you were really paying a kind of intended, or maybe unwitting stylistic homage to the cartooning-for-print-media greats of the 19th and early 20th-century era, w/ a distinctly meticulous, laborious, cross-hatched, pen-and-ink, almost arcane, technique.

    For me, thru the span of your book, it’s very cool to see how your personal style has evolved over the decades, IMHO, just getting more sharp, incisive, stinging, polished, and to the point as you’ve found your own signature visual language, and unique pictorial vocabulary.

    What always impresses me to no end is that one, i.e., the viewer, always feels the line of action, a certain flowing vitality in all your figures; in themselves as individuals, or as multiple characters relating to one another on the printed page. This intrinsic vitality can hopefully only be a precursor to exciting animated satirical works, and important things for you to say, going forward.

    “Ding” Darling would be exceedingly proud, Steve.

  2. Steve says:

    Thanks once again for the extremely incisive comment. Ding was a master and it’s thrilling to hear his voice, treating this job like a straight-up honorable profession that it was, and is. Please let me thank you for whatever may be true that is wrapped in the over-the-top praise. I know it is sincere and I am grateful. Ding’s career stretched between the Roosevelts and tracked the rise of the American century. He suffered no fools and spoke with his pen as directly as you hear him in the audio. So honored to be in the video that the AAEC produced. I’m a kind of guest there. Don’t know what will happen in Sept. Maybe just show up and have a beer.
    Thanks for showing the book.
    I can’t believe that A. I did all that and B. I’m really not just beginning. I want always to feel as though I am.

  3. ALEX MCCRAE says:

    Grazie, right back at you, Steve.

    First off, all my praise for what you do, professionally, so darn well, w/ seeming consummate panache, ease, and enthusiasm, is indeed, totally heartfelt. I recognize genuine excellence when ‘I sees it’ staring me in the face, moves me, and further makes me think beyond the confines of my circumspect, over-familiar little world.

    I agree that sometimes we artists look back on our past works, and find ourselves, on occasion, pinching ourselves, thinking, “Did I really create THAT….”, be it a cool sculpture, an exciting painting, a super illo, or catchy cartoon character; or on the macro level, acknowledging, almost sheepishly to ourselves, that we’ve really managed to create such a larger body of artwork, over time.

    I find when I’m, say, in the complete throes of making sculpture, and firing on all creative cylinders, it feels like I’m in what some psychologists term an Alpha state-of-mind, where one’s focus, and creative drive are so acute that the entire surrounding studio space becomes a total blur, and the creation-at-hand demands paramount attention.

    I guess you could call this almost transcendental creative state the familiar, ‘being in the zone’. Many pro athletes (ball players, golfers) speak of being in this state of seeming mind/body effortless sync, as well; where, (if you are a ‘believer’ of the existence of some higher power), some higher force is guiding your efforts, and one has this exalted, joyful feeling that one can virtually do no wrong.

    I confess, i’ve looked at some individual sculptures of my making from decades ago, and tried to mentally recapture the time and visceral feel for what was happening during their creation; yet I usually come away w/ an odd sense that someone else must have made THAT piece, having almost no clear recall of those key moments of process, and ultimate completion.

    (This phenomenon of vague recall in looking back at one’s creative process, or experience, may give credence to the speculative notion that creativity can sometimes feel like an out-of-body experience for some artists. That forces beyond our rational thinking, and normal bodily senses are somehow directing us through the creative adventure.)

    Steve, i resonate w/ your mind-set that for you each new art piece that you tackle feels like a new “beginning’, and that implicit in that feeling is that fresh creative challenges, yet-to-come, can only make you a better, more evolved visual communicator. Hopefully, we never, ever stop honing our chosen craft(s).

    Steve, for me, it would be a very difficult proposition to trump* yourself, art-wise. Just sayin’.

    May the creative force always be w/ you!

    *Sorry for using the word “trump”— also a certain egocentric blowhard w/ a wicked comb-over, who needs no introduction….. or free publicity.