January 17, 2018
Art, politics, angels, demons . . . and righteous dogs.


My cover for this week’s The Nation illustrates the interesting case of New York’s Left/Right Governor Andrew Cuomo. In a good read by Eric Alterman we see that 2016 considerations make him a celebrated and frustrating figure to the people who voted for him.

My solution was to see if it were possible to render three portraits in one. This would involve each eye serving two different aspects of the face. How to make this work? I have discovered that you might be very confident about an idea but you won’t really know until you start sketching (reminder to my students: it’s all about the sketch). It so happened that this one came together fast. Great thanks to Roane Carey, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Milton Glaser, Sue Walsh.

Cuomo Triple Portrait
Nation cover Cuomo Triple Portrait

This falls under the category of  what the great designer and author Steven Heller calls “human experiments”, the using of features in unexpected manipulation that, one hopes, makes sense as illustration. Below are what might be some other examples of this.




This for a book called “Fold and Tuck”, taking the wonderful Al Jaffee’s Mad magazine fold-in page and using this with only heads. For example, when you folded Jerry Lewis into Ronald Reagan . .


Fold N Tuck Bush Lewis Reagan

Lewis Bush

. . . you got George Bush Sr.

ColeFor a while I experimented in what was once called Topsy Turvys, seeing how an image that changes when you looked at it upside down. So here, reunifying Germany, was Helmut Kohl . . .



. . . and also Otto von Bismarck, another unifier.

Candidate Fantasia 1988Here’s a fantasia on Campaign ’88, composed of body parts.

AH Teddy Hart Jimmy SavoI think this week in the back of my mind was this piece by one of our Olympians, Al Hirschfeld, who saw similarities between Broadway comedians Teddy Hart and Jimmy Savo in “The Boys From Syracuse”. Mistaken identity was part of the plot. He used this solution in several other pieces as well.

Baskin Twain


Here’s a piece sent to me by my friend composer and Renaissance Mensch Arthur Maisel. A beauty by Leonard Baskin.






  1. ALEX MCCRAE says:

    Hi Steve,

    Harkening back to Greek mythology, of course we have the famed two-faced Janus figure.

    We merely have to look at the penchant for blatant flip-floppery of many in the ranks of our current high-profile (no pun intended) politicos, particularly on major issues of controversy and key party principles, to see that the dual-faced tradition, (or perhaps speaking out of both sides of one’s mouth at once), dating as far back as the ancient Hellenic agora and the dawn of the democratic spirit, is still alive-and-well in the realm of today’s political intercourse. (I’m blushing. HA!)

    Steve, I really love your Helmut Kohl drawing, as well as your multi-visaged mishmash montage depicting the off-putting ‘white-noise’ of the ’88 Campaign.

    Reminds me a bit of those enigmatic, chimera-like portraits (and self-portraits) by painter Francis Bacon, where he deftly created an illusion of the sitter moving their head, by blurring parts of the image, while at the same time defining other key elements of the subject. (Take my observation as a compliment.)

    I know to this day much of Bacon’s work strikes many viewers as disturbing, or emotionally jarring…. which, IMHO, can be a positive thing. He was a complex dude, for sure. But I digress.

    As a lapsed sculptor and printmaker, I’ve always appreciated the powerful, masterfully crafted work of the late Leonard Baskins. Man, could that guy sculpt the most amazing birds of prey (superb owls), and draw the most incredible, menacing ravens. His human forms weren’t too shabby either. Interesting take on Mark Twain on that book cover illo you posted.

    Have a super remains of the weekend, Steve.



  2. Steve says:

    Thanks Alex. Glad you liked these. As Lou “Moondog” Sheismeister said, “If you are cutting flesh for a living, keep a clean kitchen.”

  3. ALEX MCCRAE says:

    Hmm… never had the pleasure (?) of meeting Mr. “Sheismeister”, or even hearing the strange appellation, but I’m afeared he may have really stunk up the joint… despite his best intentions.

    Quite a feat, and a piece of irony, to keep a “clean kitchen” for a guy whose name basically translates from the German (or Yiddish) as ‘Shitmaster’.

    But in a metaphoric sense at least, us caricaturists’ stock-and-trade is cutting up, and rearranging fleshy faces, good-bad-or-just plain ugly. And whether one keeps a clean, or tidy work space (kitchen), or not, is kind of moot. (I’m a bit of a an artistic slob, truth be told.)

    I recall seeing photos of the aforementioned Francis Bacon’s tiny tenement studio in London back in his heyday,
    where the only semblance of seeming order amidst an otherwise chaos of art supplies, used paint tins, old canvases, and strewn paper reference material, was the lone canvas he’d been working on when the photos had been shot.

    I always wondered, how could anyone work in such a sea of floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall clutter, and seeming total disorder; and yet out of this maelstrom came some of the most sophisticated, compelling, ordered pieces of 20th century art.

    (I believe one of London’s several Tate galleries reconstructed a permanent facsimile of the aforementioned Bacon London studio, w/ most of the original elements remaining in place after his passing.)

    Clearly Bacon really had his ‘sheisse’ together.