MOBILE, Ala. (WIAT) — For the past year, politics–both locally and nationally–have been a little nuts. It’s no surprise that there are people out there who have been disappointed: by both the candidates running for president, and by the behavior of some of Alabama’s leaders.
Many of those disappointed voters have gone to the internet to vent their frustrations, and there’s a place where many of them gather: the comments sections of JD Crowe’s cartoons.
Crowe has worked professionally as a cartoonist for more than 30 years. He draws an estimated 250 cartoons each year. In all that time–he told CBS 42, he’s never seen anything like this.
“You know, normally, Alabama politics puts the national stuff to shame,” Crowe said, while sketching a caricature of a befuddled ex-Alabama Top Cop Spencer Collier. “You know–as far as pure goofiness? And this year, they’re just trading off with each other.”
This election season, CBS42 traveled to Crowe’s office in Mobile to pick his brain about where the country and state have been–and where both could be going–all through his unique artist’s eye.
“I’m just holding a mirror to what’s really going on in this election,” Crowe said. “It’s been harder for me to draw anything more ridiculous than reality.”
Crowe was raised on a farm in Kentucky, and from an early age, his future career took shape.
“I had three things I liked to do,” he said. “I loved to draw, and when I got tired of drawing, I’d go recharge my batteries by going outside and watching pigs eat. I used to love the way they’d sound. But–if you ever watched pigs eat, there’s always one of them that starts acting ugly. I said–well since I’m out here anyway, I may as well be the pig police.”
When Crowe wasn’t drawing or slopping hogs, he’d find other ways to occupy his time.
“So the third thing I liked to do was throw things. Once those pigs started acting up, I’d rare back and start throwing at them,” Crowe said. “I don’t want to disturb your audience–but I’d aim straight for their buttock, because that made the best sound. And–I love baseball! I was a pitcher, and a pig’s butt kind of looks like a catchers mitt.”
Crowe told CBS42 News that story still applies to what he does at work on a daily basis.
“I’m still drawing. I’m watching the pigs eat–I call them politicians now–and when they get out of hand, I throw them a little zinger,” Crowe said. “On a good day, after I’ve drawn what I think is a good cartoon when it hits the stands–I like to think I can still hear those politicians…if I got them really good..just squealing off in the distance.”
Despite his larger-than-life work persona, Crowe described himself much differently away from the sketch pad.
“I’m always going to tick somebody off, and that’s good,” Crowe said. “I like that. Now in person, in my personal life–I’m a very non-confrontational person. I’m just like–everybody just get along, okay?”
When asked how he can explain how he balances that non-confrontational trait with what he does for a living, Crowe shrugged.
“I’m not a cheerleader,” Crowe said “I want to say, I see the way you’re doing it, but take a look at it this way.”
Crowe also doesn’t strive to be fair and balanced with his cartoons. He describes himself as a ‘middle of the road guy’ and he just sketches ‘where the gold is’.
“There have been times where I just didn’t care for anyone running,” Crowe said as he laughed, “and my default position is to vote for the funniest-looking character.”
Crowe said he hopes his cartoons start conversations. He also hopes to share humor, sorrow, and frustration with his readers.
“As soon as I push publish, I’m going to start getting reaction,” Crowe said. “I’m going to find out pretty quick if I’ve stepped on a few toes or just how great the cartoon is, how mean it is, or how funny it is–or if I’ve just laid a brick.”
He’s had a lot of material to chose from this year: from the Governor’s heavily rumored affair–to Mike Hubbard’s conviction, and all the way to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
“I mean, I need some Donald Trump octopus arms so I can draw everything at the same time!” Crowe joked.
However, despite how fruitful the election cycle has been for artistic inspiration, Crowe said he’s counting down the days.
“I’ve never been so anxious for an election to be over with, and this is my livelihood!” Crowe said. “I’m getting a lot of drawings out of it–but I’m just kind of sick of the meanness that’s out there.”
Crowe acknowledged–cartooning is generally a negative art form. However, he’s found an unexpected way to decompress from it all: taking photos of the Fairhope sunsets. You can see those pictures on his Facebook page.
Crowe also knows that he could be among the last of the cartoonists. He said there are only about 50 staff cartoonists still working in the country–evening out to about one per state. For Alabama, he’s it.
“Which is crazy!” Crowe exclaimed. “Every politician needs three or four cartoonists following them around and they’d all stay busy!”
If you would like to see more Crowe’s work, click here: http://connect.al.com/staff/jcrowe/posts.html