Cartoonist Dalvit seeks to draw reader reaction

Rik Dalvit's political cartoons often appear Sundays in The Bellingham Herald. Here's a look at the man behind the pencil:

Q: What do you consider to be a successful political cartoon?

A: I think a successful cartoon illuminates reality and illustrates a truth. In order to be successful the cartoon must be published and should make people laugh, or at least smile, and think. If someone cuts it out and tapes it to their fridge, or sends it to a friend, a cartoon has succeeded.

Q: Why do political cartoons make such powerful statements?

A: I think good cartoons make a powerful statement because they encapsulate and express a truth about something large within a small space.

Q: How long have you been drawing political cartoons?

A: I have been drawing cartoons since college, at Central Washington, where I edited the college paper, and graduated with a bachelor of arts in journalism.

Q: What's your process in developing a cartoon? How long does it take?

A: I read The Bellingham Herald, and other news sources, then take a walk, usually with my dog, Lexi, a chocolate English Labrador Retriever. When I get back to my desk, I usually know what the cartoon is. If I find I don't, I repeat the process. Someone who disagreed with a cartoon of mine might say, after reading that, "He should have gone on a longer walk!"

There is no standard length of time to produce a cartoon; it varies with each one. My favorite cartoons seem to take no time at all, and have little, or no, dialogue or labels. My originals are 11 inches by 17 inches, drawn in pencil and inked with a brush. I take them to a copy shop in my neighborhood where I do a 65 percent reduction, which puts them at 8.5 inches by 11 inches, which fits on my scanner, where they become camera-ready jpegs, which can be attached to an e-mail and sent anywhere.

Q: What's your background in art and drawing?

A: I have been drawing since I was 4. My dad used to draw pictures for me when he came home from work, to go with the stories he told me. One evening he must have been especially tired (I realize now he probably was always tired after a day on the waterfront), so he handed me the pencil and said, "Here, you draw." I did, and haven't stopped. My mom read the original "Winnie The Pooh" books to me, and I was enthralled by E.H. Shepard's illustrations. I was already drawing, and Mom encouraged me to continue - partly, I am now certain, because I was quiet and keeping out of trouble while drawing. As a kid I loved Mort Drucker's illustrations in Mad Magazine. In college I took a couple of figure drawing classes, and would have liked to take more art classes, but really couldn't because of other credit requirements. I painted in high school, and continue to paint; my acrylic paintings are really cartoons, but my watercolors are scenic, and include birds and other animals.

Note: Ric says his early childhood was in Wenatchee, then Maple Valley, and later, Renton and Skyway.

Q: Where do you put yourself on the political spectrum?

A: Back when I was sure that I knew everything and was eager to share that knowledge with everyone, I was at a different place on the political spectrum than I am now. These days I try to avoid partisanship or preaching in my cartoons. I am determined to avoid defending the indefensible. That is what it seems to me happens to one-note ideologues - they end up drawing themselves into a corner. I want to reach a wide, receptive audience. I hope my work reflects the sensibilities of my parents.

Q: What other political cartoonists do you admire and why?

A: I admire the work of cartoonist Don Wright. In general I prefer cartoons that are not predictable and that don't take cheap shots. As a working cartoonist, I go out of my way to avoid looking at the current work of other cartoonists. I want my cartoons to be original and reflect my own take on events.

Note: Wright is a Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist who retired from Florida's Palm Beach Post newspaper in 2008 and whose work is now distributed by Tribune Media Service.

Q: What's your day job?

A: Cartooning is my day job, although I often find myself working at night. In addition to the cartoons I do for The Bellingham Herald, my cartoons and illustrations appear in other newspapers and trade publications in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and California.

Q: How else do you spend your time?

A: I am active in my church, and enjoy spending time with my family. I work out regularly at the YMCA, and have a number of acquaintances there. My hobbies include upland bird hunting, flyfishing, walking and horseback riding.

This is part of an occasional series looking at people behind the news. You can email Ric Dalvit at rikdalvit@gmail.com. Reach Bellingham Herald Executive Editor Julie Shirley at Julie.shirley@bellinghamherald.com.