The View From Capitol Ink, Way Back in 1995
My first drawing in Roll Call, which is celebrating its 60th birthday this year, was published in the fall of 1985 when I was fresh out of college working as a reporter and cartoonist at States News Service. Soon after, Roll Call began commissioning my illustrations directly. In 1986, when then-Roll Call Editor Robert Merry created a staff illustrator position for me, I left States News Service to launch my career as a freelance cartoonist. It was the dawn of the age of the fax machine, and transmitting rough sketches by telephone freed me to work from home in my tiny apartment in Foggy Bottom. I would drop by Roll Call’s offices once or twice a week to hand-deliver my finished art. In the early days, I knew everyone and my visits were always happy occasions, with the euphoria of meeting another deadline commingled with encouraging praise from colleagues and friends. I had the best job in the world and I was living my dream.
During my next three years in Washington, I became the art director for Washington Monthly and I drew for the City Paper, the Montgomery County Sentinel, Ripon Forum, The Washington Post, and more obscure publications such as Real Estate Finance Today, the U.A.W. Washington Report and American Banker. I also began a 20-year relationship with the Capitol Steps, drawing album covers and designing sets for off-broadway productions.
But Roll Call was always my first home in Washington. Over the years , as I watched Sid Yudain’s tiny newsroom grow from a handful of reporters to a staff I couldn’t count on all my fingers and toes, Roll Call remained my emotional touchstone in D.C.
When I moved back to New York City in 1989 and began a 20-year run as editorial cartoonist at the New York Observer, I continued to fax my sketches to Roll Call and deliver final art overnight by Federal Express. (On the rare occasion I missed a FedEx deadline, I would drive to La Guardia Airport early the following morning to put a cover illustration on the shuttle to D.C.)
In 1995, I was given the assignment to create a poster and 40th anniversary special edition cover illustration based on the famous New Yorker’s View of the World cartoon by Saul Steinberg.
For this job, I returned to Washington to take in the view of the National Mall from the Capitol for inspiration, and I stayed in town for several days until I finished the drawing. During that week I recreated my old life in D.C. — caught up with friends, hung out at favorite bars and restaurants, played tennis every day on the Rose Park courts at 26th and O streets, and, true to form, stopped by Roll Call for a few minutes one morning to hand-deliver a finished cartoon.
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