Heard on the Hill

Portrait of the artist, a C-SPAN watcher

You know you’ve truly made it in Washington when you get a McCutcheon sketch

Artist Michael McCutcheon has drawn countless members of Congress while watching C-SPAN, including Reps. Barbara Lee and Earl L. “Buddy” Carter. (Courtesy Michael McCutcheon)

How do you become a Washington fixture? A congressional pin or a reporter’s credential are among the ways. So is a penciled likeness from an early morning appearance on C-SPAN.

The artist who draws C-SPAN’s guests is Michael McCutcheon, a 79-year-old retiree living in his native Austin, Texas. He dutifully sketches the guests of the Washington Journal program every morning.

The portraits, sketched two to a page with graphite pencils, have long, stern faces with drooping jowls, not always an exact likeness of the subjects. “Crude, I guess?” as McCutcheon describes them.

“For me, it has to happen pretty fast and I go on to the next,” he says. “I rarely spend more than 10 or 15 minutes on one of those things.”

The program is perfect for drawing a portrait because of the long shots of the guests. It’s a way to wake up in the morning, McCutcheon says.

“I have a consistent set of talking heads, subjects to draw, a reliable source,” he says.

The drawings number into the thousands and live on his blog, where they stretch back to 2011, though he estimates he’s done them for 10 or 11 years. Think of a member of Congress, Washington reporter or agency head from that span, and McCutcheon has probably drawn them.

McCutcheon insists that he isn’t an artist. He’s never had formal training. But he did spend his career in the visual sphere working at printing companies, helping to lay out and print textbooks, magazines and the TV Guide.

“I think some people consider them to be sort of insulting,” he says of his portraits. “I guess any image you get, if it doesn’t look like you think you look in the mirror, it’s not any good. I don’t try to make anybody look bad or good or anything.

“It’s the way I draw.”

You can find McCutcheon’s drawings at mwmdailydrawings.blogspot.com.  

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone.