Thursday, March 7, 2013

From the Archives: Editorial Cartoonist Uses Actual BP Oil to Draw Cartoons About BP Oil Spill

I just found out that one of my old publishers,, is in some sort of a transition period. Right now, the site says "we'll be back soon." I'm not sure what's happening on that front, but anyway, this was a good opportunity to dip into my Tonic archives. Here's one of my favorite short articles from my last few months there:

Editorial Cartoonist Uses Actual BP Oil to Draw Cartoons About BP Oil Spill
By John R. Platt | Monday, July 26, 2010

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Steve Breen turned his outrage into art.

As a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist, Steve Breen of The San Diego Union-Tribune is used to commenting on the issues of the day. That's his job, after all. But when it came to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, just drawing a cartoon wasn't enough.

So Breen hopped on a plane over the Fourth of July weekend. He flew from San Diego to New Orleans, then drove to Florida's Santa Rosa Island, where he spent the weekend collecting tar balls off the ocean beaches.

But Breen wasn't done yet. He took some of the gobs of oil home with him. Back at his art desk, he thinned the oil with gasoline, then used it as the ink in several new cartoons about the BP oil spill. In addition to criticizing BP itself, Breen's cartoons tackle America's addiction to oil and the lax regulation that allowed the accident to happen in the first place.

"I wanted to channel that outrage in a unique way," Breen told the Associated Press. "Since I'm in the powerful image business, I came up with the oil idea."

The cartoons use a mix of black India ink with spot color (brown, really) from the oil and gasoline. The results are powerful, unforgettable images.

"I was surprised by how well it turned out," Breen told the publishing industry magazine Editor & Publisher "because I just wasn’t sure I’d be able to work with the oil."

You can see Breen's BP cartoons, along with his other work, on the Creators Syndicate website.

(Afterword: I didn't get a chance to interview Breen for this piece, but I did exchange emails with him several times immediately after. Great cartoonist, great guy.)

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