As Texas politics change, so too has Sargent’s approach to depicting the warring legislators beneath the Capitol dome. “When I started, I was drawing them as little Mickey Mouse figures and clowns,” he recalls. “Now, there’s sort of an edge of evil.”
Ben Sargent started as a Texas reporter. In 1974 he became the staff editorial cartoonist for The Austin American-Statesman, a job that lasted until 2009. After that he freelanced cartoons, once a week more or less, for that newspaper until 2014. These days he contributes a “Loon Star State” cartoon to the Texas Observer magazine, something he has done for 13 years.
above: Ben's first (staff, August 15, 1974) and last (freelance, November 4, 2014) cartoons for The Austin American-Statesman.
Still preferring an old-school approach, Sargent first draws every line—including his signature crosshatches he picked up from childhood days perusing the pages of a Harper’s Weekly engravings book—in blue pencil. He then covers those lines in ink. Only then will he turn to the computer, using Photoshop to add color, as he has since brighter hues first entered his work at the Statesman around 2007. In total, it’s about five hours a cartoon.