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New Governor Brings New Material For Political Cartoonists

This week's inauguration of Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner marks a change in leadership for lawmakers and employees at state agencies. But it's also a big transition for people who will deal with the new governor in a very different capacity over the next four years: political cartoonists.

Scott Stantis draws political cartoons for the Chicago Tribune. He says Bruce Rauner has very identifiable features.

“There’s so much going on in Governor Rauner’s face. It’s really remarkable,” Stantis said. "You’ve got a nose that’s kind of large and crooked-ish. You’ve got close-set eyes. You’ve got a large forehead. He’s doing the middle-age/strategic-combing thing with his hair.”

Then there's the clothes. Bruce Quast is the cartoonist for the Rockford Register-Star:

“He always dresses like a working-class person and he’s a very wealthy guy," Quast said, "but he wears plaid shirts and Carhartt jacket. So that’s his image and I think how most people recognize him.”

Decades of Practice

Rauner will be the fifth governor Quast has drawn for the newspaper.

Cartoonist Bruce Quast talks about his process of drawing political figures.
Credit Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

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"I'm not out to make fun of anyone's appearance or anything. I'm just trying to put them in a cartoon setting where they will be recognizable."

Quast says Rauner will be much easier to draw than his predecessor.

"Quinn I had a tough time with. He had kind of a big, square head and not a lot of neck, and Rauner, if you knew who Rauner was, I think you would see him right away."

He says he often put a nametag on Quinn to help readers identify him.

Both cartoonists say their images often change as a governor's term goes on. Quast started out drawing Rod Blagojevich very fresh-faced, but added bags under his eyes as his legal troubles mounted.

The Tribune's Stantis says Rauner comes in very much a blank slate.

“We don’t know what he’s going to be doing. I mean we projected an awful lot of attributes to him he may or may not have. Again, it progresses. You may have a drawing of him literally in the palm of Speaker Madigan’s hand.”

Taking Offense

What if someone takes offense with their image?

“The worst thing you can do for a cartoonist. If there’s something that really makes you mad about something I draw," Stantis said, "do not tell me that it really makes you mad because my infantile response to authority will be to draw it more.”

Quast says the drawing should be recognizable even if reality is a little different. When he drew former Gov. George Ryan, he often gave him a  furrowed brow:

"That, to me, is his public persona. I have no idea what he is like personally, but neither do my readers, so I try to reflect the public perception of these people," Quast said.

Serious Business

“It’s one of those things that I am actually serious about what I do, although it doesn’t seem to articulate itself in a very serious manner," Stantis said. "I want who’s best for Illinois. If it was the dullest looking person on the planet, and he or she would be the best governor, then that’s who I would want to win.

"Are there some that are stranger-looking or funner to draw? Funner?! That are funner to draw, then, yeah, you’d love to draw them and you do as much as you can, even though they may not have as much of a chance.”

Quast says his work is meant to get readers thinking about the real issues that face the state.

"I really like it when someone can sort of appreciate what's going on before reading any of the dialogue, and then they read the dialogue or the caption and that is the pay-off, that just adds another level to it."

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Jenna Dooley has spent her professional career in public radio. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University and the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois - Springfield. She returned to Northern Public Radio in DeKalb after several years hosting Morning Edition at WUIS-FM in Springfield. She is a former "Newsfinder of the Year" fromthe Illinois Associated Press andrecipient of NIU's Donald R. Grubb Journalism Alumni Award. She is an active member of the Illinois News Broadcasters Association and an adjunct instructor at NIU.