Steve McBride - IDR cartoonist
Steve McBride - IDR cartoonist

Review an assortment of works of art from the four state area beginning Friday at 7 p.m. at the Independence Historical Museum and Arts Center (IHMAC) for the 65th annual Verdigris Valley Art Exhibit artists' reception and critique. The exhibit will be available from Friday through July 12. 

The Best of Show as well as first and second place winners in five categories will be explained by judge Jack Weaver. The categories include: oil/acrylic, watercolor, drawing, mixed media and 3D art. 

There will also be a People's Choice award where those attending the reception can vote for a favorite. Monetary prizes will be awarded to all winners, gathered from entry fees as well as donations from 23 donors. 

More than 100 original art pieces created by regional artists are on display. In addition to viewing the art, several pieces will be for sale. 

A special aspect of this year's show is the honoring of Steve McBride, the long-time editorial cartoonist for IDR. "We want to honor his life's work because of his artistic abilities as well as his sense of humor and the community issues portrayed in his drawings," said event organizer Eenie Fitzpatrick. 

"He has this way of saying what the rest of us are thinking through his cartoons," added Kym Kays, organizer. "My absolute favorite was when he drew David Wallace naked with just his gun after David had said something about feeling naked without his guns at a county commission meeting." There will be an exhibit of McBride's work at the reception. 

"The heart of his work shows he wants what is best for the community," noted organizer Jim Hayward. "He wants people to understand the gravity of certain situations going on in the community and the world." 

McBride said he was humbled by the recognition of more than 30 years of creating editorial cartoons. "I have lampooned presidents, congress, state politicians, celebrities, local officials and even myself on occasion," McBride said. "The whole idea behind an editorial cartoon is to accomplish two things; make people laugh and make them think. I sometimes do cartoons I don't even agree with but I do them to provoke people to think about a situation. I hope they laugh first, though." 

According to McBride, reality is often more absurd than cartoons and his inspiration comes from those absurd situations. He said at the beginning it was difficult to handle criticism of his drawings, but before long that criticism became something he craved.

"It meant people were paying attention and they were thinking about what I projected in the cartoon," he said. "Now it's the criticism I enjoy the most because it creates dialogue." 

While most often it's the "situation itself that paints the cartoon," McBride added that sometimes he'll see another cartoonists' work and think "I can do better than that." He said he reads a lot of news articles from a variety of sources to try and get to the truth of the matter while forming his opinions.

When he comes up with the idea for cartoons, he usually draws up three to five different ideas before deciding which would hold the most interest to the public. His cartoons are always black and white and heavily inked to provide a nice contrast. "I always make sure the pressman has the ink well full because of the amount it takes to print my cartoons," McBride said.

"I have drawn every president since Ronald Reagan and every governor since Mike Hayden. But if I had to chose a favorite it would be between George W. Bush and Paul Sasse," he said. "Bush was a walking cartoon every time he said something, and as he progressed through office his caricature changed. His eyes became more closed over by drooping eyebrows and his ears got bigger while his forehead shrank. After eight years in the White House his caricature looked more like a shrunken head."

He is often asked how he would vote in any given election, McBride said, and his answer is always "the one who will give me the most material," but he noted that gets more challenging today as "all the candidates in the political pool appear to fit the cartoon mold well."

After all of his years of work, McBride has accumulated more than 3,000 original cartoons. "It's hard to believe I have had the opportunity to do something I never would have dreamed possible. It's been amazing the doors that have opened up. I've been published in countless publications from newspapers, magazines, online blogs, trade magazines, corporate manuals and an annual Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year book," he said. 

"I have a lot of people to thank for my political cartoonist career but the Independence Daily Reporter and Hub Meyer were the foundation. Meyer took a chance on my abilities as a cartoonist to add something different to his paper no one else had in a small daily newspaper. I had the passion and drive the be the best I could be and the desire to add value to the paper," McBride said. "We didn't always agree with each other but he always stood behind the Constitution and freedom of the press. I have to thank Mark Johnson and his great sense of humor for the inspiration that pushed me to be the best I could be." 

See a display of McBride's work and so much more during the 65th annual Verdigris Valley Art Exhibit beginning at 7 p.m. Friday. The gallery will be available to view until July 12 Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Special tours may be arranged.