Drawing the Faith — and Politics
Meet Pat Cross: Recent College Graduate Is Budding Cartoonist
A 2014 graduate of Thomas Aquinas College (TAC) in Santa Paula, California, he is working as an admissions counselor at his alma mater as he attempts to launch his career as a full-time cartoonist.
His work is gaining notice.
As Brian Burch, president of CatholicVote.org, said, “Pat is an exceptional illustrator and cartoonist. While I can’t say I agree with every point of view he expresses, I always find him creative and talented.”
The young cartoonist grew up in Ohio and Massachusetts in a devout Catholic family of five.
His mother was an artist, and he took to drawing at a young age. As Cross recalled, “I drew all the time. After I took some classes, I started getting good at it.”
Pat’s father, Richard Cross, remembers how his son would spend his evenings copying paintings by Michelangelo, followed by reading Gary Larson/The Far Side cartoons.
As Richard recalled, “We’d hear him up at 12 or 1 in the morning, chuckling.”
His parents recognized his artistic talent from an early age, and, another plus, Richard added, “Pat was naturally funny and very clever as a boy. He was a prankster who could make you laugh.”
Pat initially intended to draw sacred art, but his family’s penchant for patriotism and conservative politics led him to political cartooning:
“My parents raised us to care about America and politics,” the cartoonist said.
“I saw some of my buddies drafted and sent off to the Vietnam War, and when they returned, they were not treated nicely,” Richard explained. “I felt ashamed about it. I’ve always been a strong supporter of the classic ideal of American patriotism, and it’s carried on to my boys.”
Richard was a member of TAC’s first graduating class in 1975, which led to Pat and three of his siblings attending the school.
While in his senior year, a member of TAC’s board of governors introduced Pat to prominent political cartoonist Michael Ramirez, who once worked as the political cartoonist for the Los Angeles Times.
“I visited with him for an hour and a half,” Pat recalled. “It was inspiring. He’s truly among the best in the business.”
As Ramirez recalled, “The one thing that stood out during our meeting … was the serious nature of his cartoons, something that is becoming a rare commodity in editorial cartooning these days.”
He added, “Pat’s style is original, and his ideas are inventive.”
While the actual drawing of the cartoon is the fun part, the challenge is in the preparation work beforehand, he said.
He devotes much of his free time in search of new ideas for cartoons, reading and then reflecting on what he has read. “There is not any point of the day I’m not thinking about cartoon ideas.” The recent presidential political contest provided ample material for cartoons.
His cartoons have been well-received, he said, as “in our ‘sound bite’ culture a cartoon is a way of communicating a big idea really quickly. One cartoon can get people thinking. A picture really does say a thousand words.”
Burch agreed, noting that the cartoons can also have an impact on evangelization: “There is a great value to visual messages in our digital age. The ability to communicate through satire and humor can present avenues for evangelizing the public which can be more effective than argument or debate.”
Richard explained, “A political cartoonist is like a court fool, with his own ironic view of the world. If he’s good at what he does, he can make the public wake up to a reality they’re missing.”
The decline of print newspapers has led to fewer political cartoonists on newspaper staffs, Pat said, hence he believes the key to his success will be having his cartoons syndicated, “the best way to get your material out there.”
Pat’s process is to sketch his cartoons in pencil and then go over them in pen. He scans them into his computer and uses Photoshop to colorize them. Despite working full time at TAC, he works on them daily, churning out four per week.
Although most of Pat’s material is political, he does Catholic cartoons, as well. He’s currently working with three other cartoonists to create a Catholic cartoon book, finding humor in everyday things that happen to Catholics. Furthermore, Pat’s Catholic faith is regularly expressed in his political material, when he offers commentary on such subjects as abortion, marriage, religious freedom and Christian martyrs in the Middle East.
The recent U.S. Supreme Court battle between the Obama administration and the Little Sisters of the Poor over the contraception mandate in Obamacare, for example, provided material for one cartoon.
Ultimately, Pat’s cartooning is his way to be involved in civic life.
As he said, “Our faith demands that we look to the common good of our country. That’s what really drives me each day.
“I’m Catholic, and I love my faith; I’m an American, and I love my country.”