Jim Morin starts his day scrolling through Twitter and skimming newspapers. He works, standing at his desk in his Maine home office, television tuned to C-SPAN or other news. By 11 a.m., he emails his Miami Herald editor sketches for possible editorial cartoons. He tries to start drawing by noon and finish at 4 p.m. Then he begins thinking about his next cartoon. “It’s a 24-hour job,” says Morin, who won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, the second of his career. “I’m reading and consuming news all the time. Then you have to be quiet and let all the information settle down and establish what it is you want to say.”
Ideas pop into his head and his goal is “a direct and honest pictorial expression of what I think,” he says. “I don’t want to make a joke about it. I don’t want to be clever or cute with it. I like direct, mean cartoons. They just state a case and use logic as their weapons: This is what’s going on and it makes no sense.”
That formula worked for the Pulitzer judges, who said his cartoons “delivered sharp perspectives through flawless artistry, biting prose, and quick wit.” Morin collected his first Pulitzer in 1996 and was also a finalist in 1977 and 1990.
I’m reading and consuming news all the time. Then you have to be quiet and let all the information settle down and establish what it is you want to say.
Morin, who earned a degree in illustration and a minor in painting from the College of Visual and Performing Arts, spent a semester in London during the end of the Watergate scandal. “Wherever you went, they wanted to talk about Nixon,” he recalls. At the time, he was interested in politics and cartooning. “I fell in love with the world of Edward Sorel and David Levine and Gerald Scarfe, caricaturists who did political work,” he says.
In his senior year, his mother began pressuring him about getting a job after graduation. “One day she just tossed it out: ‘Why don’t you do what Herblock does?’” he says. That’s when he approached The Daily Orange. “I started with one cartoon a week, then two, then four a week,” he recalls. “By the time I graduated, I was doing five cartoons a week. It was just like working for a real newspaper. Without the DO I would not be doing what I am today.”
He’s worked at the Miami Herald since 1978. Before that, he freelanced and worked briefly at The Beaumont Enterprise (Texas) and the Richmond Times-Dispatch. His cartoons run in the Herald and are syndicated nationally and internationally through Morintoons. He has authored several books; the latest is Jim Morin’s World (Herald Books, 2017).
Morin found his style “gradually,” inspired by such artists as Vincent Van Gogh and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. “Rembrandt’s etchings were pivotal for me,” he says. “That’s when I started to use pen and ink.”
That’s still his preferred drawing method, although he colors his cartoons with Photoshop after scanning them into a computer. “There’s nothing like the feel of a steel-pointed 10-nib running against a piece of paper,” he says. “I’ll never stop using it.” He doesn’t even mind the occasional ink splotch: “It’s more natural,” he says. “It’s more free.”
Most of the 20 cartoons in his Pulitzer entry focused on the 2016 presidential campaign. “People say, ‘You must be loving this Trump thing,’” he says, “but it’s a little overpowering. There’s always material without him.”
No matter the topic, the cartoonist’s job is “to be honest and forthright in what we do,” Morin says. “Humor is not the most important element. I have to sit down and think: ‘What do I think about this?’ If you can’t answer that, you shouldn’t be drawing a cartoon.”
This story was first published on December 14, 2017 and last updated on . It also appeared as “A Cartoonist’s Purposeful Punch” in the issue of Syracuse University Magazine.