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Background about Matt Wuerker

Taking that famous advice offered up by Joseph Campell, I've been doing my best to "follow my bliss." My bliss turns out to be a slightly curmudgeonly news junkie who likes to drink a lot of coffee and crank about what ails the world and then put those profound thoughts down on paper in the form of somewhat overworked cross-hatched musings. This love of editorial cartooning has been the constant over the years but my bliss also has lead me down a long and winding road.

My first job out of college (Lewis and Clark College Class of '79) was with Will Vinton's clay animation studio in Portland Oregon where we had a great time animating little clay figures in the shop that would later become famous for the California Raisins. During that time I illustrated a couple books for Dr. Laurence Peter the author of the Peter Principle and also started doing freelance cartoons and illustrations for newspapers and magazines.

After marrying and spending a year overseas in the Canary Islands (where my wife had a teaching job) we moved to Los Angeles where I started working with Dr. Peter on a
syndicated comic strip project. It took a while to get the strip up and running so during that time I continued with freelance illustration and also worked on several mural projects with Judy Baca: The Great Wall of Los Angeles and the Harbor Freeway murals for the Los Angeles Olympics.

The Peter Principle (a single panel cartoon) was launched with United Feature Syndicate with Laurence doing the writing and me handling the drawing. Fate, though, didn't seem to think that syndicated cartooning was the path for me. Dr. Peter had some serious health troubles and we had to pull the plug on The Peter Principle after a short run of just a couple years.

I went back to animation at this time (the mid 80's) traveling back up to Portland to work with a filmmaker friend, Jim Blashfield, in the new world of music videos. I worked as an animator and designer on a number of Jim's videos including ones for Paul Simon, Joni Mitchel, and even Michael Jackson. One of the more surreal moments of my life came when I found myself on a soundstage in Los Angeles where we were shooting some live action of Michael Jackson dancing against a big blue screen that would be used in animation later. My friend Jim couldn't make it that day so I was filling in the director's chair and it was up to me to tell Mr. Jackson if his dance moves were going to be acceptable. So I say to him, "Michael, this sliding your feet on the floor is kind of cool but have you thought about doing it backwards. Like this..."

My Rock and Roll tangent also included getting into designing T-shirts for Benefit concerts, and later Tour shirts for people like Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Pearl Jam, Crosby, Stills, and Nash and Young.

In 1988, a couple years after we had our kid (Owen) we moved from LA to Portland. The crushing deadline pressures of music video work didn't allow much time for family life so I opted to pursue the saner pace of print work. I settled into work as a freelancer and that's been the game plan ever since.

I'm fairly evenly split between cartooning and illustrating. I like the usefulness of good political cartoons and imagery. There's something very satisfying about contributing to the ongoing political conversation and there's also something very satisfying when you succeed in making people laugh.  Some visual metaphors are more serious than funny but the ones that I like the best are the ones that combine a certain gravitas with a playfulness that gets people to laugh.

My first book of cartoons was published in '91, Standing Tall in Deep Doo Doo, Thunder'sMouth Press. My second book of cartoons, "Meanwhile in Other News" was published by Common Courage in 1998. Most recently, I edited the Cartoonist Group's first collection The Cartoonist Group Inks Campaign '08.

A few years ago we moved from Oregon to Washington DC.  Partly it was for my wife's work and partly it was because Washington has always fascinated me. As a news junkie I was drawn to DC the way gamblers are drawn to Las Vegas. I began to work at Politico when the hybrid web/print effort began, in 2006. We live just a couple blocks from both the National Zoo and the Swiss Embassy. It was a strategic move really. Depending on how crazy the world gets I can seek asylum either with the Swiss or in the monkey house.

E-mail Matt Wuerker.


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