Category Archives: elephants

A Brief History of Political Cartoons

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a political cartoon could be considered a lengthy editorial.

Today, political cartoons have the power to catch a reader’s eye in a sea of digital information but once upon a time political cartoons were vital to the consumption of information by society at large.

Take a journey to the beginning of political caricature drawings to fully understand how this art form stood the test of time.

In the Beginning

Even though caricature drawing was around during the time of Leonardo da Vinci, it was not considered art until politics got involved. However, a shift in thinking began to occur when, in the 16th century, a merchant class began to arise. This meant that leadership in civilized societies no longer belonged exclusively to high-class-educated-folk. People within the villages were seen as leaders too, even though several of them were illiterate.

The power of the middle class was recognized by Martin Luther, who was passionate about advancing reforms that went against the Catholic Church. To gain support for these reforms, Luther acquired visual tools. Using pamphlets like Passional Christi und Antichristi allowed Luther to spread his message of reform and gain the support of people who could not read.

Then came Benjamin Franklin

In 1754, another milestone in political art occurred when Benjamin Franklin had “Join, or Die.published in the Pennsylvania Gazette. In it, he used a picture of a disjointed snake to represent the importance of the colonies coming together to overcome conflict with the Iroquois. The image and slogan were revered by people in every colony, and the authors of The Ungentlemanly Art: A history of American Political Cartoons claim it was published in “virtually every newspaper on the continent.”

Following the Civil War

Thomas Nast has been called the “Father of the American Cartoon.” In fact, he is credited for elevating the elephant and donkey to positions of political notoriety. More so, President Lincoln often referred to Nast as “his best recruiting sergeant.” But arguably, Nast’s most famous cartoon could be found in Harper’s Weekly as early as 1871. He drew pictures of the corrupt politician William “Marcy” Tweed, which garnered “one of the most celebrated specimens of graphic social protest in American history.”

Political Cartoons Today

Political cartoons and cartoonists can have just as much influence today as they did before the Information Age. However, the type of influence is different. Rather than provoking people to take action (as they did in the past), political cartoons are excellent teachers of history. The World Affairs Council claims, “Because a political cartoon is a primary source from a particular era, it is a valuable tool for teaching history.”

In the Information Age, when words are plentiful but facts are fleeting, political cartoons disrupt mundane content, evoke curiosity and enable readers to learn about historical events – not from a textbook, but from self-guided quests.

The history of political cartoons goes far deeper than this article, and, if history is any indication, it will continue for years to come. Stay tuned.

Read more Segmation blog posts about art and color:

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Can Elephant Art Save the Species?

Art has been known to increase the quality of a human’s life, but, in some cases, art is saving the lives of animals.

Have you ever heard of elephant art?

This type of art ranges from a photograph taken of an elephant to a picture painted by the intelligent mammal. However, let it be known that elephant art never involves their ivory tusks. Throughout the world elephants are being poached because of their tusks. This is causing the population of African and Asian elephants to dwindle. Much of the time, ivory is used to create works of art. To encourage the growth of elephant populations many countries have banned the importation and sale of ivory.

Other than poaching, elephants are a threatened species because their habitats are shrinking. Because of their large size, elephants need a lot of food, water and land to roam. The development of elephant habitats is cutting in on their space and limiting the basic necessities they need for survival.

What would the world be like without elephants? Many of us cannot imagine this reality and several artists are dedicated to avoiding this threat through creative activism.

Elephant Parade

Mike Spits’s father was in Chiang Mai when he met an elephant that lost her leg to a landmine. The hospital treating the elephant wanted to give her a prosthetic leg someday but such a surgery would be very expensive. Touched by the need, Mike Spits’s father wanted to help but he didn’t want to write a onetime check. He wanted to create a sustainable fund that could help elephants for years to come. From this desire, Elephant Parade was born. Now, Mike Spits operates the social enterprise on funds brought in through painted elephant statues.

Artists Against Ivory

Operating on the vision of “helping elephants live forever,” Artists Against Ivory creates wearable art including t-shits and jewelry, as well as wall art. Through elephant inspired art, this enterprise raises money and empowers the cause of elephants throughout the world.

Mae Taeng Elephant Camp

Elephant habitats in Thailand were being encroached upon when the Chailert family created a camp to protect the species. Later, they opened a clinic to rehabilitate injured animals. They support the park and clinic by opening their doors to visitors who want to get up close and personal with the gentle giants. More so, they sell artwork created by the elephants. At Mae Taeng, elephants begin painting at the age of three.

Will art save the elephants? We can only hope this genre of art is raising awareness of the threat they face. Embrace the art that comes from elephants and share the art elephants create.

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Read more Segmation blog posts about art and color:

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