Chrony cartoonist draws national praise

A political cartoonist is the guy who throws the first punch in a bar fight and then sits back and watches everyone else go at it, says Josh Ferrin, national college cartoonist of the year.

Ferrin, Chronicle opinion cartoonist since September, recently received the Society for Professional Journalists student award and the National Association of Editorial Cartoonists John Locher Memorial Award.

“This has all happened very spontaneously,” Ferrin said.

Originally a political science and Middle East studies major, a few months ago Ferrin had planned to go to law school and had even paid $1,200 for an LSAT prep class.

After another student saw him doodling in classz and suggested he draw for The Chronicle, Ferrin took the first step toward a completely different career path.

“This was nowhere on my radar screen,” he said. “Before I would have thought, ‘I could never do that,’ but I’d never tried.”

Now Ferrin is trying to decide which invitation from a professional newspaper he’d like to accept.

He currently has job offers in Tennessee, New Jersey, Florida and Missouri.

Although his dad was surprised he wouldn’t be attending law school, Ferrin’s mother is an artist and was really excited for him.

“My wife is supportive even though she hates politics,” he said. “I felt like a child saying I wanted to be a basketball player when I grow up. It doesn’t sound realistic.”

Although his aspirations to be a professional cartoonist are only months old, Ferrin has been drawing since childhood.

In the fourth grade, the Ogden Standard-Examiner rejected his submission of a Garfield cartoon to be printed.

“It was pretty bad,” he said.

His techniques have improved quite a bit since then.

Ferrin’s unique style is created by ink-brushing his initial drawing and then scanning it into his computer to touch it up with PaintShop.

“I wanted to set myself apart,” he said.

But coming up with ideas is always a struggle.

“I wish there was a book you could buy called 1001 Cartoon Ideas,” he said.

His notebook always with him, Ferrin frequently sketches ideas that come to him or else doodles objects he sees until something political comes to him.

Seeing his 7-month-old fascinated by a television, he began drawing ideas about TV causing attention deficit disorders.

What began as a student with television images flashing through his brain evolved into someone with TV sets for eyes until his final cartoon of a family portrait where the parents had TVs for heads.

“Children learn so much of their values from media instead of their parents, so that went well with the drawing,” he said.

Although a little nervous about starting his professional career, Ferrin says he understands that he’ll make mistakes and people who disagree with his comics will call him a bigot and a communist.

He said a lot of people have told him they could never do what he does. But to Ferrin, it’s all about giving it a try.

“If you stop thinking about it and try, you can find a lot of personal enjoyment,” he said. “I’ve found something I love to do and can put my heart into for the rest of my life. I think I’m pretty lucky.”

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