By Mindy Ragan Wood, Staff Writer – Robert Lange was a big draw at the annual Yukon Birthday Bash – and for good reason.
Maybe it was his sketchy past everyone wanted to see. Or, maybe they simply wanted to see themselves through his eyes.
Lange, a political cartoonist and caricature artist, has been drawing out the best and the funniest in people across Oklahoma the past 35 years. Last Saturday, he showed off this talent by drawing caricatures of people attending the birthday celebration.
“I like making kids smile and adults too,” he said. “I talk to people and figure out what they do and put that in the drawing.”
Lange is no stranger to Yukon. He is a favorite attraction during the Czech festival and has taught cartooning to elementary students at Parkland Elementary. During his early 20s he played with a polka band, the Jerry Katlan Band, at Czech Hall. He plays the trumpet, saxophone, and clarinet, but it’s the ink and canvas that keeps him busy today.
Although his art is not a full-time job, Lange said he accepts 50 to 80 bookings a year. He has drawn for the Dodgers, the Thunder, state and local legislators, the governor, and smaller events like family parties and proms. Lange creates political cartoons for the OKC Friday newspaper, a publication that circulates through Nichols Hills and some of northwest Oklahoma City.
“Nothing hard hitting,” he said. “Nobody can handle that these days.”
Lange comes by his skills honestly. His father Jim Lange created political cartoons for The Oklahoman from 1950 to 2008. He produced more than 19,000 cartoons and was inducted into the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame in 1993.
Lange said his father’s way of crafting political cartoons was a balance, which provided for his longevity and success in the newspaper business.
“I grew up with a man who never hit below the belt. He never got nasty like I saw a lot of cartoonists do. Those who get that way don’t stay in it long because they take it too personally. Political cartoons are supposed to make the complicated issues simple and speak the truth,” he said. “To think he worked all those years as a political cartoonist. Now people avoid conflict.”
Lange’s political cartoons follow the same rule he saw his dad use every day at The Oklahoman, but he has to be a little more careful as the culture has changed. His cartoons are often two people having a conversation about an issue.
“I try to keep it light and positive. When it’s getting really rough in politics, I do something about the weather, and again to avoid conflict,” he said. “I’m a political cartoonist at heart, but I like doing caricatures because people take politics so personally these days.”
In addition to drawing for fun and politics, Lange makes some time to teach. He has been an instructor at public schools in Oklahoma City and Yukon. He is a frequent instructor for the OKC parks and recreation department.