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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 01/20/2009

In Time for the Inaugural: View New Obama Portrait

By Michael Cavna

As President Barack Obama strides to the high podium of history today, poised to deliver his brand of soaring oratory, there's one thing we can be nearly certain of about his speech: Most of the words to be heard will be his own. And therein lies inspiration.

(Michael Cavna)Enlarge Comic

I've spent more than a year experimenting and honing my caricatures and portraits of Obama, devoting my focus to trying to decode the mysteries of this internationally iconic face. There are so many subtleties to work with in trying to capture not only the man's countenance, but also his physical carriage and charisma. For a caricaturist -- or at least a caricaturist like me -- conveying fluid grace can prove to be an elusive thing.

Frustrated and still in need of inspiration, I turned away from Obama photos and video, and instead began steeping in our new president's words. Keynote speeches, campaign comments -- even the most casual asides. (Amid all the lofty talk, I was reminded of Obama's wry response to the press once, when he said: "Can I just finish my waffle?")

As I sat surrounded by Obama's words -- the work of a mind who is oh-so-precise with words -- I thought: What better way to draw a sense of the man than to actually USE his words?

Soon, I was cobbling together snippets of text -- trying to find phrases and fragments that not only personified Obama somehow, but also fit the parts of his face where they would be applied. (Granted, this is a grade-school simple trick, matching a "talking" quote to his lips, "resolve" to his chin, etc. Hey, I take my novelties where I can get them.) And somewhere, the word "America" needed to be upside-down, as the familiar symbol of distress.

So to mark a historic day in a small, professional way, I finished my newest take on Obama's face: hundreds of words, about a dozen major drawn lines, and a simple title caption to top it off.

To complete the caricature, though, there's one last step: To add a few words or catchphrases from today's inaugural address. Stay tuned -- and if you've got a suggestion yourself for new wording to include, you know the e-mail:

By Michael Cavna  | January 20, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  The Morning Line  
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Next: Inaugural Sketchbook: Scenes From Obama's Mall


Ok, I didn't scour the drawing looking for it, but I hope "Just Words?" is in there somewhere.

Posted by: MSchafer | January 20, 2009 12:07 PM | Report abuse

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