Skip to main content

Fine Art Versus Commercialism: A Talk with ICMN Editorial Cartoonist Marty Two Bulls

In an Indian Country Media Network interview: Marty Two Bulls, Sr. talks about his climb to editorial cartooning fame and his process in making cartoon art

Even as a young child, ICMN editorial cartoonist Marty Two Bulls, Sr. had the gift. Adults told him many times that he would be an artist. As a freelance editorial cartoonist who has drawn for Indian Country Media Network since 2001, Marty Two Bulls Sr. recently garnered a Herblock award for excellence in editorial cartooning. given annually by The Herb Block Foundation for “distinguished examples of editorial cartooning that exemplify the courageous independent standard set by Herblock.”

Last week, ICMN’s Marty Two Bulls grabbed an award that included a $5,000 prize -- alongside winner Ruben Bolling. Bolling and Two Bulls received their prizes on March 29th in a ceremony at the Library of Congress in the nation’s capitol.

In an interview with ICMN, Marty Two Bulls, Sr. talks about his climb to editorial cartooning fame, his process in making cartoon art, and how it felt to be recognized in D.C.

How long have you been drawing comics?

As long as I can remember. In kindergarten my teacher told me I would be an artist. I would make stuff out of clay, I would do a lot of drawings with a purple crayon...

Marty Two Bulls with members of his family in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. - Photo: Vincent Schilling

Marty Two Bulls with members of his family in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.

When did you first realize you were going to be an artist?

I sold my first painting when I was 12 years old. It was a painting of an eagle that I sold to a friend of mine for about 60 bucks. I come from a family of artists. My nieces and nephews are all artists and I have two uncles who are artists. One of my uncles is a fine artist, and the other uncle is a commercial artist. The fine artist struggles, while my other uncle has a nice house and the kids go to good schools.

When I was 17, I decided to go the commercial and graphic artist route. I went to what was then called the Colorado Institute of Art. I told people I went to school at the CIA. Then they changed the name to the Art Institute of Colorado.


How did you go from graphic design to editorial work?

I went to work for a television station in Rapid City after a college instructor told me that computers were the future. I got a job as an assistant to the art director. I went into commercial printing, began to work for weekly news publications Including Indian country today during the beginning.

Marty Two Bulls editorial cartoon responding to Justin Beiber's claims of getting free gas as a person with Native heritage.

Marty Two Bulls editorial cartoon responding to Justin Bieber's claims of getting free gas as a person with Native heritage.

What's the difference between commercial art and fine art?

Fine art and gallery art is the type of art you do from your heart and soul. Graphic design I think Is just to [get a] paycheck. Commercial art is a series of compromises and working with people to fulfill some sort of design aesthetic that has been predetermined.

Scroll to Continue

Read More

Commercial art is a team effort. Fine art is a dictatorship, I get to decide what it is. If I decide it is going to be one red block, that's all it's going to be. I don't care what anybody says. It's the one place you can have full control.

Fine art is right next to your heart. It's a part of you that you give up. My mother died about five or six years ago and I cut my hair. I couldn't paint for a year. Because where I go to create that kind of artwork, is where my mother is.

When I lost her I just couldn't do it.

I had to force myself eventually to do a copy of a painting by Frank Frazetta, who is a fantasy artist. I was able to draw back from that in a real academic way. It was really difficult, I really missed my mother. She still is there in that place.

Was it difficult getting back to your artwork again?

I could always do the commercial side of things. Most of the time political cartoons -- aside from some serious issues such as suicide prevention or the water is life campaign with the mother and child were difficult. Getting to an emotional place is very difficult.

How long have you been drawing with ICMN?

Since 2001. I have been drawing one cartoon a week ever since.

How do you manage to do one cartoon every week?


I spent 13 years as a graphics editor, I had six and seven deadlines a day. Things just become a process. When one day is done you just look at the deadline for the next day.

How does it feel to be recognized for what you been doing for so many years?

Artists work in solitude. You are always working. Sometimes you work late at night. Every once in awhile you look up in your environment, you look up from your drawing board and see where you're at.

It feels good to be presenting native issues to a wider audience. I think that is always important. Many times native people often stand off to the side and watch things happen.

I'm feeling good.

Follow Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) - ICMN’s Arts and Entertainment, Pow Wows and Sports Editor - Follow @VinceSchilling