Cartoonist Steve Benson honors Charles Schulz with a birthday sketch

Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Steve Benson made this image for The Press Democrat’s special section “Celebrating Charles Schulz.” This appeared in print and online on Nov. 24, 2022. (Steve Benson)

Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Steve Benson is fond of saying “I don’t aim to please, I just aim,” and has incurred the wrath of some of the nation’s best-known politicians — and their followers.

But he has a deep and abiding love for all things “Peanuts”, especially after meeting creator Charles Schulz while attending his first national cartoonists convention in San Francisco. Benson drew a sketch of Schulz at the event, which Schulz signed. It remains one of his prized possessions.

In later years, Benson would visit the Schulz home when he made forays into Northern California on his Yamaha Roadstar.

“Sparky was a brilliant minimalist,” Benson said. “Every line counted. He had an amazing way of placing his pen exactly where he wanted it.”

Benson was born in Sacramento and educated at Brigham Young University.

He worked on Capitol Hill for the US Senate Republican Policy Committee as its staff cartoonist and was a longtime cartoonist at the Arizona Republic in Phoenix, where he won the Pulitzer in 1993.

He now works for the Arizona Mirror digital news outlet. A father of four, he lives in suburban Phoenix with his wife, Claire Ferguson.

Benson is also a former sworn reserve police officer, and was once told by former President and avid portraitist George W. Bush that the secret to a good caricature is to “capture the eyes.”

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