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A fresh coat of red

Dickinson County News - Staff Photo -
Artwork by Seth Boyes
Seth Boyes - News Editor

Though it wasn't the trend on a national scale, many of Iowa's state and federal elections were won by Republican candidates this cycle – some of them defeating long-time Democrats who held their respective offices.

Our newsroom has held that Iowa's often been much closer to a swing state than its typically given credit for by analysts. As candidates on both side of the aisle said earlier this year, parties can't assume they have support and they have to earn their votes by visiting with constituents. And, by that standard, the GOP obviously must have generally done less assuming and more doing than their opponents felt the need to this time around.

And frankly, I can't say I'm terribly surprised. My inbox was peppered with news releases from candidates this year, but it seemed like each time a Democratic candidate announced an event, there seemed to be a trend – they were pretty well confined to the central areas of the state, like Des Moines, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. Now, obviously, those are the more populated areas as well, and one has to strategize some with these things, but too heavy a focus there can leave voters in our area of the state feeling ignored.


This cartoon didn't spend as long in the concept stage as some others, yet it came out looking better than most. It went through just two sketches and a more detailed gesture drawing of the elephant for reference ( I didn't even sketch in the legs originally, since I was working toward the corner of the sketchbook page). Pretty early in the process, I decided to use some aesthetic similarities to a previous cartoon, which ran in the May 13, 2020, edition of the DCN. That piece was commenting on the Lakes Area's competing priorities in mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic and supporting its seasonal economy. But what I really wanted to replicate from that previous cartoon was the conveyance of some really solid objects basically floating in blank space.

Copyright Dickinson County News 2020

Fortunately, I think I achieved that by applying similar shadow techniques and working on more detailed textures. In the more recent cartoon, I actually used a stock image of chipping paint as an overlay layer and worked back into it to add some small highlights and shadows. I also tinted portions of the image a faded purple hue (remember, psuedo-swing-state in my opinion). That decision also added much more visual interest when the thick lines of roller paint were added.

The cherry on top (I think the kids are using the expression "chef's kiss" these days, but whatever) was the choice to add the drips of paint which fell over the ink lines. Traditionally in this sort of medium, those are literal lines you literally don't cross. As a medium they share some common ancestry with printmaking, in that the artist can cover the edge of their color ink with heavy dark lines to provide a more clean cut visual. And I think that's exactly why the choice here was so effective in conveying a solid, weighty object which seems to somehow stay securely suspended in thin air.

Were my cartoons to print on a color page, the speech bubble would have been entirely unnecessary. As it is, I didn't want the thought behind my work to be lost when converted to grayscale.

This cartoon took an estimated five to six hours to complete, but I feel that was well worth it – even during a busy news week.


Thanks for reading,


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