More than just a bill
Artwork by Seth Boyes
It's been a while since I had time to sit down and crank out an editorial cartoon for the DCN. But sometimes all it takes to really get you motivated is a topic you really care about.
Take SF-546 for example. A bill like this one comes along every couple of years if not every year. I mean, in my six short years behind a news desk, I'm pretty sure I've seen at least two other bills that would have lifted requirements on local governments and other tax-payer-accountable groups who are obligated to publish notices, minutes and other records of their actions in newspapers.
I won't go into the reasons we newspaper folk are opposed to the bill. People with more experience in this field than I have already done that at this point, but suffice it to say it's you dear reader who we have in mind. You ought to be informed, and you ought to be able to have confidence in the people who inform you. To pull a quote from the Iowa Newspaper Association's leadership, "The government cannot be in charge of holding itself responsible," and that's what SF-546 would allow.
We'll see how the bill fairs on the floor.
Now, as for the artistic process behind this cartoon, things moved pretty fast – almost as fast as SF-546 (heyo!).
When word came from the Iowa Newspaper Association about the bill on Thursday, I offered my artistic talents and ended up sketching out a few ideas that night. It went through the usual handful of permutations – I had this idea to have a guy looking at the state Capitol through a hole in his newspaper, I had a generic government office with blackout curtains pulled down, I even tried a couple versions with Uncle Sam getting a check up. But then a certain member of my family walked in and asked what I was doing. I said I was drawing a cartoon and, of course, the next question asks what it's about. And upon my reply – "A bill the INA's worried about" – that certain someone starts in on the classic number we all know from School House Rock (at least I think we all do, right?). At that point, the creative juices really started flowing and this sketch really took off.
It took a little more than three hours to get it across the finish line once I got back to the office Friday morning.
One thing I was particularly glad to have done was mute the color scheme some – though it doesn't necessarily appear that way on some computer screens. I have a tendency to use too vibrant of colors, especially when I'm doing my work digitally. But it was very much necessary in this case to tone things down to imply at least a modicum of vintage to the image and sell the viewer on the overall reference. Interestingly, I ran into another problem during the color work in deciding what to do with the stairs. My sketch obviously didn't have them complete, and initially I was just going to hatch in a sort of pseudo vignette with the gray, but I ultimately couldn't stand it and filled in the bottom and right side. Thing was that then led to the question of what to do with the top step.
My answer in the end was simple – nothing.
In this case, I was pretty certain putting in additional stairs would draw away from the characters, which would then distract from the parody of the piece. And I found the implication of steps was good enough to do the job.
I played around a bit with a completely black background but, in the end I also ended up adding a scattering of blue to the top of the panel to help the speech bubble and the character's head pop for the viewer – the scattering technique is something I picked up from following Steve Breen's work (just to give credit where credit's due).
All in all, it felt pretty good to be drawing like this again, and this time there's a chance this piece could show up in papers all across the state – so keep an eye out.
Thanks for reading.