Mister Rogers City Paper Cover

Pittsburgh City Paper came calling last week to see if I’d do another cover for them. As art director/managing editor Lisa Cunningham explained it to me, this cover was going to represent a combination of a few things: the start of Pride Month, the release of an upcoming documentary on beloved Pittsburgher Fred Rogers, and the point at which those two entities intersect — Mister Rogers’ radical history of accepting all types of people and minorities before it was commonplace.

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I didn’t have to do much layout work for this image because Lisa wanted it to echo the feel of a much-later photo of Fred Rogers where he’s shown welcoming friends to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

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I did a quick, blue-pencil sketch in Clip Studio to map things out.

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And then I went in with a pencil tool to work out the caricature. Initially, I was going to go over the pencils with a digital inking, but the sense I get from Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is a very warm, soft, gentle feeling. So I thought I’d leave the pencil work as the final line.

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After that, it’s all about adding color in Clip Studio. Again, I chose tools that might have a softer feel — pastels, colored pencils.

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Initially, the job called only for Mister Rogers and Trolley. But he seemed a little solitary in the Neighborhood of Make Believe, so after handing in the assignment I requested a chance to add in some of my favorite neighbors. It just seemed like a happier scene with everyone in there.

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Of course, I always leave a little extra in the composition because I never know how Lisa’s gonna crop/edit the illustration to fit the needs of the cover text and masthead. I like what she did with it this week, masking around the castle turrets.

For those interested, the City Paper article this cover points to is about how progressive Mister Rogers ideas were for their time. It’s written by Alex McCann and you can read it here. -v

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