More Politics For The Pittsburgh City Paper

Today the Pittsburgh City Paper puts out their 2017 Election Guide, featuring the Mayoral Race between incumbent Bill Peduto, and challengers Darlene Harris and John Welch.

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And, once again, I’ve been chosen to do caricatures of local politicians for the cover. Oh, politics. At least you afford me the opportunity to draw an elephant once in a while.

But the assignment was for more than just the cover image. This time I also had an interior spot illustration of Mayor Peduto, all gussied up as a circus ringmaster. Here’s some behind-the-scenes steps to getting this illustration from concept to print.

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Normally, doing political caricatures makes my stomach feel like I swallowed a bowl of thumbtacks for lunch. Too much pressure, too many politics. But Peduto is kind of fun to draw, so I didn’t bang my head on the desk too much during this job. First thing’s first: I collected my reference and worked up a sketch.

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Peduto’s a little cartoony to begin with, so it’s not that far a leap from photo to caricature.

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The original brief called for the mayor to be balancing on a rubber ball, like a trained seal. But (CP Art Director) Lisa and I batted it back and forth and decided on one of those pedestals that lions perch on — maybe because he’s cast as ringmaster rather than performer, maybe because it creates the illusion of more stability, maybe it just looks better.

So, the finished sketch gets approved and I move on to inks.

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Digital inks, done in ClipStudio (Manga Studio) with a standard brush.

We also had a brief discussion about color. Traditionally, circuses use the primary colors (red, blue, yellow) and I went with that. But Lisa thought, since it was an election guide, we should go with the good ol’ red, white, and blue. I agreed.

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Once the base colors are in, I start layering in the highlights, shadows, and texture. Here’s a gif that takes you from sketch to finished rendering.

CPElection_07_DorseEven though I’ve done quite a few of these political pieces for the City Paper, these caricatures are always a learning process for me. Sometimes I think I nail the likeness pretty well, sometimes I’m off the mark. But I never set out to mock anyone with the illustration. I just try to highlight predominant features or exaggerate attitude or bearing. Hopefully, it’s all taken in the spirit with which it was doodled. Good, clean fun. -v

Here’s the digital online version of this week’s City Paper, in case you’d like to read it.

Playing Politics: Process for my latest editorial assignment

Here’s the thing about editorial illustrations during this particular election cycle: no matter which direction the job leans, left or right, you risk upsetting somebody. Depending on how you choose to look at it, this cover could go either way. I suppose that means I run the risk of upsetting everybody.DunkTank_CityPaper_VinceDorseStill, when Lisa, art director at the Pittsburgh City Paper, offered me this assignment, I took the job despite not being very political. Not because I enjoy upsetting people, but because Lisa’s great to work with and this cover seemed like a fun challenge.

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It was a simple brief: Sanders and Clinton hurling baseballs at Trump in an old-fashioned carnival dunk tank, while he hurls insults at them. The concept was simple, but I was running into a roadblock. Sanders and Clinton are both right-handed (I researched it to make sure) so I was having trouble getting the angles right while still showing their faces. Nobody pays for a caricature of the back of someone’s head.DunkTank_CityPaper_VinceDorseI suggested a slightly different Whack-A-Mole concept to avoid the issue and Lisa basically said, Vince, stop goofing off and make the dunk tank work! See? I was already upsetting someone! She sent back an altered version of my rough with Hillary rotated to make her point. She was right. I could make this work if I really tried.

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Lemme tell you something else about editorial illustrations that should be fairly obvious: You’re often called upon to do caricatures of notable people. Thing of it is…I’m not a caricature artist. It’s not my main gig (though, come to think of it, I’ve done nine or ten caricatures for the City Paper and they’re still coming back for more…so maybe I’m doing something right).caricature_heads_dorseI posted these sketches in a public forum where a few cartoonist friends hang out and got a lot of positive responses. Even Mad Magazine caricature illustrator, Tom Richmond, chimed in to offer his two cents. I took in everyone’s feedback, made some adjustments, got close enough for horseshoes, and moved on to the next stage.

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Here’s my finished pencils with the inks started. I used the Layer Color option to turn my pencils into a blue-line sketch, then inked on the layer above with a standard brush.

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This is a series of close-ups of Bernie from pencils to inks to flats to final colors. All of it done in MangaStudio (or ClipStudioPaint, depending on what you’re used to calling it).

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Pencils. Done on paper and scanned in.

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Inks. I think this was the G-Pen brush.

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Flats. These are just there to help separate the colors, no finesse needed. I think I put them in with a no-frills, flat, round inking brush.

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Final colors. Most of this was done with a chalk brush, or pastel. I like the textured feel of it. Maybe some airbrush for soft highlights too.

DunkTank_CityPaper_VinceDorseThese insults in the word balloons?  That’s an idea I brought to the table. I thought it’d be fun to have Trump bellowing some typical zingers (and to zing myself in the process). The art director ran it by the editor and I got the green light…they even wanted him to zing their election guide!  Assignments are more fun when you get to bounce ideas back and forth with the client.

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untitledSo here is the final CityPaper cover. I was surprised to see my “insult balloons” were the only text on the cover! And there was a bonus! We had a little extra lead time, so Lisa asked if I’d like to do an interior spot illustration of a wet, angry Trump who just got dumped in the drink. In for a penny, in for a pound, I guess…

DunkTank_CityPaper_VinceDorseI ran a few different poses by Lisa, (this trio of sketches makes it look like he’s doing a little dance) any of which she said she’d be fine with. I ended up going with one that was less “Hulk Smash!” and more “angry tantrum” because it fit the tone of the assignment better. DunkTank_DampTrumpSpot_CityPaper_VinceDorseI’ll end with this final, damp Trump (inks and full color). This editorial assignment was probably one of my favorites I’ve drawn for the City Paper despite the subject matter being a bit out of my comfort zone. I just found out Donald Trump’s gonna be in town today, the day this City Paper cover comes out. I sure hope this doesn’t upset him. -v