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.

Rush Job! City Paper Cover.

Right before the weekend I got an email from Charlie Deitch, Editor at the Pittsburgh City Paper. “I know it’s short notice, but do you have time to do a cover this week?” The answer to this, even if I don’t have time, is always yes. Yes, I do. Because money. And because I could use another portfolio piece. Not to mention the CP staff is great to work with. And, honestly, I kinda’ like the challenge of a rush job. So here’s a quick process breakdown.311_citypaper_digitalcover_sm_vincedorse-copy

Lisa, the art director, wasn’t in the office this week. But vacation be darned, she still managed to scribble her idea for the cover on the back of what looks like some humorous, cat-themed notepaper and get it to me. I hope she won’t mind my posting this, but I thought it’d be fun to show the process of building a cover from start to finish. 311_citypaper_process_dorse_02

That first, rough drawing is really all about getting the idea across. And Lisa’s not the only one who scribbles out wonky doodles in a hurry. Here’s the one I sent Charlie for approval.311_Process_DorseTerrible, right? Still, it’s about getting the idea across. I thought it’d be fun to spin the angle a little and have the girl walking right out toward the viewer, but basically, everything Lisa mentioned in her scribbled notes is here. Approved! Next step, polished pencil sketch.

311_Process_DorseWith these covers, I always begin with the file of the City Paper masthead that I keep handy. It helps me lay out the composition. Here are the polished pencils I sent in to Charlie, done in Clip Studio (Manga Studio) with a basic pencil tool. The brief didn’t indicate “Fall” but the first day of Autumn had just gone by and I thought it’d be appropriate to do a cover with a bunch of warm, Fall colors.

Initially, I was planning to ink over these pencils, like a traditional editorial or comic illustration. But the more I thought about it, the more I felt the image would work better as kind of a softer, storybook illustration. So I left the pencils in as my main lines and started in on the colors. Clock was ticking, too, so not inking over the pencils saved me a little time.

311_CityPaper_process_VinceDorseClip Studio has dozens of brushes I like for this kind of work: chalk brushes, watercolor, airbrush, and plain old flat fill brushes. I used all of those (and more) to start laying in color under my pencils.

311_CityPaper_process_VinceDorseI think most of what you see in this detail was done by various chalk brushes, layered on a little at a time. I enjoyed figuring out different textures (like the hair and sweater), and I’d be lying if I said drawing a nutty squirrel didn’t make this job twice as appealing.

311_CityPaper_process_VinceDorseThe water was done with a couple different airbrush tools in Clip Studio. I wanted the sidewalk to look a little wet and sparsely covered in fallen leaves, so I used a watercolor brush to get a bit of a wash effect on the colors.

311_CityPaper_process_VinceDorseThe manhole cover was textured with a pastel brush and some pencil tools. Same with the hole in the sidewalk, and then I blended it with a watery blender.

311_CityPaper_process_VinceDorseThe thing that took the longest was this tree. It was easy enough laying down colors in the trunk and then blending them, but those leaves! I know I could’ve gone with a red/orange/yellow watercolor wash. And I almost did, because I was under the gun. But once I started painting in the leaves (pencil tool) I really liked the look of them. So I just kept doing it until I was done. I turned in the illustration the next morning and it’s on the stands today! Here’s the finished illo without the cover text:311_CityPaper_process_VinceDorseThis was a really fun job. I got to experiment with some brushes, made the folks at the City Paper happy, and added another amusing illustration to my portfolio. Wins all around! I hope the City Paper considers me for their next rush job. I’m up for it. -v

Here’s a link to the online issue of this week’s City Paper.

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

Tiger’s Tale: Process steps for an editorial illustration with a storybook feel.

I got an editorial assignment this week, and the subject of the piece lent itself to a storybook approach. So, instead of my editorial style, I decided to use my softer, “kid lit” style. Here’s a quick step-by-step showing how I put it together.

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseLong story short, they’re closing down Wilkinsburg High (mascot:tiger) and now those kids’ll be taking classes at Westinghouse High (mascot:bulldog). The art direction was to draw a bunch of super-cute baby tigers attending school at a bulldog’s doghouse. A perfect opportunity to use a kids’ art style, right? So, first things first, the pencils…

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseThis is the pencil sketch, roughed out on printer paper. I didn’t take the time to work out all the details of the building, figuring that’d take long enough in the computer and why do it twice? I worked the tigers a little more, though, because I needed to know if Lisa (the art director) thought they were cute enough to fit the brief. They were. : ) I got approval, so I moved forward.

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseI did these in MangaStudio with a pencil tool, tracing over the scanned sketch. Since Westinghouse High is the home of the bulldogs, the school was supposed to look like a doghouse. I decided to combine the classic, backyard doghouse with an old-fashioned, one-room schoolhouse complete with belfry. MangaStudio‘s rulers are so versatile and easy to use that I’ve actually learned to enjoy drawing houses and other structures.

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseNext step was coloring the schoolhouse. Sticking to that storybook aesthetic, I chose a watercolor brush, fiddled with the opacity, and just started brushing color and grain into the boards. I masked out the overlap, adjusted the levels, and after the house was done, I started in on the characters…

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseI picked a few warm colors for the tigers (oranges, reds, yellows) and painted in some base flats. I didn’t have to worry about being too neat, since I planned to blend the colors in the very next step…

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseThe colors of the clothing and accessories were determined by the school colors. Wilkinsburg, red and blue. Westinghouse, blue and white. Once I had all the colors of the tigers roughed in, I blended them, stroking the colors to look like fur. Time consuming, but I like the way it turned out. I normally block in the backgrounds first, but I saved the minimal environment until the end.

SchoolThatTiger_process_VinceDorseHere’s a quick progression of the foreground/environment. I started with some earthy colors, scribbling in some texture with a watercolor brush, adding more texture with an overlay, and deepening the shadows. Then, a rough-edged brush to map out patches of grass, followed by scattering blades of grass over the whole thing.

After that it’s just a matter of color adjustments, playing with the levels and it’s done. This was a great chance to add to my children’s illustration portfolio and still turn in an editorial assignment. The finished piece is down below, and, to see it in context, check out this week’s Pittsburgh City Paper. That link to the online edition also gives you a look at how Lisa scattered my tiger students throughout the issue and article (pp. 5,6,8&9).

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My first official Peduto for the Pittsburgh City Paper

Mayor Peduto Gun Bill editorial illustrationHuzzah! Even before Bill Peduto became Mayor of Pittsburgh I’d been hoping to land an editorial assignment where I got to draw him. It finally happened this week and I actually got to draw two Pedutos! There’s absolutely zero politics behind my elation — he’s just fun to draw.  The illustration accompanies a Pittsburgh City Paper article by Rebecca Nuttail, if you’d like to see what it’s all about. Lisa Cunningham art directed this and I had a blast drawing it.

Here’s the final color version of the piece as well as the uncolored inks and a close-up detail. Inks done in MangaStudio 5, colors done in MS5 and Photoshop (still experimenting). Whether this guy ends up being a great mayor or not, I hope this is the first of many Pedutos for me. -v

Bill Peduto Gun Bill editorial illustration b/wPeduto close up detail