Keeping Busy-Part 5- ROLLING STONE When It's not Taibbi and Other Choice Assignments

MARCH 13, 2014
One would assume from my last post, especially if one didn’t read it carefully, that I only have done illustrations for Matt Taibbi features in ROLLING STONE.  That is not the case and RS has the good fortune of featuring the impressive investigative work of journalists like Tim Dickinson, Elizabeth Drew, and Janet Reitman.  Very few if any of the subjects they approach are clear black and white story lines even if the headlines state otherwise.  The great challenge that surfaces consistently is trying to distill very complicated, multi-layered pieces, populated by players often working at cross purposes to each other, into images that make sense, hopefully have some element of humor, and have a unifying theme.  There are times when creating a very simple hammer to head image is unavoidable because illustrating all the grey areas in the story would wind up nullifying any cohesive solution.  Also, topics that involve a lot of paperwork or political maneuvering, such as laws and subtle usurpation of laws, or money finagling, don’t by themselves make for dynamic images since most of the activity is under the radar of physicality.  Handshakes and private conversations rather than clubs and hostile face-offs.  The fear is in creating an image that feels too much like stereotypical editorial cartooning that includes everything but the labels identifying the characters and topics.  
Okay, okay, I know this is supposed to be a posting about non-Taibbi articles but this actually is a Taibbi piece on how Wall Street loots pension funds. It was not included in the previous posting and it was an oversight so it's being folded into this thread. Looting. Sounds intriguing, right? But the article itself was neck deep in paperwork and legal details- brain numbing legal details that involved zero physical activity. There was, however, commentary on how the tightening of belts ultimately affects the employees of the state- you know, police, firemen, teachers- and not the banking institutions managing, or mismanaging, the pensions and I jumped on that theme rather than torture through a tangled, uninteresting symbolic image.
Two red background images! A record of sorts. Another piece- on the GOP's gradual deconstruction of abortion rights via legislative maneuverings. Article by Janet Reitman. The activities were all very benign looking and low keyed- no foaming at the mouth rants and protests- just a lot of back room deals and alliances.
The GOP War on the Poor. Elizabeth Drew. It's these damn kids faults if they're hungry. I went for the physicality of the image, remembering those great Little Rascals shorts where the bad guy was always trying to shake the kids off their legs while sending Petie to the pound or grandma into the streets.
Early sketch. Not enough poor kids.
More poor kids in, little rich kid out, and two elephants. As much as I liked the image of the kid hanging off the tray it was felt that that it made the image unnecessarily complicated.
Tim Dickinson on how the U.S. is a major exporter of dirty fuels to the developing world even as we tout our green standards here. Quiet deals. Played the pusher/addict angle.
My original sketch was more aggressive (apparently a bit too aggressive for RS) but I felt more darkly satirical with a developing world snorting both coal and oil slicks while the pusher collects his payment. Traditionally, a successful pusher doesn't partake of the product.
Early attempt at a drug deal image. Even as I sent the sketch I warned that the use of third and developing world figures would sidetrack the point of the image into a firefight on stereotyping. I find people, especially in this internet environment, look to be easily offended regardless.
And now for something completely different. A take off on the iconic WWII poster illustrating a feature by Tim Dickinson on the benefits of raising the minimum wage. Again, lots of facts and numbers but no dynamics. I finally did an end run around the nuts and bolts of the story and went for a simple well known visual with a subtle, or not so subtle, adjustment or two. The woman has been updated to a more Walmart-ish type employee and she's holding dollars even as her cap states the company policy of cents. Art direction for the RS pieces- Mark Maltais and Joe Hutchinson.
Helps to have a fit spouse do emergency modeling.
A piece done for Patrick J.B. Flynn for The Baffler. The article was a not very complimentary assessment of writer Tom Clancy that focused on how his writing eventually became totally overshadowed by the commercialization of his brand.
Front page piece for the NEW YORK OBSERVER on Bill diBlasio and his re-imaginings of the housing issues in NYC. DiBlasio is very little fun to draw. The last New York City who was any fun drawing was Giuliani.
A cover piece for THE NATION. "T In the Belly of the Warehouse Beast. The Holiday Crush. Robert Best, art direction. Was so thinking Looney Tunes and that factory theme music when working on this.
For American History Magazine. A feature about a 'scandal' surrounding a winter party during the Revolutionary War with George Washington and a distressed general's wife. Not what you think. Peyton McMann, art direction.
Last, but definitely not least, is a set of illustrations for THE AMERICAN PROSPECT, art directed by the ever amenable and smart, Mary Parsons. The cover story- titled, "The Most Radical Party Ever- At Least Since the Pro-Slavery Democrats" ,it explores the constitutional and well as political impact of apocalyptic obstructionism currently keeping government in a lockdown. The article begins by discussing the columnist and pundit, George F. Will and his ability to both castigate Obama and the Tea Party, referencing James Madison in arguing that "in politics,all progress is incremental" while at the same time defending as untidy, bruising and utterly democratic, the Tea Party's attempt to shut down the government. Will draws comparison between the fight to overturn The Affordable Care Act and fighting to free slaves. It seemed like a fine idea to portray Will, generally a fussy, uptight kind of fellow to the fire breathing John Brown from the famous painting. Throw in a hospital bed, doctor and nurse, Stalin, Mao, Castro, Obama, a jackass, and the old Soviet flag on one side and Barry Goldwater, Jesus Christ himself, and a Tea Party elephant and you should have a fine image.
James Madison as a frustrated conductor with a quartet playing the music the way each individual wants to interpret the score.
One of the great obstructionists from old, John Calhoun, a spiritual mentor of sorts to current day passions, and Obama.
I love the Delacroix painting of Liberty leading the masses because it is such an endless source of visual satire. Here Ted Cruz, the Tea Party firebrand rallies a very reluctant main stream GOP to wreck things.
Near the 12th hour Mary asked for a spot drawing of a Tea Party elephant for the cover, echoing an article from a previous issue where I portrayed a Texas Republican as an angry Davy Crockett character (with skunk pelt cap- thank you 3 Stooges). I needed to get the right anger and pose and updated the firearm, using my own 12 gauge as a prop.