Well, it was bound to happen. For some, like the FOX mob, the gloves were off and they were swinging one second after Obama was declared the winner of the ’08 election. But for those on the left, it was an eventuality waiting to happen that he was going to start letting them down. With ROLLING STONE taking Obama to task in a sharp toned and unapologetic article written by Matt Taibbi for the ‘National Affairs’ section, it is clear that the gloves have come off from one of his strongest supporters. Yet, anyone who has followed the ‘National Affairs’ section since at least the campaign knows that Taibbi had been warning us about O’s too close connections to some very powerful but untrustworthy business giants- Goldman Sachs being one. Matt was always about following the money.
Now that we have moved a little past the “wait and see” period, it’s been easier to start playing with Obama as a caricature. Nothing radical, but his features are morphing. There’s less an internal insistence that I get it right and more a wish to find a more nuanced essence to his persona.
The ideas for the article went through some changes as well. Here is a perfect example of editorial illustration being a positive collaborative process. The title of the article is “Obama’s About Face”. In the initial draft, Taibbi is wondering where the Obama from the campaign has gone, essentially turning over the managing of the financial crisis to the very people who created it, instead of calling them to account for their misdeeds and facing serious consequences. He wondered if it had all been an insincere ruse. My initial sketches were an attempt to portray Obama as a bad magician or flawed Savior. These were rejected and instead the editors wanted to show the contrast between those who were suffering as a result of the economic crisis and those who were benefiting with Obama’s wink and nod.
What followed next was a problem for me how to direct the scene. In my revised sketch/ideas I placed Obama not as the obvious focus but as a co-star of the scene in which you realize he’s part of the celebratory gathering in his office. I saw it as taking a more subtle approach, the slow pan if you will. The have-nots are outside, warming themselves on a fire of burning Obama posters. I did sketches with views from both inside and outside the office. It was decided to go with inside. There was a bit of misunderstanding on my part because editorial wanted Obama to play a greater role in the image, more obvious and in the forefront. Yet I was directing my scene as I understood it. As it turned out I was well into the finish after a number of false starts when it started becoming apparent that the image was missing something. Maybe it was the composition. Maybe there was too much dead space in the lower half. A certain tension was missing. Fortunately, Steven Charny emailed me wondering about the revised sketch based on how the editors were visualizing it. Whoops. But it was all good because the timing was perfect. In the time it took me to scan and send the work in process, I was also creating a new sketch to send along. The new composition resolved the issues around creating a proper tension in the scene. For me, Steven, and editorial. It had taken the better part of the day to get to where I was, it was already early evening, and the finish was due the next day. But plenty of mistakes had been worked out in my head from all the false starts and the new finish moved quite smoothly and with great focus. I also discarded the pen and ink approach and went straight for the pencils and watercolors. Often, especially after a lot of false starts, I only get fussier with pen line quality, gesture, and rendering. Consequently, things get tighter. That’s not good. The pencils brought me back to the gesture and the essence of the image.