My written contribution to the mental health series our family of papers is putting together is now off my desk and ready for print. Truth be told, this has been a herculean task. My article alone combined nine sources (and that's counting a five-member county board of supervisors as one source). It's a lot to boil down into a concise piece, and it's even more to boil down to the point that people not only read it but understand it. Needless to say, there were a lot of facets to Iowa's mental health situation we needed to take a look at – that's why we combined three papers' efforts to do a series. There are a lot of players saying they are doing their best, and they no doubt are, but that doesn't mean they have the same goals or the same priorities within those goals. In short, I don't think we can put the blame squarely on one party here. What we need to do is understand each of the factors and act on that understanding. So, again, read the series, that's why we do what we do here at these papers.
I had been wanting to do a locally focused cartoon on the subject of mental health ever since Compass Pointe announced it was closing. I did create one, but it never made it to the page. Thankfully, that was a blessing in disguise. I reworked the overall idea of the broken jar in my first cartoon to fit the larger situation of the series.
I succeeded in my goal of drawing a cartoon with a flat two-point perspective, which is good. In this case, it was necessary from a creative standpoint for me to sketch the composition on actual paper and scan it in to work over more. I was able to take a page out of some of cartoonist Steve Breen's playbook and add a bit of life to my sketch for the process animation below.
Originally, the shadow was going to be Uncle Sam's silhouette, but that proved to be more difficult to accomplish without a profile shot than I thought, so I brought the focus down a level and labeled the shadow as "Iowans." That was actually another adjustment as it had read "Iowan Voters" earlier and just "Voters" prior to that.
I'm particularly proud of the lighting on this one. I considered leaving it black and white to save time, so I could sent it to our sister papers sooner, but I'm glad I went back and colorized it. The cool blue tint implies a youthful stealth mission to the kitchen in the middle of the night, which keeps the critical message of the panel playful. As you can see in the animation below, it took a lot of back and forth work with additive and subtractive methods to get the shadow balance to a point where I was satisfied. The darkness of the door frame also put a heavier focus on the cast of characters. It was actually more effective than I was counting on, and it, along with the "Iowans" element, ended up centralizing a composition that's otherwise pretty heavy on the right side. The last real touch I put in at the last minute was the tile pattern. I don't usually use automatically generated textures, but this one was effective, and I did tweak it some to match the overhead perspective of the panel. Without it, the scene seemed to be floating in the void a little bit. The tiles provide a more solid ground plain and set off my other senses a bit as a viewer – the feel of ceramic tile in a kitchen, the sound of a ceramic cookie car crashing against the floor, glints of light reflecting off the glazed surfaces. Hopefully, they do something similar for other viewers as well.
I used a larger file to get a greater level of detail in this panel, which meant a lot of lag when performing higher operations and creating layer upon layer. This cartoon was split over two days, and took around seven or eight hours to finish. The inking, shading and color work seemed to take almost equal shares of that total this time around.
Thanks for reading.