Update: This cartoon ran in the Sept. 4, 2019, edition of the Dickinson County News. The work was originally meant to be paired with comments from U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley on the impact of trade tariffs which ran in the Aug. 28, 2019, edition of the Dickinson County News, but was not ready in time. Similar comments were made by U.S. Rep. Steve King and U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst on Aug. 29, 2019, and Aug. 30, 2019, respectively, providing an opportunity to run the unused cartoon.
Some good news, as Chuck Grassley told me, is that the U.S. and China will take their seats at the negotiating table next month to talk about the continuing trade war that's put Iowa's agricultural market in a pretty shaky state. Some bad news, also as explained to me by Chuck Grassley, is that the EPA has continued to grant ethanol production waivers to oil refineries (large ones if you ask Chuck), and the expected 15 billion gallon production mark for ethanol as promised under the Renewable Fuel Standard has dropped by about 1 billion gallons. So, at this current juncture, Iowa's corn farmers are having trouble getting their corn to China and they are having trouble getting refineries to buy it for ethanol.
So, after they invested lord-knows-how-much money into production this year, they may be stuck with a lot more of it than they planned and a lot less cash than they need. Yet, according to Sen. Grassley, farmers don't seem to be ready to give up on the Trump administration's trade policies just yet. Frankly, just my opinion here, I think it's going to cost farmers more than they expect. Or, to put it in Chuck's own words from about this time last year:
"I've kind of come to the conclusion that he might love farmers — because I hear him say it all the time — but I don't think he understands agriculture economics." - U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley
Ethanol waivers were a problem back then too.
This cartoon was sketched out well in advance of it's actual use. When more tariffs came into the picture back at the beginning of the month, I started work on this one. It's a bit different than most of my work. I worked much more with the cross hatching to get some volume in the forms. I decided to keep that in the digital work, though I wasn't sure it it would translate. Thankfully, I found I could free up some of my artistic apprehension by making the shading layers in my work mask layers based on the blocks of color. And because the separate features in the form needed to be distinct, I used two of those and alternated back and forth if one came close to another. It was really effective. In playing with opacity, I was able to keep a lot of the graphite sketch's original tonal quality, and I just needed to add another layer of dark tones in key places.
The symbols of the work were pretty straight forward. I love me some Shakespearean references, and the MAGA hat quickly became a pop culture icon rich with loaded meaning in just a matter of years. I particularly liked the juxtaposition of the hat with the ANF sticker. For anyone unaware, the ANF sticker is sported by the University of Iowa football team in support of farmers. ANF stands for America Needs Farmers. I tried to place the sticker on the skull in approximately the same spot it would be if it were a Hawkeye's helmet on the gridiron.
I wasn't sure going in how I would handle the background, but the circle ended up being both simple (my original intent) and a handy visual reference to stage work in one of The Bard's most famous plays. Realizing that, it was simple to add the necessary shadows to pull the whole frame together at the end.
Excluding the sketch, which was refined in my spare time over a few days, this cartoon took around five hours to complete. I was able to do the digital work in one sitting, which is a rarity for me these days.
Thanks for reading.