Initially, our news staff figured the timing of the 2020 Iowa Caucus would work in our favor. It was held Monday. We go to press Tuesday night. We figured we'd have plenty of time to type up results, and we thought we might even get done early that night. No such luck. The now nationally-known issues with the Iowa Democratic Caucus reporting app brought me a lot closer to my deadline than I would have liked. Matter of fact, as of Thursday – yes, three days after the fact – we still don't have all the results. The IDP said it was still working on about 50 precincts as of Thursday morning. The good news is they've been confirming results through hard copy records, which means the results will be delayed but should also be verifiably accurate. The bad news is that the rest of the country is now seeing the state political system as somewhat incompetent. For years, people have questioned why and how a caucus works, as well as whether it should be Iowa who takes the first turn every election year. The eyes of the nation were on us as they always are near the end of each presidential term, and this time Iowa tripped over the Democrats' digital shoelace.
I began sketching this piece out while waiting for caucus results, but soon I was able to get county-level results from the local party chair and writing again became the main priority that night. But, since reported results were still only about 50 or 60 percent by the next day, I resumed work. My caucus leader came out somewhere between Dean Venture and John Mulaney.
Anyway, I took a few well-chosen shortcuts to give myself time to focus on the central figure. Blocking in the foreground with black and then painting in a few details on a separate layer allowed me to change it's color at will. Inking the background figures on another layer allowed me to do the same, which pushed them further into the background for a more atmospheric effect. Granted, they needed a few more shadows and highlights to make the lighting logic believable, but it worked.
As with "Alas, poor farmer," I chose to add a spotlight for added weight on the subject. The crisp geometry of the circle really gets the job done when contrasted with my line work. But this time, I chosen to keep the background a dark blue rather than black. I thought black would push the background figures too far forward. In the end, the color choice also worked out well for the black and white version on the inside opinion page.
If I had to do it again, I'd have added something to specify it's Iowa we're talking about – maybe the paper would read "Iowa Caucus 2020" or maybe he'd have "Iowa Dems" on his sweater vest.
I'm confident local readers will get the joke, but I also want to continue to improve my work. That will mean becoming more aware of the details needed to make sure a wider audience is in on the joke, even though my audience is very local.
I would estimate this panel took between three and four hours to complete – a fraction of the time it took to confirm this year's caucus results.
Thanks for reading.