Seth Boyes joined the Dickinson County News staff in March of 2017. In his first week at the DCN, he covered a train derailment near Graettinger. The tankers carrying ethanol burst into flames. Seth's photo of the event won first place for Best Breaking News photo at the 2018 Iowa Newspaper Association Convention and Trade Show. Since, Seth has won nearly a dozen awards for writing, photography and multimedia content. Seth graduated from Iowa State University in 2009 with a degree in Integrated Studio Arts. His original cartoons run regularly in the Spencer Daily Reporter and the DCN. Both he and his wife Janet hail from Clear Lake and have come to expect summers to be full of the hustle and bustle of tourists and visitors.
Our state hasn't quite cracked 200,000 cases of COVID-19 as of this post, but it's definitely an ever-increasing possibility. Monday's address from the governor informed us of several new restrictions, and press conferences this week provided clarity on the confusing points of those restrictions. It's hard to imagine that we were ever a full decimal place lower in terms of total confirmed cases just a month ago – much less imagine a day when the world had zero cases – yet here we are. It hasn't been a sudden change, however. It's been a gradual one. We've seen cancellations and restrictions come and go for months now as the cases continue to climb. And, while it's easy to think of the pandemic's effects in terms of large cities and other urban areas, it's been chipping away at our local happenings too. If we want the limits, the mandates and the cancellations to cease, then we have to actually take steps to stop the numbers from rising like a thermometer in the noon-day sun.
This particular cartoon hit a nice balance in my opinion.
I started with a less than concrete image of a thermometer, the bulb of which would be replaced by the now recognizable shape of a COVID-19 virus. What changed it from a humdrum composition to something more engaging was the angle. Had it remained plumb, the image would have been much more static and had less of visual (and therefore editorial) impact. As it stands, the perspective lends itself to the perception that the mercury/case count is actively rising – it's near 200,000 and not yet to 300,000 (hopefully, I won't have to come back and draw a burst thermometer in a few weeks, but I won't hold my breath).
While I was working on it, I assumed the lines marking the thermometer would be the thing that took the most time. In the end, what took the most time was actually looking back to see which of our major COVID-19 happening corresponded with each interval of 10,000 cases. Unfortunately, there were a number that fit into the last few. For instance, I chose not to highlight the cancellation of Spirit Lake High School's Homecoming dance, which would have been around the 90,000 mark, or the mask mandate set for Harris-Lake Park's middle school and high school students, which would have been around the 200,000 mark. Some eagle-eyed viewers might also notice I had a mental slip up and typed in "Parade of Flags cancelled" toward the bottom of the list instead of "Avenue of Flags cancelled," but I did catch it before finishing up.
Fortunately, it didn't take too much time to put the text in the proper perspective once it was typed (though it did take a bit longer than I intended). The text simply had to be aligned with the perspective grid I made for myself before sketching the thermometer. I used a similar method on the COVID-19 virus itself to be sure I was spacing its extensions properly – spheres can be difficult to make convincing when the work is otherwise a linear perspective.
I tried several variations for the final item under "ºLocal impact." Originally, I had the top item as "Cancel Winter Games" but, even though I feel like that will likely be the next local event to potentially be put on the chopping block, I thought it would be unwise to put that out there on just an inkling. So I changed it to "Your favorite thing" and then changed it again to "Something important to you." I wanted the top of the listed happenings to contrast in some way with the crisp text. I tried a hand written line. I tried a stenciled font. I tried using the stencil font as a stencil and applying a spray paint effect. Ultimately, I decided less was more, and I used the same font but kept it red.
And it's the red elements that keep the eye moving around the composition. It's simple, but it does the job in trapping a viewer's gaze in a figure-eight. The gradient background adds to that motion just a bit. I knew a majority of the thermometer wouldn't stand out on newsprint if the panel stayed largely white, so I tinted the background selectively in order to give the white (which will of course be light gray in hard copy) something to contrast itself with. What that does is create the perception of another element – the white cylinder of the thermometer – which helps the viewer's eye stay focused as it jumps from the bulb to the red text.
All told, I spent about three hours on this piece (excluding the time I spent browsing through our past editions for the proper text).