News of Berkley Bedell's passing spread quickly over the weekend. Legislators and journalists alike are sharing memories and photos of the Lakes Area businessman, philanthropist and former U.S. Representative. I met Berk but once, but a passerby might not have guessed it as such. Berk was so cordial and talkative while we stood by his parked car outside the DCN office it might have seemed we were discussing important matters for print. Really, we were just shooting the breeze. Berk was known to stop by the office just to say hello from time to time. He had actually been hoping to see our Managing Editor Russ Mitchell and I had followed him out the door just to tell him Russ would be back shortly.
That turned into a 10-minute conversation.
It's not surprising. From what I've gathered myself, Berk placed a great deal of value on others – from how he treated and cared for employees at Berkley and Co. (now Pure Fishing) to his time in the House of Representatives. As such, his fingerprints are all over the Lakes Area and the state. He'll be sorely missed by many.
While it was a rush job, I'm very pleased with how this panel turned out. The composition came to me while driving to work Monday morning as I thought of all the roles Bedell had played in his lifetime. At one point, I considered calling this "The evolution of Berkley Bedell," but after finally reading Russ Mitchell's piece on Bedell's passing, a better title presented itself via Berk's own words.
I had the advantage of having come across a photo of a young Berkley Bedell which ran on the front page of the Oct. 8, 1959, edition of the Spirit Lake Beacon. Thanks to that photo, I knew a little bit better what Berk looked like in his younger days. The figures are indicative of his time hand-crafting fishing lures at home as a young man, his time in the Air Force, his leadership at his now wide-spread company and his service as northwest Iowa's U.S. representative. Obviously, the farther to the right, the more details I was confident in including. That actually lends a good visual sense of time to the chapters of his life. Stylistically, I again riffed off some of the visual elements exemplified by cartoonist Steve Breen, but I also found the halo and expression on the eldest Bedell's face to be akin to something out of Bill Keane's "The Family Circus."
While I used Breen's scatter technique to give the background some life, I found it necessary to alter the color some in order to tighten up the interpretation of Bedell's time in the House. Though he was a Republican for most of his life, Bedell changed parties later in life and ran on the Democratic ticket. Leaving the background texture blue or red would have opened doors to artistic interpretation which I didn't feel were wholly accurate or perhaps even appropriate, so the added shift from red to blue seemed a good solution. On a technical level, I actually began each figure's face with a copy of the youngest one's profile and made additions to create a sense of ageing. I also felt that was fairly effective, and gave me a greater sense of familiarity from a personal artistic point of view.
Aside from the text and signature, the halo was the final element I added. I kept it free of a dark outline in order to draw more emphasis to it as a source of light. Though I didn't think it through, the lighting of each figure actually aligns properly with the halo – a happy accident with which I'm very pleased, as it reads a bit as if the halo is the "good example" Berk was moving toward all along.
The final version was ready for print in a little more than two hours.
Thanks for reading.