Friday, June 26, 2015 The composition physician.


Here's this week's comic for The subject this time is ongoing negotiations between the ECB and Greece over terms of the bailout.

The good folks at asked me to draw a parody of gameshow "Let's Make a Deal". This version was to feature Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras as the contestant. They asked me to draw ECB President Mario Drahgi and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde as the hosts. In the background, I was asked to include two prize "doors" in front of which would be piles of Euros and piles of Greek drachmas.

Here's the sketch:

It was a tough layout. As usual, the biggest factor was the looming, end of the day deadline. Having been to the rodeo many times before, I have a pretty good idea of when each stage of the comic needs to be done in order to make the deadline and avoid working from 6 AM to 9 PM (I have actually done this on one or two comics and it's not good for me in any way, shape or form). At any rate, figuring out this layout meant striking a balance between the size of the characters, the visibility of the prize doors, and the various background elements.

Looking at it now, the layout seems awkward to me. I probably should have either grouped all three characters on one side and put the doors on the other side OR raised the characters up (drawing more of their legs, ooh la la) and thereby created more breathing room for the prize doors at the bottom while also taking up a little more of the basically unused space at the top (it's just filled with a big sign as is).

Here's the thing, and this isn't an excuse, it just is what it is: It wasn't like I dropped the ball on the layout because I was lazy or incompetent (though I'm immune to neither affliction). It's that I'm writing this postmortem (this is what I used to call the time after the deadline has passed back when I was doing newspaper cartoons). It's easy to play armchair quarterback and reflect on what I might have done differently, but the choices all need to be made very quickly while I'm working on these comics. Those choices about layout or color or whatever don't seem so clear when they're being made on the fly. So I'm going to cut myself a little slack, in spite of the fact that I wouldn't exactly consider this one to be a triumph.

Here's the final, btw:

Here's what I like about this comic: The color was fun, drawing the set was fun, and I think Tsipris and Lagarde's caricatures turned out pretty well. Draghi looks weird. Kind of pinched. I think I drew his eyes too small. It's a shame, because usually I really enjoy drawing him. Must have been rusty.

Anyhoo, what's done is done. Next week, depending on the comic, I'm going to put as much thought as I can into making the composition and posing of the characters more dynamic and interesting. This week's comic was a situation that happens once in a while: I put everything I had into it and it didn't turn out all that great. It's possible that I've just been looking at it for too long, though. All I can do is try to do better next time I'm up at the plate.

Until next week,


Friday, June 19, 2015 Yacht See


Here's the latest comic for This week's comic will act as a promotion for's new app. The team asked me to draw a 2-panel comic. Panel one was to show a Wall-Street banker type checking his portfolio page on the computer in his office. Panel two was to show the same guy, this time checking his portfolio on his phone from aboard his yacht.

Here's the sketch:

Real-estate in comics is at a premium, right? There just isn't a lot of space to depict absolutely everything you have to depict. And you also don't have a ton of time. I'm not sure about the average amount of eyeball time a comic is given by the average reader, but it probably ain't much. So we tend to use shorthand and symbols whenever we can. I do, at any rate.

In this case, I had to show the guy in panel two looking at a specific page on his phone while on a yacht. The screen of the phone had to be visible and large enough to distinguish some of the information. Did I mention he had to be on a yacht? How do you show a yacht and the screen of a tiny smart phone at the same time? If you zoom out enough to see the yacht, you can't see the dude or the phone. If you zoom in enough to see the phone, you can't see the yacht. So I chose to use symbols. In this case, yacht symbols. Or, at least, maritime symbols. A white cabin wall, a port hole, a railing and one of those orange life preserver rings. I think it does the job ok.

Here's the final:

Illustration involves a decent amount of design. And design is problem solving. On a tight deadline, the solutions I come up with aren't always pretty or elegant the way I'd like if I had all the time in the world, but I'd like to think they're seaworthy.

Other thoughts: The ocean is hard to draw. I like the color differences between the two panels. I paid close attention to the lighting. Overall, a good, solid effort. As for the result...well, it'll do. Like I said: seaworthy. Not a grand ol' ship, but she'll float.

Until next week,


Friday, June 12, 2015 Of Bonds and Ennui


Here's this week's comic for

The Subject: Global bond markets have been seeing some volatility as of late (ditto emerging market currencies) primarily because of speculation that the Federal Reserve is going to raise interest rates in September.

The Pitch: The team at asked me to draw Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen pushing over a stack of dominoes. The dominoes, representing various bond markets in various countries, were to feature the flags of China, Germany, Russia, Turkey and Japan. I was also asked to draw a crowd behind Yellen, some of whom were holding signs reading "1%" and "2%".

The Sketch:

I did my best to capture an expression of casualness bordering on boredom on Yellen's face. Not that I'm suggesting she executes her job with either frame of mind. Instead, I meant her expression to convey the massive amount of power yielded by Yellen in her capacity as head of the Fed. Even an offhand comment by Yellen can make markets fluctuate dramatically, so imagine the influence of a calculated statement. Fed heads tend to be purposefully disaffected for this very reason, which is why it's so refreshing that Yellen actually has a very expressive face (refreshing from an illustrator's standpoint, anyway. 'Cause it's fun to draw.)

Here's the final:

While out on a walk the evening before I drew this comic, I saw some pretty, wispy evening clouds. So I included them in this comic. Otherwise, the rest (shading and finishing) was standard fare. Still fun, though.

Overall, I'd say this was a fairly strong comic. I'm happy with the technical aspects (not entirely, of course, the composition could have been stronger) and it was fun and interesting to draw. Can't ask for much more than that.

Until next week,


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Finals, match ups, and meetings.


Here's this week's comic for It has to do with the upcoming NBA finals, Champions League Finals and an OPEC meeting.

The crew at asked me to draw a half-basketball court/half-soccer (football) pitch. Standing on the court/field would be four people squaring off: Lebron James and Stephen Curry on the court side and Lionel Messi and Gianluigi Buffon on the pitch side. In the middle of the court/field, I was asked to include the OPEC logo.

Originally I was asked to also include two Saudi Sheikhs in the middle of the field, but six characters would have been too much for me to handle in one day, so they were eliminated.

Here's the sketch:

And here's the final:

This comic was a beast. A one-day deadline on these comics is tough under normal circumstances. This week there were four characters and a pretty detailed background (what with pitch, court, goals and baskets). But I made it. And even more amazing: I actually think it turned out well. PLUS: I had fun doing it (mostly).

It helped that every one of the people I was asked to draw has a great face for caricature. Messi in particular. He's one of those people who already looks like a cartoon. But every one of these guys has a lot of character in their face, and that always helps to make it fun.

All in all, it was a hard fight, but I think I made a good showing.

Until next week.