Year End Wrap Up

DECEMBER 23, 2011

This will probably be my last post for the year. These last twelve months have provided opportunities to further explore how I’d like to spend the remainder of my life in this profession.  The work done during my embed in Afghanistan this summer was certainly the high point.  Unfortunately the drawings and text haven’t graced these or any other pages as they get pitched to publications.  But once something runs, look out.


2012 should prove to be a brutal and mean spirited election by November.  Rage controls all politics now and civility, reasonableness, compromise and bipartisanship have all become empty words especially when uttered by politicians.  The good people at ROLLING STONE continue to provide me with choice assignments for the ‘National Affairs’ column and we’ve had real fun tackling the issues- corporate and banking malfeasance, environmental issues and of course, politics- all the while hoping to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.  The last two assignments this year tackled the environment and politics.  No one has been spared, least of all President Obama.  The article by Tim Dickinson on Obama’s can kicking decision over what to do with the Keystone tar sands oil pipeline from Canada to Texas was renamed “Obama’s Pipeline Limbo” after one of my sketched ideas clicked with the editors.  A couple of lucky breaks searching for reference on Google which allowed me to play with the exaggerated pose and a spiritual link to Tex Avery and Robert Clampett provided the content for Obama’s expression.


The current assemblage of candidates for the GOP presidential grab is the topic of the year-end double issue of RS currently on your stands now.  A gift from the editors as they had the idea in mind, just didn’t know how it would look.  I again pulled the spirits of my favorite animators at Warner Bros. to inspire the configurations of the candidate pile up.  The cliff getting ready to break off is pure Road Runner.  I had way too much fun doing this one, especially because it allowed me an opportunity once again to caricature Ronald Reagan.  I love doing his face; it’s a bottomless gold mine in terms of manipulating all the shapes and creases that are such a part of his expressions.  Not to mention those backstage makeup cheeks.  It’s quite a sad commentary on the current crop of candidates when Reagan and Goldwater are viewed as voices of reason and restraint.  Like I said, 2012 may just provide ringside seats for watching the collapse of our version of the Roman Empire. 


As always, a privilege and pleasure to work with Steve Charny, Joe Hutchinson, Matt Cooley (on occasion subbing for Steve), Eric Bates and Will Dana. 


Anne Russinof, whom I have known since her days working at SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, called me for an assignment for the WALL STREET JOURNAL.  A fun piece/commentary on how politicians in general make terrible writers of fiction.  To tie them together in some sort of unifying image I had the selected authors dressed as either Shakespeare or, in Barbara Boxer’s case, George Sand.  My decision to toss in old Bill Shakespeare himself clinched the composition for everyone at the WSJ.  Thanks Anne.

Finally, I was fortunate enough again to be part of another Troops First Foundation Thanksgiving week tour of bases in Kuwait, doing what I usually do on these visits- portraits of members of the US Armed Forces that wind up getting sent home to family and loved ones when I return to the States in time for the holidays.  Our original plans had been to go again to Afghanistan, but problems with logistics forced Rick Kell, founder of TFF, to improvise and head to Kuwait.  In comparison to previous tours, and especially my embed, this was a remarkably calm and low-keyed trip.  The bases we visited were processing the final troops leaving Iraq for transition to either back home or other points of interest.  There being no war going on, conditions were relaxed to say the least.  Not once did I wear body armor or even a helmet.  It was especially strange to walk around bases where everyone was not carrying weapons at his or her side.  I’m including here a selection of drawings that turned out pretty well.  This was my first experience where there were lines of people waiting to be drawn.  Quite a daunting task for one of me.  To be honest, not every portrait was a home run the first time.  I smartly took pictures and redrew back home whatever proved unsatisfactory on reinspection.  These good people are all on long tours- 12 months or maybe more- away from family and friends.  The fact that they’re not getting shot at every day does not make the separation any less real or relevant.  They deserve our thanks for the sacrifices they make.  Thanks to Rick Kell for making this trip happen, to my co-conspirators on the journey, the scary and confounding mentalist David Magee, good friend and awesome country singer/songwriter Matt Snook, our escorts during the week, Sgt. Mike “YaAzzhole” Tinsley, Sgt. Casey O’Brien, Pfc. Chris Knight, and our driver with a million stories, Markas Morton.


Hope you all have an incredible 2012 no matter what the politicians do.  I’ll be starting it off in character, bringing my studio with me for a working vacation on a cruise off Australia for the New Year.  And, of course, many thanks to Mr. Zimmerman for making this fantastic site and forum possible. 

Even as the watercolors were being applied to the finish, the one time front runner, great non-Romney hope, Herman Cain was already face planting into the asphalt of GOP circus history. He was out of mind by the time the issue hit the stands. Ah, politics.

L>R Willie Shakespeare, William Cohen, Newt, Jimmy Carter, Barbara Boxer.

Couldn't find a better host taking us around than SSgt Schliesing. I scored points pronouncing her name correctly.

I believe Sgt. Soderlund supervised the DFAC at one of the bases and Sarramabbass was her right hand man. They obviously enjoyed a great working relationship. She insisted on posing with him.

Mentalist David Magee totally messing with the minds of troops doing mentalist tricks and slight of hand.

A couple of Majors sitting for their portraits. My posture and outward appearance is a ruse- there were rivers of sweat rolling down my sides. Drawing privates and corporals is one thing...

OCCUPY CHRISTMAS. The more things change, the more they stay the same. If anything, considering the presence of so many drummers at the OWS, I just had to take a swipe at and include the little drummer boy, whose song has been beaten into our skulls for decades now every Christmas season.