Another Cover for the UTNE Reader

April 9th, 2013 | Posted in Freelancing


I did the cover of the latest issue of the UTNE Reader, now on news stands. The folks at UTNE favor my “colored line” style, as I used is a few previous covers for them. Here’s a peek behind the scenes of this freelance project.

The job: design and illustrate a cover depicting how President Obama’s immigration reform policies are contradictory, both making easier and harder to become a legal immigrant. The editors wanted a large wall on the border with a crowd trying to get in, and Obama looking like he’s welcoming them but still has the wall. The proplem was they wanted me to simultaneously show the crowd being very confused and unhappy, yet focus on Obama. Impossible if he is set high above the crowd on the wall.

The roughs: I sent in three concepts, all based on Obama on top of this giant wall:


This was focusing more on the crowd and the wall’s impassibility. An “upshot” like this adds menace and strength to the wall, and allows me to do expressions in the crowd to get their confusion across, but I knew would probably not focus on Obama enough for them, even with his breaking the logo plane above.image001

This one was a balance between Obama and the crowd, but of course loses all sense of the wall’s looming barricade.


This one is using a “fish eye” sort of warped perspective to make the wall seem really big and adds drama to the scene, yet allowing some sense of the crowd’s expressions and really focusing on Obama, which they wanted.

The final pencil:

Immigration Cover pencil
Clicky to Embiggen…

Here is the final pencil sketch. I’ll be inking only parts of the image so it was done kind of loosely, especially the wall text.

The final:

Immigration Reform Cover Final
Clicky to Embiggen…

There was just enough room on the bottom right to get a few of the expressions in the crowd to look confused’ getting that across. I could not get PhotoShop to create that wall lettering in the curved yet 2 point perspective, so I hand lettered that (ugh). The only concern the editors had was that they wanted it plain that this was the border of the US and Mexico. I pointed out that, by using very strong southwest desert coloring and terrain behind the wall, no one would mistake this for the Canadian border. I resisted adding a sign that said “Mexico” or any flags in the crowd, as we already had too many signs and it made no sense that individuals looking to come to the US would be toting Mexican flags… that would look like a protest of some kind.

UTNE’s covers are always very political and have resulting challenges in getting across the point. That make them fun to work on.


  1. Joe Corrao says:

    sweet…like to see the stages as much as the final piece

  2. Jack Myhervold says:

    Really fun!. I think it might be my favorite, of your Obama’s so far. I’ll have to head to Barnes + Nobles to pick up a copy. So is it correct to say, the only physical art you could potentially sell to the public, (from this type of assignment, or Mad) would be pencil work and ink’s?. And the digitally colored final work is sent to these mag’s by Email?.

  3. Splendid! I like that your caricature of Obama isn’t all about his ears…


Sketch o’the Week- Julie Newmar! #batman #batman66 #catwoman #julienewmar

Workshops Ad

Dracula ad

Doctor Who Ad

Superman Ad

%d bloggers like this: