TOWER GROVE — The goal today was to get Bob Gibson’s glower just so and Kirby Puckett’s fist pump just right and, of course, Mike Schmidt’s mustache just bushy enough to evoke the Philadelphia Phillies’ slugger without overwhelming the caricature.
This was not as easy as it sounds.
The cartooning muscles have certainly slowed but thankfully they haven’t atrophied.
A friend has given me an excuse to unpack the pencils, flip open the sketchpad and try my hand at cartooning for the first time since, well, college. Oh, I’ve drawn since there. I have some unfinished pictures of the boy wonder and his teddy bear on adventures. I uncovered a few sketches of an original superhero, and a few more scribbles of baseball players as silhouettes. I’ve always wanted to take Picasso’s brilliant “Don Quixote” sketch and recreate athletes in that style. Basketball players would be especially striking. This cartoon actually gave me a chance to do Mickey Mantle in that style. I’m getting better. But I haven’t taken time in a long time to sit down, write and then plot a cartoon — until a few weeks ago.
I seem to recall doing it much faster.
My friend is putting together a St. Louis baseball journal, and while it would be difficult to get permission to write for such a thing — competition and all that — I did get clearance to draw a cartoon for it. When he gives me the OK, I’ll post the final product here. It didn’t take me long to settle on a topic for the cartoon (Albert Pujols’ departure, of course), but it did take a few days to sketch out the appropriate statement. I went with one involving a handful of Hall of Famers, including the ones mentioned above and Stan Musial. Getting the likenesses of the Hall of Famers took some time.
Writing assignments interrupted the progress I made a few weeks ago on the cartoon, so this morning I clicked the eraser on my trusty Bic mechanical pencil and set to work on a half-sketched cartoon. Musial was done, right down to the birds on the bat. Nine of the 11 Hall of Famers featured in the foreground had been penciled.
Two were faceless. One of those was Schmidt.
For some of the Hall of Famers I had baseball cards handy to help get a feel for how to draw a player’s posture, his jersey, his batting gloves and, most of all, his expression. Gibson’s stern glower was a key to the cartoon, for example. I relied on Google to give me a smorgasbord of images to help shape Schmidt’s look. He’s the only player in the picture with a batting helmet just because I got tired of drawing baseball caps and it seemed to add to his look. Unlike others, his number was going to be mostly covered and his team logo was going to be squeezed by players below and above him in the two dimensions of the cartoon. His face was going to have to make it clear who this player was. That meant the mustache was key.
Above and to the left you can see one of the early pencil sketches of Schmidt’s face, including the shaded-in mustache. Slightly above and to the right is the finished cartoon, done only in ink. The hair is a little more tidy — as a baseball writer friend and Phillies expert suggested — but the ‘stache stands out. I hope it makes it clear who this ballplayer is standing to the left of the frame.
Measured in the “30 Rock” episodes I had on in the background as I scribbled, it took about six to complete the sketch and initial inking. The shading and final inking took an hour, according to the pre-caucus coverage that was on at the time. In college, while drawing “Status Quo” for The Maneater, I used to whip off four panel cartoons in three innings while watching baseball.
I’m out of practice. This took too long.
And then … I look again and see that I didn’t take long enough. Looks like I forgot to ink in that slight glare that let’s everybody know that Schmidt is wearing a batting helmet. Grrrr. At least the mustache works.