CARTOONING AT THE WHITE HOUSE
Altie cartoonist Jen Sorensen at fusion.net reports that “Washington, DC-based cartoonist Carolyn Belefski recently scored a new gig with a major client: the White House. As part of the Obama administration’s effort to reduce the number of uninsured Americans, Belefski [whose portfolio includes comic book covers and webcomics as well as the comic strip Curls] was commissioned to create a series of comics raising awareness of Healthcare.gov. The comics, all of which can be seen on the White House website, began rolling out on social media the last week in January, in advance of the February 15 enrollment deadline.” Nearby is a sample.
Belefski said it was the White House that initiated the relationship, approaching her via e-mail. The agreed-upon approach to this visual storytelling was through the use of character types — individual comics that whimsically spotlight a bearded hipster, say, or an athlete or a daredevil.
Sorensen wanted to know if Belefski was given a script or did she have some latitude to produce the material herself.
Said Belefski: “I was given the personas (caregiver, hipster, daredevil, etc.) and developed sketches of the character designs for approval. At this time I provided three layout options on how best to show the stories on social media.
We went with the character head in the center and the text around the middle so it would not get cut off on certain sites in preview. The White House provided me with the dimensions, and I pitched how to show the panels and text. They provided me with a script and did allow me to contribute to the story. It was a complete collaboration with a minimal edit, but no art edits. I actually revised two panels on my own before it was right to send to them.”
Belefski had no complaints: “There is the approval process [with freelance work], which depending on the client, can sit on someone’s desk for months, or there is a ‘too many cooks in the kitchen,’ design-by-committee situation. Working with the White House had a great flow and no hold-ups.
“It is amazing to have creative people at the White House,” she continued, “and I am happy that I was on their radar to contribute to their project. They have been doing some really cool interactive work too, including the recent State of the Union. It’s always nice to have clients everyone can recognize because of familiarity. In addition, as a artist, it feels good to use my talents for America — as a cartoonist for America. I appreciate and thank the White House for showcasing art to get their message out. My hope is that the cartoons appeal to people who might not be aware of the issues or react to visual information.”