detail of illustration about american USA gun control and the NRA ar-15 bump stock

An editorial style illustration about USA gun violence, gun control and the misinterpreted and misused 2nd Amendment. Hand-drawn and painted in B&W, then scanned, digitally coloured and finished.

The research for this was a little disturbing. I was looking for AR-15 assault rifles—as used in many school shootings, and so-called Bump Stocks, which can be bought in order that an ordinary citizen can convert their military-style assault weapon into a machine gun. There are lots of photos online of tough guys firing guns—and children firing them too. It’s a different world, and thankfully very far away from Ireland.

Thankfully I don’t know much about guns. This is because I’m not: A. a soldier, or B. a weirdo. But my web search history isn’t looking too nice now, following my research.

illustration about american USA gun control and the NRA ar-15 bump stock
Above: Gouache paint, ink, pencil, digitallly coloured (approx. A3/41cm x 32)


I basically wanted to show that supporters of these weapons being owned and used by ordinary citizens have blood on their hands. And the politicians who refuse to take action—in order to assure votes on elections—have blood on theirs too. I didn’t originally intend to include any type/words, because I wanted the picture to communicate the idea alone, but I kept on thinking about these kind of gun-owners who typically keep banging on about how much they love freedom. And I thought about the irony of that, that citizens can’t walk the streets without fearing being shot, and kids can’t go to school without fearing the same thing. That you have a nation who are not free of the fear of gun violence, and that if this is a kind of hard-fought and hard-gained freedom, why should it come at such a price? Hundreds of millions of people trapped a country full of gun nuts and gun crime.

I also wondered long and hard about the question mark. I really wanted to have FREEDOM as a statement—amongst and in contrast to the pictorial carnage, but I I wondered if the irony and sarcasm might be lost of gun advocates? So I put in the question mark to make things a little clearer. Or so I hoped.


it As usual I began in pencil on paper. I liked he idea of the flag coming out of the gun with a BANG!—but dropped it. You can have too many flags in one image. Maybe I’ll use that on something else.

gun control illustration sketches
Above: Yes, it IS possible to have too many flag motifs.

Happy with the concept, I went up to full size and started drawing and painting on board. That done, I scanned it and got to work in Photoshop.

illustration in black and white about american USA gun control and the NRA ar-15 bump stock
Above: Original (pre-digital) art, on board. No blood or type yet. It was originally oriented this way around.

For the FREEDOM? text, I rapidly hand-painted it on board in a few minutes. I wasn’t worried about it being rough or wonky, because I wanted it rough and I knew I could straighten things out on the computer. I then merged it into the larger picture digitally.

hand lettering
Above: Handlettered type with a brush. Why do 2 ‘E’s, when you can duplicated in Photoshop? Note how wonky the letters look at this stage.

Finally, thinking it was finished, I thought again, and flipped the whole thing the other way. I just though it worked and ‘read’ better—at least for Westerners. The gun points in the same direction as the word freedom, and the composition culminates on the right with the barrel pointing out into empty space. I think the eyes now travel either along the word, to the muzzle; or zig-zag fashion down along the arm and the confederate flag tattoo, to the the hand and trigger, to the SS death head, to the forward hand, and finally to the muzzle.

Then the eyes move all around the image taking in the other details like the flag, stripes and stars, and flowing blood. The blood-flow and dribbling flag take the eyes down and off the bottom of the composition, before starting all over again.

illustration about american USA gun control and the NRA ar-15 bump stock
Above: Gouache paint, ink, pencil, digitallly coloured (approx. A3/41cm x 32)

I posted this in Instagram and got follows and likes from gun nuts and gun sellers. A dubious honour. One of them even enthusiastically commented, “Great post!” Oh, the double-irony of my ironic message being completely lost on them. I ended up using the ‘Block’ function on Instagram to cleanse myself.

Illustrator: John White
Painting: Goauche, ink, pencil, on board
Colouring: Photoshop