Baby Steps and Giant Leaps

November 14th, 2014

Some days I feel lucky to have just one good idea on the drawing board. Other days, I’m blessed with an embarrassment of riches. The spectacular Rosetta mission inspired a wealth of ideas, but I only get to draw one for each day’s editorial page. At first I was thinking about this concept:alt="Koterba Rosetta"


I had drawn those two aliens before, in August of this year, and was thinking the above cartoon might make for a fun companion to the first:

alt=Koterba comet"


But perhaps revisiting those two aliens would have been a baby step. I needed to say something bolder. As much as I adore NASA‘s accomplishments, it was the European Space Agency that landed a probe on a comet, not NASA (although, yes, NASA did contribute to the mission). It’s not that NASA hasn’t made great strides in recent years, but…where are the giant leaps? Here’s the cartoon I went with…

alt="Koterba NASA comet"

Rough Sketch Roundup

November 3rd, 2014

Sometimes I find the initial rough sketch more pleasing than the inked drawing…here are a few of my favorites from the last few weeks…


alt="koterba sketch Renee Zellweger"

alt="Koterba cartoon Ebola flu enterovirus"

alt="Koterba working women frozen eggs"

alt="Koterba Ebola plane drawing"For more on my creative process, check out my new collection of cartoons, Drawing You In.

It Was a Dark and Sketchy Night…

October 31st, 2014

Here’s today’s Halloween cartoon. Along with a few bonus features…enjoy!

First came the rough sketches (scary, right?)…

alt="Koterba Halloween sketch"

alt="Koterba campaign sketc"


Next up, the black and white inked drawing…

alt="Koterba drawing"

And finally…the color version…

alt="Jeff Koterba color campaign cartoon"

Here, also, is a sketch of a cartoon I came up with a few weeks ago but never got around to finishing…

alt="Koterba cartoon ebola Halloween constume"

Want to learn more about my creative process? Check out my new cartoon book, Drawing You In, available here!

Behind the Lines: Space Dogs

October 30th, 2014

Today I’m starting a new feature where I’ll occasionally pull back the curtain (just a little) on my creative process…

When drawing an editorial cartoon I always start out with a rough sketch…

Koterba rough sketchKoterba sketchKoterba sketchKoterba sketch

Koterba sketch

Next, I redraw the cartoon on heavy-stock paper…

alt="Koterba pencil drawing"

I wasn’t happy with the way the drawing was going, so I began again. I like contrast so I made the dog on the right even smaller and inked it in…

Koterba cartoon

Finally, I made a copy of the black and white version of the cartoon and painted it in, using old-fashioned watercolors…

alt="Color Koterba cartoon"

For more on my creative process, check out my new book, Drawing You In, available here.

Scan 154Scan 154








Unearthing Uncle Sam

September 10th, 2014

In the introduction for my new cartoon collection, I mention a drawing I made in high school (1979), one that I had come up with for an Omaha World-Herald contest. I hadn’t seen the cartoon in many years, but from what I could recall, the drawing wasn’t half-bad—at least for a high school effort. Still, for reasons I explain in Koterba: Drawing You In, the cartoon didn’t win the contest. To my surprise, however, the editors for Drawing You In thought it would be great to include that drawing in the book. Finally, that ancient cartoon would make it into print! Only problem was, I didn’t have the drawing. And as far as I knew, the cartoon was possibly buried in a plastic bin, deep inside a storage unit I share with a relative.

alt="Koterba cartoon"

We were met by a wall of storage containers…


That’s where my friend and fellow artist, Bruce Arant, comes in. It was on a hot and humid June morning in Omaha that Bruce agreed to join me on an archeological dig.

alt="Bruce Arant, Koterba cartoon"

Fellow artist, Bruce Arant, braves a sweltering morning to search for a lost Koterba drawing…


Bruce and I went through bin after bin. Although I didn’t have as much as a copy to show Bruce what he was looking for, I described it the best I could: “I’m pretty sure it’s Uncle Sam juggling eggs…I think some of the corners of the paper are dog-eared. The ink might be faded.” Our search continued.

alt="Koterba cartoon"

I wasn’t about to give up…


After a couple of hours into our quest, we were down to a few final bins. It wasn’t until I’d dug into the very bottom of the last bin, that I came across the weathered and haggard Uncle Sam…

alt="koterba cartoon, Uncle Sam"

Still juggling after all these years…


For the full story on this, insight into my creative process, not to mention dozens of full-color cartoons, please check out Koterba: Drawing You In, available now.

Anniversaries and Airliners

July 25th, 2014

This weekend marks my twenty-fifth anniversary as the editorial cartoonist for the Omaha World-Herald. I had free-lanced as a cartoonist before, for the World-Herald, and for other newspapers. But to take on the task full-time, drawing six cartoons a week? In those deadline-free weeks leading up to my first day on the job, my nerves were getting the best of me. How could I possibly draw a new cartoon every day? For that matter, was I even going to be able to come up with one cartoon? Maybe I was in over my head.

Six days before starting the job, United Flight 232 crash-landed in Sioux City, Iowa. The crash killed 112 of the 296 on board. The story of Flight 232 was big news, of course. And while a big part of my job is to poke fun and criticize, I decided to take an upbeat approach for my first effort.

Screen Shot 2014-07-25 at 8.42.40 AM

The drawing leaves much to be desired. But it’s the message of the cartoon that still rings true for me. Often, when I fly, or when I draw airplanes, I think back to that first cartoon. I thought about it on September 11th, and I thought of it again, just the other day, after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.

I’d like to believe that over the years my drawings have improved. But this time around, when commenting on an air disaster of a different nature, I found myself, unfortunately, focusing on non-heroes.



A Cartoon is Born

July 23rd, 2013

Where do ideas come from? I wish I knew. What I can tell you is that the creative process is often stressful, messy, and heartbreaking. And yet, what often emerges is something new and beautiful (but sometimes it isn’t).

What I do know: to find an idea, I must read. A lot. Newspapers, magazines, blogs. I catch a little TV and radio news, too, just to round things out. And then I start by…staring off into deep space. I move my pencil around on a sheet of paper. If I’m lucky, a small doodle will begin to take shape.


I’m not picky. Any little scribble will do…


Most of the time, I’ll stick with it and follow the scribble wherever it takes me….


But sometimes I go down pathways that lead nowhere. And I must start again. If I’m lucky, however, an idea might arrive…like magic…


After that, I redraw the cartoon with pencil on Bristol board…


Next, the lines are inked using pen and brush…


I then make a copy of the drawing on a separate sheet of Bristol…


Which I paint using good old-fashioned watercolors…


And voilà!


Christina Taylor Green

February 21st, 2011

I honestly don’t know where cartoon ideas come from. I mean, I can tell you that I read read read the newspaper, catch a bit of TV news, always keeping my ear to the ground, letting the news and personal observations swirl around in my head—

Pencil and paper. That’s not where the idea starts but that’s where it comes out. I know that much. Most of the time it just happens. Might take a few seconds. Might take a few hours. But eventually, the idea appears. And when it does, I sometimes laugh out loud. Of course, when you laugh at your own idea, you worry that coworkers will suspect you’re being egotistical. But the truth is, I’m often just as surprised as anyone by the ideas that show up.

Rarely, however, do I ever get emotional when an idea comes, choking back tears.

But that’s what happened when I drew this cartoon about the nine-year old girl who was killed during the assassination attempt on U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. When I learned that Christina Taylor Green had been born on September 11, 2001, I couldn’t help but think of those heroic firemen who lost their lives that day. The idea came so quickly I worried that maybe it wasn’t good enough to publish. But sometimes the ones that come quickly and without notice are the best ones.

The cartoon appeared in print; I moved on to other topics.

Now I’ve learned that the cartoon made its way to Arizona and to Christina Taylor Green’s family.

And I got choked up all over again.

May you find peace, Christina Taylor Green, and may the angels and firemen protect you.

From Murphy to Mubarak

February 11th, 2011

It’s my personal Murphy’s Law of cartooning: whenever I’m away from the newspaper for a few days, inevitably some big story happens and I miss out on a chance to comment. Fortunately, I drew this one a week ago, before taking time off…enjoy!

Groundhog Grounded

February 2nd, 2011

Of course when I drew this the other day, I hadn’t counted on airports being closed. Sorry, Phil.

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