TH: Well, the drawing has to communicate, it has to tell the story, but the colors are what I turn to once the negotiations are over, my doomsday weapon. There is no sketch phase, no more revisions or other hands in the mix. The sketch is approved, the dust has settled, and I sit back and push the red button. Color is a very powerful thing, it can destroy the story or breathe life into it; it can establish the tone, the level of conflict, the time of day. Many times it feels like the coloring stage is when the job really starts. Up until then I was in the gym getting ready, rehearsing my lines.

CJR: So on this sketch, why did you choose these colors?

TH: I wanted something that was sort of hip and cool, a downtown sensibility. The pinup is such a throwback and something about the palette needed to push it into the present and beyond. On one hand we got the pose—a quote from a bygone century—now we need the color to create the paradox and say, in a way, here is this modern person doing something totally cheeky. Using dark reds and blacks, in a very limited way, I thought would evoke colors of a tattoo, but also a certain thriftiness, a minimalism that I think feels futuristic.

Brent Cunningham is CJR’s managing editor.