Ron Swanson, The Simpsons, and New Parents

My most recent drawing is sort of a random one. I guess most of them are, but this was a very spur-of-the-moment thing. I was watching TV and saw a commercial or something featuring Nick Offerman. It may have been something about a syndicated rerun of Parks and Recreation. Whatever it was, it got me thinking about how funny that show is, and how absolutely wrong I was about it from my first impressions.

Parks and Recreation is basically a show about an Indiana public works department and its second-in-charge bureaucrat, the energetic and optimistic Leslie Knope. Just from seeing commercials and previews, the show looked pretty uninteresting. I hadn’t seen much from Amy Poehler (who plays Leslie Knope), but I was peripherally aware she was on Saturday Night Live…and SNL hasn’t been especially funny in a long time. So, Parks and Rec looked sort of dull at first glance, and I never paid much attention to it the first few years it was on.

But in 2014, along came my oldest daughter! I took about two and half months off when she was born – I’m a big proponent of any new parent (fathers included) having the opportunity for significant bonding time if they wish. The new baby experience is quite an adventure for first time parents, but there is also a lot of down time during naps, feedings, and so on. The FXX network had their first “Every Simpsons Ever” marathon right around the same time, so I watch a ton of The Simpsons episodes. But after around seasons 11 or 12, the show isn’t that great, so I found myself looking for something else to watch.

Decline of The Simpsons
Many agree The Simpsons lost steam around seasons 10-12. A chart of average IMDB ratings per season, created by Sol Harris (@solmaquina,
ronatwedding12x4-16 (1)

Flipping channels (probably with our girl sleeping on one of us), I happened to come across Parks and Recreation. Whatever channel it was, they were also having a marathon, and it had started towards the end of season 1. Now, the first season is a bit different than all the others – a bit more bland, but still pretty good. I watched right through seasons 2 and 3, and suddenly realized, “I can’t believe I can’t stop watching this, apparently I love this show.” The characters are so well done; Amy Poeller’s Leslie Knope is fantastic, Chris Pratt’s Andy Dwyer propelled him to stardom, and Nick Offerman’s Ron Swanson is a hilarious take on a cranky survivalist libertarian. In my opinion, Parks and Recreation should go down in history as a top tier classic sitcom – a peer to shows like Seinfeld, Cheers, The Office, Friends, etc. The characters are incredibly memorable and perfectly suited to the actors in it. I don’t think I’ve ever been so initially wrong about a show.


Anywho, on a whim I decided to do a sketch of Ron Swanson. He has some classic lines in the show, usually related to not wanting to be told what to do by the government. Here are a couple great clips:

He’s so hilariously disgruntled about everything. Really a perfect contrast to Poeller’s eternal optimist Leslie. If the mood strikes me, it would be cool to sketch some of the other characters from the series too, like Leslie, Tom Haverford, April Ludgate, Andy Dwyer, and the rest. Here is the final version of my sketch of ol’ Ron Swanson:

Overall, I’d say this one turned out decently. I really wasn’t too focused on it; I just wanted to draw, but was not especially invested in perfect realism. That’s actually quite an enjoyable state of art creation, because you can stay extremely loose and there isn’t much concern about getting it “right.” I got a little wild with the pink shades, but I think it works. This does look like the actor, and the demeanor and look from the portrait matches his character Ron Swanson pretty well. I think the most significant misses on this one are his right ear, which I botched too thick of a color layer (making it unfixable), and his suit, which has some weirdness on the lapels. Those things are fairly small though, and weren’t enough to ruin the drawing.

I was sort of lazy about getting progression photos this time, probably because I wasn’t super focused this time. But I did get enough for my usual .gif.

Amdall Ron Swanson progression

Next on tap…I’m not sure! I feel like drawing something related to the Dallas Cowboys, since they miraculously won a playoff game last week and are playing in the next round tomorrow. But we’ll see what happens.

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