Saturday, April 15, 2006

Friends of the Fiend 1: Rod McKie.

CF. Hello Rod McKie.

RM. Hello, Fiend.

CF. Okay, what are your current projects, anything exciting in the pipeline - that you can tell us about?

RM. Well, I'm still drawing gag cartoons most days, but I try to find time everyday to either draw, or write, or research my other stuff, you know, graphic novels, mini-comics, puzzles, toy design, web stuff, whatever comes into my head really. I'm pretty excited about the toy market at the moment, it's changing. You know, Qees and Dunnies and the like, and the way that related merchandise is viralling (I think I just made up a new verb). I'm going to become involved in that area before long.

CF. Did you always want to be a cartoonist, and set out to become one, or was it a gradual process?

RM. I started drawing cartoons from a very early age, copying my comic books. Particularly Aquaman, for some reason. I stated submitting work as a teenager and by the time I was 21 I'd started working for the national press in the UK, then Punch and then IPC Magazines - the home of Judge Dredd. So, it was gradual, but I set out to become a cartoonist from the get-go.

CF. The work you do at the moment, can you tell me something about the process?

RM. It varies. I draw cartoons for The Harvard Business Review, the Wall Street Journal and Prospect, amongst others, and I work in a different way with them all. HBR has changed, but for a while they used original art. I would submit hi-res copies, and if they liked a cartoon they'd request the original drawing. So I'd draw the cartoons that were going to them very carefully, very slowly, on good quality card, so that if they took one, the original would look nice and be firm enough to travel well. The Wall Street Journal works from hi-resolution copies, so I can draw the cartoons quicker, on thinner paper, but print the cartoon on good quality linen paper, so it looks sharp. Prospect jobs sometimes need to be done very quickly, so I might pencil a rough, scan it into the computer, ink it with a graphics tablet and pen, and send it in for approval. If it's accepted I'd spend more time cleaning and colouring before emailing them the finished cartoon.

CF. I know you've been asked this a million times, but what tools do you use, and what format do you work to?

RM. In the old days you had to draw on Cartridge paper, on a scaled ratio of 5"x3", 6"x4", and up to 10"x8", in waterproof Indian ink. Nowadays, thanks to the computer, and because all the print staff that used to exist between the cartoonist and the finished image have gone, we can pretty much work with any medium and more or less to any size we want, within reason. For instance, if the magazine wants a finished drawing to be 300dpi and no wider than 10cm at the widest side, you are not going to create a huge drawing. I think most of us still stick pretty much to the old guidelines.

Drawing tools have really changed though. I work with a variety of pens and brushes, and brush pens. I like Micron pens because they contain archival ink and are as easy to use as a felt tip. I also like Faber Castell Pitt artists pens, which are brush pens, and my Pental brush pen, which I fill with black FW Acrylic ink using a syringe. Colouring work controlling how the finished work looks and colouring digitally with Photoshop, though, makes a huge difference. At one point the printers at the newspapers controlled how our cartoons looked. We weren't even allowed to add tone, then the page paste-up people took over, but nowadays the artist is in control, thanks to Photoshop, and computers, of course.

CF. Is the cartoonist a proper artist? I mean, does cartooning have the same cultural impact as some other artforms, in your opinion?

RM. Of course it does. Cartoons are a form of Pop Art. Have you looked closely at Miffy, or Hello Kitty, or Charlie Brown? Cartoon characters cover wallpaper, duvet covers, t-shirts, gallery walls. Cartoon characters colour our lives from TV and cinema screens the world over. No other artform has as much cultural impact as cartoons. I think the Japanese 'Super Flat' art movement makes that pretty clear.

CF. Is there any other area of cartooning you'd like to work in, if you can find the time?

RM. Lots, and I'm trying to do a little of everything before I die. Seriously, I wish I'd started experimenting more when I was younger. Too busy trying to make a living, you see. I want to design toys, syndicate a strip, illustrate The Hulk, write some stuff, produce books, work on a sit'-com'. You name it, I'm planning to do it...or die trying.

CF. Who were your major artistic influences?

RM. Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, Charles Shulz, Barry, Eisner, Charles Addams and Thurber, and Bud Grace, some British gag cartoonists, Heath Robinson, Honeysett, Sax and Noel Ford.

CF. Who was/is your all-time favourite cartoonist (or writer, comic stripper, comic book artist)?
RM. Ooh...all time favourite cartoonist? I'd have to say, Herge.

CF. There's a lot of talk about a new 'paper-less future' and 'new digital reading habits', do you think this will affect cartooning,at some point.

RM. I'm certain it will. I don't know when, or how, but some form of synthetic paper will be developed and that'll last for a while and then everything will be digital. Unless all our natural resources go tits-up and we end up drawing cartoons on cave walls.

CF. If you had the time, and you were helicoptered in to work on anything you chose, any publication, strip, panel, character,book, show, what would you like to work on?

RM. Some Dark Horse or Image title. No wait, The Goon. I'd love to draw The Goon.

CF. Is there anything you'd rather be?

RM. Than a cartoonist? Yeah, an Architect, not a jobbing one though, a really successful one.

CF. Thank you for visiting with us.

RM. Been a pleasure.


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