Friends of the Fiend 8: Mike Baldwin.
CF. Hello, Mike.
MB. Hi. I've enjoyed reading your blog, good job.
CF. Okay, what are your current projects, anything exciting in the pipeline - that you can tell us about?
MB. This month marked Cornered's tenth anniversary, so that's kind of cool. I marked the occasion by taking a nap. I put a few books together on LULU which took some work. I hope to add to the collection later this year.
CF. Did you always want to be a cartoonist, and set out to become one, or was it a gradual process?
MB. I've always loved art and do tend to see the absurdities of life. Humour is a way of coping. In addition to 'fight or flight' we also have the 'funny' response. I drew cartoons for local papers since I was in my teens, and was fortunate to find full-time work, in other creative fields like the Visual Merchandising department at Sears. I was able to use cartooning in displays, signage, and later in newspaper advertising and editorial work. It's all been good – working, learning and surrounding yourself with other creative people. I understand the advice: don't get hung-up on newspaper syndication. There are so many other really rewarding ways to express yourself – and get paid for it.
CF. The work you do at the moment, can you tell us something about the process?
MB. I spend the mornings going through the newspaper, looking for ideas. These are rarely gags, but a turn of phase or words that act as stepping-stones to an idea. Later, I lock myself away for a few hours and try to come up with something. I sketch out a few and once I have something I think works, I draw it up. Another thing I should mention is the value of down-time. I find the creative process challenging, and find that if I can forget about cartooning for a few days each week, I come back recharged. I mostly turn down all extra projects for that reason. It costs in terms of revenue, but it pays off in other ways.
CF. I know you've been asked this a million times, but what tools do you use, and what format do you work to?
MB. I use 8.5"x11" copy paper and pencil to do a rough what ever size feels comfortable, usually portrait. Then onion skin and a black felt-tip pen to redraw it to scan into the computer. There, I clean it up further, auto-trace to get vector art and bring it into Freehand to crop, colour and caption. I then file it away until the end of the month.
When it's time to ship a batch to the syndicate, I choose the cartoons to run and add the date copywrite title etc, and send them along. About a week later I have a nice chat with my editor at Universal and she tells me what changes they need. Usually a spelling, hyphen, comma or some other grammatical thing.
CF. Is the cartoonist a proper artist? I mean, does cartooning have the same cultural impact as some other artforms, in your opinion?
MB. They can be. Just like in any other 'entertainment' art field, be it music, writing or acting, etc. The question is, am I creating something that can touch, influence, enlighten, solicit viewer/reader reaction? Once created, how will it be interpreted, what can the viewer/reader bring to it? I'd like to think that at least half the time I'm doing work that gets there. The rest of the time I'll settle for silly.
Speaking of cultural impact, The Cartoon Fiend discovered that Mike, gets a mention in The Canadian Encyclopedia (Historica) in the excellent Cartoons and Comic strips article (along with Sandra Bell-Lundy, and other some other notable cartoonists.
CF. Is there any other area of cartooning you'd like to work in, if you can find the time?
MB. I'd like to see Cornered animated, but given the lack of story line, I'm not sure what form it would take. Maybe shorts. But not too short. I see someone else doing the animation, with me shoveling cash into a vault.
CF. Who were your major artistic influences?
MB. Major Burns. And the whole cast of MASH.
CF. Who was/is your favourite cartoonist/writer, of all time?
MB. I don't have just one. There are so many... Jim Unger, Gary Larson, Dave Coverly, Dan Piraro, Wiley Miller and of course, Roderick McKie to name the obvious.
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.
MB. It's a marketing issue. Designing your cartoon so it can work well on other media platforms is a good idea. It is happening. Newspaper markets are drying up so this offers some hope. Content is still the main deal. Finding your voice and having something to say; wherever.
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?
MB. I'd like to work on the Dr. Phil show, serving laced koolaid in the
CF. Is there anything you'd rather be?
MB. A cat. My cat has no sense of humour and she gets along just dandy.
CF. Thank you for visiting with us.
MB. Thank you, and keep up the terrific work!