Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Friends of the Fiend 17: Oliver Christianson

Oliver Christianson is Revilo, creator of some of the funniest cartoons and greetings cards you'll ever see. He works for Hallmark greeting cards, but you'll also recognise his work from the glory days of National Lampoon, and some recent publications, and books.
I live in Britain, and our cards are a little, well, ordinary. I had never, ever, seen cards like those designed by Revilo. I am sometimes awed by his cartoons. My particular favourite 'Sheep' features here, in this interview. I pleaded with him to let me show you it.

Oliver Christianson's bio

CF. Hello, Oliver.

OC. Hello!

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

OC. In the pipeline? I have a book I've recently finished which will be available in Hallmark Gold Crown stores stateside this September. It's called "Funny Business" and of course, is about business. This is the third book I've done for Hallmark in the last three years and I'm really enjoying being an "author". I've been doing greeting cards for some thirty years now, so this is a nice change. It's great to be able to focus on something other than birthdays and your usual assortment of holidays.

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

OC. My father was a cartoonist so it seems that it would have been the obvious thing for me to want to do, but I studied to be a magazine illustrator at university. I think I'd fallen under the spell of those ads in the Fifties comics and magazines for the "Famous Artist's School" with the photo of Albert Dorne sitting at his drafting table, tapping the excess water off his brush as he stared at you from under his enormous eyebrows. Behind him, you could see the New York skyline from his window. The reality of magazine illustration was something else again. I did all sorts of illustration- fashion, editorial, books, magazines...yes, I said fashion. I did fashion illustration and even taught it for awhile. Cartooning was something I started doing in school just to pay the bills and what I liked best about it was that I could do it by mail and not have to venture into the city to make the rounds of art directors.

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

OC. I have an office at Hallmark cards in Kansas City and I work regular banker's hours. I usually have several projects going and I work on whatever I can get my head around at the moment.I've got about three new book ideas I'm working on as well as some material for a new website, some magazine work and some recipes. Yes, I said recipes. These are food illustrations which are different from anything that you've ever seen before.

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

OC. As for a mark making devices, I use whatever is at hand. Sometimes a Sharpie or a pen of some sort. Then I scan the drawings and color them on the computer. Once in a great while I'll get ambitious and paint in acrylics to keep the memory green, but I don't do it often.

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

OC. My opinion? All art is business. As far as cultural impact, I don't think about things like that.

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

OC. I started out in magazines and once I got into doing cards full-time I quit doing magazine stuff. I've recently started selling to a publication and it feels good to be doing it again.

See more Revilo cartoons at Oliver's website

CF. Who were your major artistic influences?

OC. VIP. Bob Holman. Charles Addams. I've always loved looking at other people's stuff regardless of the field of art they were in. Fine arts, fashion, comics, sign painting, you name it.

CF. Who was/is your favourite cartoonist/writer, of all time?

OC. Kurt Vonnegut. No, wait, Jorge Luis Borges... I have lots of favourites and not all of them are cartoonists.

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

OC. I don't see if happening for awhile. At Hallmark, once they moved in the computers, I think we actually started using MORE paper. Art directors and editors always want paper copies of everything for their records and for the dog'n'pony shows.

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

OC. I think I'd want to do a late-night radio show and play nothing but Doo Wop music. By the way, my current favourite groups is The Roomates, who are a contemporary British vocal group.

CF. Is there anything you'd rather be?

OC. King of the World?

CF. Thank you for visiting with us.


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