Monday, May 22, 2006

Friends of the Fiend 24: Paul Giambarba

I am, I think, a little awed by Paul Giambarba. For a start that's a cool name, but it's the way he paints that I envy somewhat. He also draws today, as he did decades ago, with an almost angelic lightness of touch. His blogs are terrific, particularly his 100 years of illustration blog, and he has the most fabulous photograph of Edward Gorey on the photography section of his website.
Not content with just creating illustrations, cartoons, and strips, Paul was Polaroid Corporation’s first art director and continued with them in a very active role as a creator of product identity and as a design consultant for more than 25 years. His work has won awards from the Ad Clubs of New York and Boston, the American Institute of Graphic Arts, and Gold Medals from the Art Directors Clubs of New York and Boston. He has lectured on Graphic Design at Cornell University and Wellesley College.

CF. Hello, Paul.

PG. Just got back from Italy so I'll say "Ciao." Thanks, for inviting me to participate as a fellow cartoon fiend.

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

PG. I like print-on-demand publishing so I'll be putting together some illustrated books just for the hell of it, with no intention of selling them.I published a compilation of caricatures I did of the Clinton years, In Your Dreams, Ken, and was delighted to have been able to produce a few copies in full color, something we would not have thought possible a few years ago. It's a major technological development that I think we all ought to take advantage of.

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

PG. I have wanted to be a cartoonist ever since my grandmother taught me as a child to draw cats. She drew them in the style of Steinberg, who had studied architecture in Milano. He, Riccardo Manzi, and my grandmother draw cats in a similar style. When I asked her why her cats all had their tails up in the air, she said it was to show their number plates. (She had a droll sense of humor.)

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

PG. I like the way a black Prismacolor pencil feels on Rives BFK print paper, but I sometimes use a medium grade tracing paper for its tactile feel, too. I'll use the BFK for watercolor that I will wash over the pencil line. I'll add Photoshop color to the line drawing on tracing paper after scanning the art. I use Photoshop to touch up scans made of the watercolor art in the way we used to touch-up a final illustration.

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

PG. For the most part, a black Prismacolor pencil #935, WInsor & Newton artist's watercolors, Rives BFK paper or perhaps a sheet of Fabriano or Arches. However, I've used burnt wooden matches dipped in India ink when asked to do so by an art director.

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

PG. Yes. Why not? I don't see much art in our culture. I see plenty of scribbles, sketches, and very few paintings -- and a lot of stuff that I would describe as pretentious garbage. It seemed to me to be almost as bad in Switzerland and Italy as it is in the USA as I looked around for inspiration during the last couple of weeks. Fifty years ago in those countries there were amazing poster hoardings, graphics and industrial design that can only be described as brilliant.
Those were the Golden Years of Leupin, Searle, Savignac, Peynet, Andre Francois,Tomi Ungerer and their colleagues.

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

PG. I have always liked the challenge of caricature so I would like to do portraits that bridge the gap between cartoon and illustration.

CF. Who were your major artistic influences?

PG. There were many and each were of a different time, I guess. Milton Caniff's original Terry during WWII; Earl Oliver Hurst directly thereafter; your namesake Roy McKie whom I replaced in a Boston studio when he left to go national -- so to speak; then Lyonel Feininger and Max Beckmann when I got more serious about subject matter and techniques.

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

PG. There are a lot of them: Ton Smits, whom I met in Eindhoven. Tom Henderson, Peter Arno, Charles Barsotti, Eldon Dedini, and - of course, Roy McKie - just to name a few.

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.

PG. Yes. I think that Bob Staake is one of the pioneers in the way his digital images appear so vivid and powerful in print, too. We are not going paper-less and are, in fact, using up more of the forest than before the digital revolution arrived.

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?

PG. The old Punch, and some of the Italian publications after WWII - Giovannino Guareschi had one of them called Candido. Leo Longanesi ("Two stupid people are two stupid people. Ten thousand stupid people are a historic force.") was another genius who was involved with his own publishing house and several very witty journals.

CF. Is there anything you'd rather be?

PG. No question about that. I'd rather be a musician.

CF. Thank you for visiting with us.

PG. My pleasure, Fiend. Congratulations on a great concept.


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