Sunday, August 13, 2006

Friends of the Fiend 31: Tim Harries

Hello, I'm afraid I took an extended summer hol. I touched upon it on my blog, let's just say there were extenuating circumstances. Anyhoo,
apopologies to the Cartoon Fiend readers, of whom there are a few, I gather, and to my victims, er interviewees, many of whom supplied me with these details some months ago.
Today's Friend of the Fiend is the very talented Tim Harries. I love Tim's style of drawing because it instantly translates the idea he's trying to get across and it just plain looks good.

CF. Hello Tim.

TH. Hello Mr Fiend. That's a nice hat you're wearing.

CF. (Blush, realizes that large Guinness hat from rugby outing is still on head) Okay, what are your current projects, anything exciting in the pipeline - that you can tell us about?

TH. I quite recently from a week-long 'Cartoon and Children's Rights' project in Turkey, organised by the Cartoon Foundation. I was in the company of some extremely talented cartoonists from the UK and Turkey and it was such an enlightening experience for all of us to work along with the children out there. I believe a book of the cartoons we produced and an exhibition in Ankara and London will follow later in the year, so I think that's a little bit exciting isn't it? No? Ok then ....

Regarding my regular work, the pipeline is pretty excitement-free, but it's always a pleasure to get paid to draw silly things. I've got a daily strip with the South Wales Argus, regular illustration jobs for a variety of computer mags and educational publishers and cartoons for business/corporate clients. I even do a comic strip for a childrens financial paper. I send the occasional batch of gag cartoons off though I have less time for speculative cartooning.

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

TH. I was drawing from an early age, and was an avid reader of the Beano and Dandy, but I didn't even consider cartooning as a possible career 'til my mid-twenties, having already opted for more parent-pleasing office jobs. Like so many other UK cartoonists, I sent my first ever batch of gags to the Sun newspaper, who promptly bought one! 'This is easy' I thought, and then spent the next 3 months trying to get another one in, so it was a gradual process over a number of years building up the workload from part-time to full-time cartooning. Having an understanding wife also helped!

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

TH. Writing: Like young Royston, I write in silence and draw to music. Current favourites are XTC, Ben Folds, Ron Sexsmith and Elbow. If I'm out, I usually take a notepad with me to jot down random scribblings and ideas if inspiration strikes. I'm constantly scribbling much to the annoyance of friends who are careful what they say around me in case it ends up in a strip or gag.

Drawing: I draw my roughs on cheap A4 copy paper, and ink most of the final art on smooth surface cartridge paper. I'm a bit of a night owl and prefer working in the evenings though it's a bit anti-social and I try not to stay up too late.
Delivering the work: I live literally 5 minutes walk away from the paper, so rather than email the strip I just drop them in batches. Every other bit of work I do is sent by email, or uploaded to my website for the client to download. Email is a bit of a blessing and a curse these days. It's very quick to send jobs and saves a bundle on postage, but clients now expect everything yesterday. I've also got several clients I've never physically spoken to, so that can seem a bit strange.

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

TH. I use mechanical pencils and a variety of pens - Faber Castell PITT Brush Pen, Pentell Brush Pen, Staedtler Pigment Liners 0.1 - 0.7, even a couple of cheapo Papermate Nylon Tip pens. I'm not loyal to any particular pen, so I'll use whatever I think is right for the job, be it a strip, illo or gag. However, I do recommend giving the PITT pens a go, they are great fun to use, disposable, fairly cheap and no mess. If Faber Castell are reading, I'd like a box of them for further review!

I'll usually pencil the roughs, whack 'em on the lightbox and ink on a fresh piece of paper. Scan the linework in at 600dpi, add any blacks, erase the numerous mistakes/spilled cake crumbs and add tone or colour in Photoshop. Artwork is reduced to 300dpi and saved in a variety of formats. I use a PC, A4 Wacom Intuos3 and a nice big 23 inch TFT screen. The occasional print I sell is produced on an Epson 1290 A3 printer. That all sounds a bit nerdy, perhaps we should talk about sports.

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

TH. What's that got to do with sports? Bottom line - I create cartoons primarily for publication and to earn a living, so it's not something I consider too much. I love to see cartoons hanging on people's walls though so perhaps in that context I'd consider them art. Actually, I have no idea what i'm talking about ... next question!

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

TH. Perhaps the next literary cliche will be "everyone's got one graphic novel in them". If I had the right story to tell that would be something I'd like to tackle. I'd also like to make time to develop a strip and send it to the syndicates, though I'm sure that way lies madness. Oh and I desperately need to update my website which hasn't been touched since September 2004. The shame of it all!

CF. Who were your major artistic influences?

TH. From an early age, I was a fan of the Peanuts collections my parents had, so Schulz is a great influence. I also remember spending many hours slavishly copying Reg Smythe's Andy Capp strips from the paper, complete with ciggy hanging from bottom lip (Andy, not me), and even more hours poring over the detailed depictions of valleys life by Welsh cartoonist Gren Jones in the South Wales Echo. Other Brits who's work I enjoy are Jamie Hewlett (Tank Girl, Gorillaz) Pete Dredge and Roger Kettle - Pete's linework always inspires me and Roger's economy with words is something I'd love to achieve. Current American cartoonists I admire are Jeff Smith, Peter Bagge, Stephan Pastis and Darby Conley. Kazu Kibuishi is also a favourite - I've got a couple of his Copper prints on the walls and they look fantastic.

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

TH. If I look at my obsessively large comic book collection, Bill Watterson seems to crop up the most. He had it all; superb writing, absolutely brilliant art and a big 'tache.

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.

TH. Yes, newspapers and books will dies out and the internet will take over everything. Large groups of big 'tached robots will rule the world and worship Bill Watterson.

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?

TH. Anything to do with Wallace and Gromit.

CF. Is there anything you'd rather be?

TH. A lumberjack.

CF. Thank you for visiting with us.

TH. No problem.