Monday, May 29, 2006

Friends of the Fiend 26: Malcolm McGookin


McGookin is one of those annoying people who are good at everything, you know, not only can he write and draw gag cartoons, but he can also turn his hand to editorial cartoons, illustrations, comic strips, character designs, and animation. I ask you - is that fair?



CF. Hello, Malcolm.

MM. Hello. Sorry, couldn't come up with anything pithier.

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

MM. OK, current projects....er...I'm working on a book about Bunyips (mythical Australian creatures), giving them a solid historical and zoological background, as though they were real. I also just finished a commission for a Sydney ad' agency which was a pain-in-the-butt but which paid a lot of bills.

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

MM. Always WAS a cartoonist, but always wanted to be a pro footballer (soccer). Tragically my playing career was cut short in my early twenties after I was diagnosed as crap.

Click for larger image

Find out more about Malcolm's Eve strip here.


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

MM. I work from home, which I have come to loathe. Sorry if I'm ruining some peoples' dreams, but after five years I was getting cabin fever and I've been a home-based cartoonist since 1997. I'm well on the way to the nut-farm. In fact they've reserved me a jacket. I need to get out and get a real job.
Process? Right. Pencil rough an idea, ink the drawing using a separate piece of (ordinary typing) paper on a lightbox. Scan into Photoshop for colouring, email to client.


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

MM. I mentioned I only use ordinary typing/photocopy paper, right? Well, make sure you use good quality stuff to eliminate the "bleed" problem, folks. I don't hold with all that fancy Bristol board or Strathmore whatever it is. Too expensive. I draw my cartoon strips on A3, (two to a page) and my gag cartoons on A4, using an ordinary dip pen and black ink.





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

MM. Is the cartoonist a proper...? WHAT??! I've killed men for less than that. Look, there are two types of cartoonist. Those who can draw properly (i.e. can draw landscapes, portraits, design porticos, etc) and those who just can't. The fact is cartooning is about writing. It doesn't matter if you're an Oliphant or a Callahan, we're all the same sad bunch of eejits suffering the same psychotic illness.

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

MM. This is where I distinguish cartooning from cartoon illustration or comic art. Cartooning is about the writing, as I said, but cartoon illustration is mostly about the drawing. I'd love to draw Spiderman. I did draw him under licence for a computer games company in about 1999, but that wasn't the real deal.
Actually, I'd like to come up with my own comic book hero. I experimented with Captain Drunky some years back, who defeated bad guys with various bodily functions, but it was before its time.





CF. Who were your major artistic influences?

MM. That's a difficult one. I've had almost no artistic training (like many cartoonists), and as a kid I eschewed the British comics scene in favour of the Yanks, so the early Romita Snr stuff would have seeped in. His was themost effective style with seemingly the least effort. I also read many "how to" books by American artists who I can't name. Mostly I studied "proper" drawing, not cartoons. Anything from Da Vinci through Rembrandt to Rockwell.

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

MM. I think the greatest living artist is a cartoonist, Ralph Steadman. However, I don't draw like him, though I tried to. It just wasn't me. My favourite cartoonist is in my opinion the best editorial artist ever, Sir David Low. I also have a grab bag of others who very few people have heard of, such as past masters like Bud Neill and Dudley D. Watkins, as well as better known artists like Wiley Miller, Stan McMurtry (Daily Mail, UK) Mike Lester and others who are all "up there". There's also a legendary gag cartoonist in the UK called Sax who deserves a mention.

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.

MM. Short answer: Yes. Longer answer: We don't yet know how the digital revolution will develop. It's a mess. There is a thing the media geeks are calling "convergence",which means that eventually content presently destined for your TV will haveto be configured so that it can appear on your mobile phone - or the digital chip you get implanted in your brain at birth. Unlike the world that the syndicates and newspapers have created, the Web won't allow stuff nobody reads to stick around for years pulling in a wage, but Web influences will eventually help displace the garbage which presently squats like a collection of old warty toads in our newspapers. Not quite yet, unfortunately, but whereas the word "blogger" was initially a term of contempt, it has now acquired a certain cachet. Good cartoonists, if they are web-savvy, can now use the web as a launching pad, where even as recently as two years ago that was just wishful thinking. Whichever way the Internet does influence print media, newspapers will stay.




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?

MM. Spongebob. The Simpsons. Family Guy. As a writer, obviously, because we now sub-contract virtually all our animation to Asia. Glen Keane is widely acknowleged as one of the great Disney 2D animators. Last I heard he was re-training as a computer animator. Very sad. Message to Disney: Your drawn animation was fine, idiots. It was your storytelling that stank.

CF. Is there anything you'd rather be?

MM. I'd like to be the guy who does genital piercings on women. You notice those gigs are never advertised.

CF. Thank you for visiting with us.

MM. Is that it?

Friday, May 26, 2006

Friends of the Fiend 25: Mark Anderson


I didn't much like Mark Anderson's cartoons when I first saw them. My wife did, but I didn't, until I saw one in colour and it was only then that the penny dropped. In colour, I could see, and appreciate the all important element in his drawings, his use of space. The cartoon that opened my eyes was one he drew years ago for King Feature's New Breed, it featured two trick or treaters talking about the fact that they were encouraged to talk to strangers at that time of year, and it made quite an impression on me.
These days I find myself popping over to his website every so often, just to laugh out loud at those 'Andertoons', and whilst I still really enjoy his colour work, I appreciate his black and white cartoons even more.


CF. Hello, Mark.

MA. Hey! What's shakin', bacon?

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

MA. always doing my gag work, but lately I've been doing a lot of custom cartoons for advertising, and a fair amount of greeting card work. Also I'm working on my own race of atomic supermen.

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

MA. My range of career goals were/are as follows:

Age 4 - Running the cash register at the meat market
Age 6 - Fireman
Age 9 - Luke Skywalker
Age 12 - Luke Skywalker
Age 15 - Princess Leia (It was a confusing time for me.)
Age 17 - Cartoonist
Age 18 - Music teacher
Age 19 - Tombonist
Age 20 - Jazz trombonist
Age 24 - Screw salesman by Day, jazz trombonist by night, cartoonist on my lunch hour.
Age 26 - Anything but selling metal coil
Age 29 - Anything, please God, ANYTHING! (After some downsizing.)
Age 30 to current - Cartoonist

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

MA. I Read a lot of newspapers and magazine looking for little germs of stuff to make fun of. I daydream, write down some jokes, let them stew in a box on the shelf for a while, and then draw up the ones I like sometime later. From there I send them out and wait to see if anyone thinks I'm funny.



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

MA. American Natural pencils, Faber-Castell Pitt Artist brush pens, Pigma Microns pens, & cool grey Prismacolor markers on Borden & Riley bleedproof paper. From there it's into one of my Macs, touched up in Photoshop with a Wacom tablet and into the mailbox. I don't keep to any standard dimensions, but I work really small.



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

MA. Yes, yes and yes! (I put in an extra "yes" for emphasis.) I could rant on this for a good 10 pages, but I'll spare you.

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

MA. Animation. I bought Flash some time ago and I'm still trying to find the time to teach myself to use the damn thing.

CF. Who were your major artistic influences?

MA. Peter Arno, George Carlin & Spiderman.

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

MA. Oh goodness... Probably Bill Watterson. Honestly, every panel is genius through and through.

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.

MA. Traditional media's going to be forced to redefine itself in any number of ways online sooner or later. It's just a fact. The delivery method is always morphing, but the good news is cartoons fit pretty much anywhere.



See lots more 'Andertoons' on Mark's website.


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?

MA. Right now, probably The Daily Show. That's some consistently smart/ funny stuff!

CF. Is there anything you'd rather be?

MA. Good God, no! Drawing pictures in my polar bear jammies for a living is pretty much the pinnacle for me.



CF. Thank you for visiting with us.

MA. Tune in next week! Same Mark time, same Mark channel!

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.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Friends of the Fiend 23: Carolita Johnson



Someone wrote a comment on my other blog pointing me to Carolita Johnson's web page. As soon as I got there I realised I knew her work from my sparse collection of New Yorker magazines. The more cartoons I saw while I was there, the more I liked her. Her not '...puffy enough for you' cartoon had me laughing out loud - an all too rare event for someone who has been drawing cartoons as long as I have - and I became an instant fan.

Her Newyorkette blog, I might add, is also a hoot. Do yourself a convulsive favour and drop in.



Carolita Johnson goodies at Cartoonbank



CF. Hello, Carolita.

CJ. Hey big fella!

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

CJ. Just the usual grind: the batch (seven cartoons, my personal goal) to submit to TNY every week. Though I've decided to work on my caricatures as well, hoping to get other kinds of artwork published. I've also always dreamed of doing some of the "spots" for The NewYorker. They've started hiring one artist to do weekly spots, instead of just mixing different artists' spots into one issue as before, so you actually get a credit now.



And I'm re-working my old manuscript (a book, and all I can say for now is that the title will be "Bug Juice").

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

CJ. I never WANTED to be a cartoonist. That's why I'm always puzzled by people who approach me with their cartoonist dreams. I've never"dreamed" of doing anything, in the way most people say they do. I just try something if I think I can do it well. And I've never doubted that I can draw, even though I've doubted everything else I did!

As a kid I drew all the time, and I had a little strip when I was a kid, inspired by Peanuts, called "Snurfuls" about a sheepdog. My dad reminded me of this when I started getting published in TNY. I'd totally forgotten about it.



A very early original Carolita Johnson drawing


I got back into cartooning (after 15 years of not drawing at all), encouraged by Crawford when I was trying to put an illustration portfolio together. I guess he saw something in my drawings. He suggested I give it a try while I worked out my illustration style, and I thought it would be good practice for drawing a lot and meeting deadlines, so I started submitting, not expecting to sell at all. But I did sell, within five weeks, much to our surprise.




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

CJ. Since I'm one of the newer cartoonists, I have other jobs and run around town a lot and don't have the luxury of sitting around at an art table coming up with brilliant ideas! So, a lot of my ideas come to me while I'm running about, and are jotted down into notebooks or into the palm of my hand. It's awful when I forget to note something, because as soon as you lose one idea into the ether of forgetfulness, it seems to guarantee a sort of inspiration "blockage." Other cartoonists have observed this too. Very very important to write the ideas down as they come.

But it's even better when I sit down and draw something, and the idea comes to me by looking at the drawing. Many of the cartoons I've sold seemed to just appear under my pen like magic, with the idea forming as I draw. It makes me think, wow! Where did THAT come from? It almost makes me feel as if I shouldn't really take credit for it, because there was no real thinking process behind it, just a flash of inspiration.




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

CJ. Actually hardly anyone asks! They assume I use watercolors for some reason. I use india ink, because it's waterproof, for the lines. I draw the lines using a pen and nib, I think it's a hunter 12. It's very hard to break that nib in, as it's not meant for what I do with it, and many are thrown out as duds, while one in ten last six months before they poop out. For the wash, I use water diluted with ink. That's why I need it waterproof, so I don't get any bleeding from the lines on application of the wash. I have three shades of dirty ink water for the wash.

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

CJ. Yes and no. I think it all depends on the readers' perception. The New Yorker cartoon has had a certain style. I think it behooves TNY to keep it up and set their cartoons apart from other cartoons. We'reknown for having a certain kind of humor that is unique to The New Yorker. In that way, I think we do have an impact on other cartoonists, as well as on the development of the level of the sense of humor of readers.



I've also noticed that artists are incorporating cartoons or cartooning style into their work a lot now, as part of the insertion of pop culture into "serious" art. I'm not sure if that means cartoons influence art or if art influences cartoons, or neither!

And then there's people like David Mamet doing cartoons. It makes eloquent the current idea that anyone with an idea and access to an audience can be an artist. I guess because we've had some excellent cartoonists breaking the mold and drawing in a "naive" style about personal anxieties, like Roz Chast, it's encouraged people to do cartoons on banal subjects, whether they can draw or not. This is where the line gets blurry. Is it art? Is it not art? Who knows! I think it's part of a movement.


Schopenhauer said something like there used to be a great philosopher once in a century, but now schools are turning out philosophers by the hundreds! How can everyone be so brilliant? Everyone's a wiseguy! Anyone can reasonably aspire to be a cartoonist these days. My only snobbism is that a person should be a cartoonist only if they can't beanything else. That's the only meritocracy I believe in, in the cartooning world. Most of us at TNY are absolute failures ateverything else. That's why we have little sympathy for the David Mamets out there.

One last thing, I think that the David Mamets of the world are partly responsible for the shake-up at TNY: we've all been told to clean upour acts and draw better.
I've got nothing against it personally because it's helped me push myself, and I think now that the cartooning market is more open it means even the "naive" style cartoonists at TNY need to push the envelope further and keep on the edge we're supposed to be representing.


Find Carolita's work at The New Yorker store


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

CJ. Just other magazines maybe in the future. I'd love to be able to understand business to the point where I could do business cartoons! I like overcoming my handicaps!

CF. Who were your major artistic influences?

CJ. Doré, John R. Neill. Toulouse-Lautrec. (sounds pretentious!) Dana Gibson. Hopper.

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

CJ. Cartoonist: Too hard to have one favorite. Weber, Crawford, and Barsotti make a good triumverate for me, for one kind of cartoonist. Then there's Tintin, Little Nemo, and Rarebit Dreams for strips. I love little Nemo. (Notice I don't know the strip artists' names, just their work).

Writer: Same thing. Chandler, Melville, Capote, Lem, Maupassant,Tennessee Williams and Mark Twain .

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.

CJ. On the cartoonist's side of that question, yes, there's already a cartoonist or two doing digital-only cartoons at TNY. On the reader's side of the question, yes, there's already quite a lot of cartoons being read and emailed back and forth online.

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?

CJ. My daydreams: I'd love to work on the Conan O'Brien show, come up with ideas for commercials, or do storyboarding, or paint portraits in the style of the northern artists. Maybe all of it at once! (I'm not used to having just one job and love multi-tasking, as each job inspires the other).




CF. Is there anything you'd rather be?

CJ. Nope. Or maybe the same thing but rich!

CF. Thank you for visiting with us.

CJ. My pleasure!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Friends of the Fiend 22: Royston Robertson




Royston Robertson, 38, is a freelance cartoonist based in Broadstairs, Kent, England. His gag cartoons have appeared in publications as diverse as Reader’s Digest, Private Eye, Prospect and The Oldie. He has illustrated children’s books for Scholastic Publishing, and his work has been commissioned by the BBC, Oxford University Press, and many other companies.


CF. Hello, Royston.


RR. Hello Mr Fiend, if indeed that is your real name.

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

RR. Er, not exciting exactly. My next project is a series of cartoon illustrations for some careers textbooks. I can see you nodding off already, but that’s the kind of stuff you have to do sometimes. Obviously it’s always a personal triumph to get a cartoon published in a magazine that people you know might see, such as Reader’s Digest or Private Eye, but the bread-and-butter stuff is trade mags,
business training manuals, PR campaigns etc. Some cartoonists hate all that kind of stuff, but right now, as someone who only took the plunge to give up the day job a couple of years ago, I’m just happy to be drawing pictures for a living.



See more of Royston Robertson's cartoons by clicking here.


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

RR. I suppose I always wanted to be a cartoonist, but for years I never really saw it as a viable career so I only ever dabbled, doing stuff for friends, college magazines and the like. For a short while after I left university I decided to make a go of it. I had a few strips and gags published in those poor Viz imitations that were around in the early 1990s, with names like Zit and Spit. But when I had difficulty getting money out of one of them I sort of lost interest. I didn’t have the drive then I suppose. It took ten years of doing a mainly office-bound "proper job" to convince me to give cartooning a serious go.

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

RR. The usual thing: staring blankly out of the window trying to think up ideas. I tend to work in silence for the thinking part of the day. Then, when I’m drawing up cartoons I reward myself with some music on CD, or a bit of radio comedy from the BBC website.

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

RR. I recently started using brush pens for the first time. A few years back I used to draw very precisely, over pencil lines that were later rubbed out, mainly because I started out doing strips rather than spot cartoons. In recent years I’ve drawn more loosely, on a piece of paper over a rough placed on a lightbox, but I carried on using the same Rotring technical drawing pens. They’re good for
precise work but the results were not always great with looser stuff.



Anyway, brush pens were recommended to me by a couple of fellow members of the CCGB (Cartoonists’ Club of Great Britain). I use Faber-Castell Pitt artist pens. It’s been quite a transformation. They allow for a thicker, more confident line and they’re more fun to use, though you do have to get used to drawing quite a lot bigger. I still draw on A4 but the drawing now takes up the whole page rather than nestling in the middle. Now all I need is a pen to help me write
funnier gags.


As for technological tools, I scan my linework into my Apple Mac and colour on screen with Adobe Photoshop. Sometimes I find I’ll move elements around on screen, enlarge some bits, get rid of other bits etc, just generally improving the composition. But it ends up looking a bit odd, with different line thicknesses and so on, so I print it out, stick it on the lightbox and draw it again. That might seem a bit odd to some, but it works for me.

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

RR. It has a huge cultural impact, no question whatsoever. Cartoons are everywhere. But as for the "A" word, that’s a tricky one. I suppose it’s the same as with any medium, some cartoons are art, some aren’t. If it’s drawn with a purely commercial purpose, i.e. for the money, it is probably compromised and therefore you can’t really call it art. But if it’s a pure expression of the cartoonist, and not
compromised, then maybe it is.



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

RR. I like the idea of doing a comic (in the US underground vein, I’m not that big on superhero comics except for ones written by Alan Moore) or a graphic novel, but not right now, that’s very much something for another day.

CF. Who were your major artistic influences?

RR. In the order that I became aware of them … as a kid I was well into The Beano and other D.C. Thomson comics, and also the more anarchic IPC comics such as Krazy and Cheeky; Viz Comic, which was like punk rock for an aspiring cartoonist; Oink! ; The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers; Gary Larson, who was the first person to get me into the idea of gag cartooning (I think that clearly happened for a lot of people); Robert Crumb and subsequently lots of other North American underground artists, namely Peter Bagge, Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware, Art Spiegelman, Chester Brown, Joe Matt and Seth. I don’t think many of these people affected my style as such (I wish!) but they all just really made me want to do cartooning. Since I've been concentrating on gag cartoons there are lots more cartoonists that have had an effect on my style of drawing and gag writing, but far too many to mention.

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

RR. Mr F, you have stumped me with that fiendish question. Picking a single favourite is impossible.

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.

RR. I’m a bit sceptical about the disappearance of books and other printed matter (it’s still the best technology there is – easy to use, no compatibility problems and no dead batteries) but if it does happen, the proliferation of excellent cartoons on the web prove that cartoons have a healthy future.


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?

RR. The Simpsons movie.

CF. Is there anything you'd rather be?

RR. Sometimes I think I’d like something that involves more travel, getting out and about and meeting people. Cartooning is a solitary profession. But then again, I think solitary suits me for most of the time, so probably not. I suppose the answer is: a more successful cartoonist!

CF. Thank you for visiting with us.

RR. You’re very welcome.

Check out Royston's terrific blog, Back to the Drawing Board.


Monday, May 15, 2006

Friends of the Fiend 21: Benita Epstein



I've never made any secret of the fact that Benita Epstein is one of my all-time favourite cartoonists. I have one of her original drawings in my collection, and it is just so small and delicate and perfect to look at, that the humour sort of creeps up on you. Her cartoon, below, is just about my favourite cartoon.





Hundreds of companies have published Benita's cartoons, including The New Yorker, Wall St. Journal, Barron's, Harvard Business Review, Prospect, Punch, Air & Space and several greetings card companies. Her drawings appear in cartoon collections, books, websites, newspapers and calendars, and her syndicated graphic panel, 'Drawing a Crowd' was distributed by Creator's syndicate. The NCS has had the good sense to nominate Benita for five Reuben division awards.

You'll find an interview with her here, on Moneypants, and find out a lot more about Benita Epstein here, on her website.


CF. Hello, Benita.

BE: Hi, Cartoon Fiend!

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

BE: What do you call exciting? I'm working on deadlines for various greeting card companies and magazines. And every week or so, month or so brand new markets pop up, and I make a stab at those.






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

BE: Not at all. This is my second career. Previously I did scientific research. That's why you see a lot of lab scenes in my cartoons, or talking mosquitoes. I made an abrupt change after attending a one-day cartoon workshop. It was bye bye good salary, benefits and pension. Hello to an uncertain future.





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

BE: I start out feeding my brain with newspapers, books, TV news, internet news, listening to conversations. Then I write, usually in the morning.
Gags comes out of nowhere. Even if it's silly or stupid or unusable I write it down. I can edit it later. I let the writing simmer. After a day, a week, sometimes years, I go back, fix the writing and pick out some gags to draw. Occasionally I have brainstormed via e-mail with other cartoonists. It works great and I can't ever remember when either of us wanted the other one's ideas, so we never really stepped on each other's toes.

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

BE: I make a primitive, rough outline of the people, main characters in a basic setting on crummy copy paper with a regular pencil. Then I put a nice piece of smooth HP laser paper over the sketch and ink over it on a light table. For crowd, bar, vegetation, beach and laboratory scenes I draw directly on the finished paper with no sketches because I draw fast and background scenes are loosely lined. I use Pigma pens and a brush, sometimes a Sharpie or a black calligraphy pen. Then I scan the drawings into Photoshop. If a company wants an original I ink on good watercolor paper and add a gray wash or watercolor. But in Photoshop I shade/color the drawing using a Wacom tablet. If I'm on vacation I can draw on tracing paper and save that to scan later, or photocopy the cartoons, send by mail to various companies then scan them when I get home. I like to have every single cartoon scanned so I can pull them up at a moment's notice and either print hard copies or send pdf's. I've been sending stuff via pdf for years worldwide and I think it's given me an edge over a lot of cartoonists who concentrate on the regular major markets here in the U.S.




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

BE: Yes. Just because the cartoons end up on paper or a computer screen doesn't make them less valuable to our culture than fine art done on more permanent media. Also, just because cartoons are funny, doesn't mean they are less important to our culture than stodgy, boring paintings (some). A cartoon is a reflection on what's going on in life, just as some fine art or other artforms are. Just look at all the cartoons on baby boomers, retirement, technology, avian flu, blogs, makeovers, internet dating, etc. Obviously political cartoons have cultural impact, but magazine gag cartoons and comic strips do as well.




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

BE: Animation, maybe, but probably not. I've done magazine gag cartoons (my specialty), humorous illustration, greeting cards, newspaper syndication, a daily cell phone cartoon, scientific illustration, three of my own cartoon collections and some advertising.




CF.
Who were your major artistic influences?

BE: Chas. Addams, Edward Gorey, I used to copy my brother's cartoons, too. As a kid I read every single cartoon in the LA Times.

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

BE: Well, Fiend, I've always loved your bold lines and humor (Fiend faints). And I loved Virgil Partch (VIP) and Chas. Addams and many other New Yorker cartoonists. My favorites change from year to year. Sam Gross and Arnie Levin are always at the top of the list.
As far as humorous writers I like David Sedaris and Jerry Seinfeld (Letters from a Nut and the rest of those he claims he didn't write are 'fall-on-the-floor' funny).


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.

BE: Maybe. I don't know. People still like to read in bed with a good book (ideally a cartoon book). The paperless future has already changed how we do things, and sometimes this helps the cartoonist, sometimes not. Sometimes a great magazine will stop using cartoons and go online (or just stop using cartoons), but for some reason another market will come along. It always does. Also, one's website attracts all sorts of new markets that wouldn't have been possible, say, 30 years ago. Not to mention work appearing on websites themselves, cell phones, iPods, other digital media, etc.




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?

BE: A movie that I wrote (would have written), a murder-comedy, maybe about an entomologist turned cartoonist? They say 'write what you know'. I'd have to study the murder part.






CF. Is there anything you'd rather be?

BE: Not really. I wanted to be a writer as well as a cartoonist and now I don't think that sounds like so much fun. Being freelance, I can go anywhere, travel anywhere and not have to worry about being chained to an office. Also, whenever I meet someone they are very impressed that I am a cartoonist.

CF. Thank you for visiting with us.

BE: Thank you for thinking of me. All the best.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Friends of the Fiend 20: Rex May


Born in 1946, in Terre Haute, Indiana. Rex May gained his Bachelor's in Russian Literature from Indiana State, in 1968. With U. S. Army Intelligence from 68-71, he went on to achieve his Master's in English from Indiana State,in 1973. He lives with his wife Jean ("that's her on my logo — I'm the one with the beard"), and has three kids — Freyja, Tyr, and Bjorn, and two grandchildren.


Writer/cartoonist/gag writer, Rex F. May is also the prolific, and very funny, cartoonist, Baloo, you'll find more of his cartoons on his website, Baloo Cartoons.


CF. Hello,Rex.

RM. Hello.

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

RM. Trying to make the transition to working on the net, trying to find cartoonists to collaborate with (I'm a gagwriter, too — mainly a gagwriter, in fact), gearing up for retirement from my government job in 86 days, trying to hit the ground running. Meanwhile a comic book is coming out from Big Head Press.

Roswell, Texas, by L. Neil Smith, Rex F. May, and Scott Bieser, is published by Big Head Press


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

RM. I did when I was a kid, forgot about it for many years. Started writing prose for National Lampoon back in 74, got a copy of Writers' Market, saw that cartoonists needed gagwriters, and started doing that. Soon I had a few hundred gags nobody wanted, so I drew them myself and started selling.



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

RM. I get up at about six every morning, sit down with a stack of clips, and, in front of the Cartoon Network or something, write till I have 35 gags. That takes an hour to an hour and a half. I draw when I get around to it. Rest of the time trying to market this stuff.

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

RM. Flairs on half sheets. I used Koh-i-noor Art Pen, like Stephanie Piro, until all of mine wore out.



CF.
Is the cartoonist a proper artist? I mean, doescartooning have the same cultural impact as some otherartforms, in your opinion?

RM. Sure, more than a lot. We range from doodlers to fine artists.

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

RM. Always ready to do something syndicated. But for that I want to do the writing, not the drawing.

CF.
Who were your major artistic influences?

RM. Bob Thaves, Dave Holle, Sergio Aragones, Thurber, Bob Zahn.

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

RM. Gosh. Will Eisner, I suppose. Favorite writer... Terry Pratchett.

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.



RM. More than we can imagine.

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. I'd like to be on the Benny Hill Show. Alas, too late.

CF.
Is there anything you'd rather be?

RM. Not "rather", exactly, but I could've been a linguistics academic.

CF.
Thank you for visiting with us.

RM. Mia plezuro!


Rex May can be contacted by email at:

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Friends of the Fiend 19: Noel Ford


Noel Ford is a hero of mine. I just can't think of any other way to describe him. If I had never picked up a copy of Punch Magazine, with a Noel Ford cover, and with Noel Ford cartoons inside it, and been inspired by his humour and his drawings, I'd have given up cartooning after the daily newspapers over here (with the exception of one) started dropping cartoons. Noel's Punch cartoons were never invented for the single-column world that my work existed in, up until that point. They were made for a bigger canvas, and they were more sophisticated,in style and in humour, more like something that should hang on a wall. This was what I wanted to make, this was how I wanted to draw. I wanted to be Noel Ford, me and about a dozen other cartoonists I knew.


This cartoon, from one of Noel Ford's earlier collections 'Deadly Humorous', is a terrific example of what was so captivating about Noel's cartoons. The figures'are alive with movement; the joke is both historical (Stonehenge), and contemporary(concerning pressure groups and urban planning, and the Mob). It looks so modern it could have been drawn today, yet it was drawn over 20 years ago. Some things, like the outline on the inside of an upright pillar are insinuated rather than drawn, with the shading explaining the three-dimensional shape. For me, and some of my contemporaries, just looking at Noel Ford's cartoons was like taking a Masterclass in cartoon art.

The fact that he worked for IPC as a comic artist/writer, worked as an Editorial cartoonist, illustrates books for other people and writes and illustrates his own books, and now works entirely with digital media, of course, shows his versitility but it also demonstrates his ability to remain ahead of the game. Even today, he continues to inspire and even finds the time to encourage, and help, up-and-coming new cartoonists as a moderator on the CCGB Q&A Forum.

Noel now lives in a remote part of Wales ( his daughter describes the address as 'Ten mile from nowhere'). When they moved there, in 2000, they were welcomed by having a two sheep named after them.
A contributor to Punch and, to a lesser degree, Private Eye for many years, Noel is currently editorial cartoonist for several national UK publications, including the Church Times. He also draws cartoons for clients, worldwide and was, for 14 years, the freelance editorial cartoonist for the UK national newspaper, the Daily Star, since when he has avoided reading newspapers wherever possible.
Noel has won a number of cartooning awards, including Dog Cartoonist of the Year and a United Nations Award for his contribution to Cartoonists Against Drug Abuse and, last year, second place in the Australian Lindsay Awards.
He is a member of The British Cartoonists Association (BCA), The Cartooonists Club of Great Britain (CCGB),The Federation of Cartoonists Organisations (FECO), The Cartoonists Guild and was elected a Fellow of The RSA in 2003


CF. Hello, Noel.

NF. Hello, CF, and thanks for giving me the opportunity to take a ride on your blog - where web logs are concerned I'm just too much of a lazy blogger to do one myself.

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

NF. There's always something exciting in the pipeline, though it's sometimes (like now) just a couple of bends away and not in direct line of site. This isn't wishful thinking, it's the way things have been, for me, for the last thirty odd years of cartooning. Solid, week in, week out editorial commitments, interspersed at regular intervals with the little gems that drop out of the blue to add the extra sparkle. So, at the moment, it's my regular editorial stuff, a few calendars (2007 and 2008), some other odds and ends...and one ear to the pipeline.




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

NF. Yes. Always (and I have vivid memories from when I was three or four years old, chalking cartoons on the pavement outside our house). However, like many in the creative business, I found it too easy to be diverted by other things. I was also pulled in the directions of music and writing (and also in he direction of having to earn a living). To cut it short, I was lead guitarist with a pro-rock band for some years, had some success writing fiction for magazines and BBC radio, but finally got my act together and gave cartooning a real push rather than the sporadic attempts I had made whilst doing the other things. These days, my cartooning is paramount but I have continued to have a little success in writing (children's fiction) and have, in the last couple of years, come back to my music.




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

NF. My main editorial stuff comes in the first half of the week, and the stories to which my cartoons or illustrations are to relate are emailed to me. Some publications like to see a few roughs whilst other allow me to act as my own editor and just send a finished cartoon. This latter may sound nice (and it is) but I still like working under editorial control - a good editor can often bring out the very best in you.
Being slightly clairvoyant, I sense that you are soon going to ask that old question, the one that I've been asked millions of times, about what tools I use and what formats I work to, so I won't go into that aspect of my work process here.




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

NF. I knew it!

Okay. I've been a wholly digital cartoonist since around 1998. I use Mac computers, Wacom drawing tablets and styluses and Corel Painter, by far the most versatile multi-media dedicated painting and drawing application on the planet. Photoshop? That's a great program in its own right (and many cartoonists use it) but it's NOT a dedicated painting and drawing program and has nothing like the range of media that Painter has to offer.
Because I am drawing entirely digitally, I draw to same-size format and almost everything I do goes out in highest quality JPEG format at 300 dpi, via email. I often work at 600 dpi for the finer working resolution and keep this higher res version in my archives.





CF. Is the cartoonist a proper artist? I mean, doescartooning have the same cultural impact as some otherartforms, in your opinion?

NF. You mean like proper artists who are so talented that they can rumple a bed, throw in some soiled underwear and, faster than art critic can prematurely ejaculate, produce a wonderful piece of art? Sorry, give me my Renoir (print) any day.
Actually, I regard cartoons as eighty percent writing, fifteen percent art and five percent undefinable, but certainly the finished pieces hold enormous cultural importance. Cartoons define and depict the day with an immediacy that many a serious historian can never quite manage.
But let's remember. Cartoons are a means to an end. If they finish up hanging on a wall, that's a bonus but it is not their raion d'etre. So let's not get too precious about them, eh?



Another timeless Noel Ford classic from Deadly Humorous. This doesn't look over 20 years old because of the variations of it that appear in some publications, even today.


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

NF. I'm happy ploughing my own furrow. But it IS important to have several furrows to plough, so that you never get bored. I think I have half a dozen, at least.

CF. Who were your major artistic influences?

NF. I really can't think of any that stand out. I suppose I HAVE been influenced, but it must have been while I was looking the other way. Of course, my actual love of cartooning in general was heavily influenced by the British magazines like Weekend and Reveille, which carried tons of cartoons. And, also, by those terrific cartoon/gag books that you used to be able to buy on railway stations (for younger readers, this was in the days when railway engines had proper name and weren't just buses without steering wheels).

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

NF. Let's not get into writers, as I will just go off on an ever diverging series of tangents.Cartoonist? Well, I've always been so self-driven that I have tried to avoid cartooning heroes. I suppose, though, that my cartooning hero would have to be a sort of Frankenstein's monster (though with a few more laughs) - a sort of amalgam of those regular contributors to the aforementioned magazines, The Saxes, the Styxes, you know who I mean.

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.

NF. Hey, I've worked in a 'paperless office' for the last eight years and I still manage to fill a bin-bag with scrap paper every week!Anyway, much as I love computers for working, spare me from ever having to use them for reading! I love the tactile nature of a book (preferably a hardback). Sadly, inevitably, though, the answer to your question is, Yes.


See more illustrations and cartoons by Noel Ford on his websites, here, and here.


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?

NF. I'd need more than a helicopter. I'd need a time machine. Then I could go back and redraw all that old stuff of mine that embarrasses me so much (not the gags, but the drawing). Of course, this would be a project akin to repainting the Forth Bridge, if you take my point.


CF. Is there anything you'd rather be?

NF. Not if it involves real work.

CF. Thank you for visiting with us.

NF. Glad to oblige. Is that brown envelope for me?...

______________________________________________________

To contact Noel Ford FRSA, United Kingdom.
Tel: +44 (0)1974 831468Fax: +44 (0)8700 518267
E-mail:
laugh@noelford.co.uk

noel@fordcartoon.com

Online Portfolio
http://www.noelford.co.uk

http://www.fordcartoon.com/