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Friday, December 16, 2005

An Interview With Me

I was interviewed by a middle schooler who was writing a paper on cartooning. Perhaps it’s self-serving, but I think it’s relevant enough to post here.

What are the Pros and Cons of your job?
First, the pros. Sequential Art is versatile medium and its potential seems to grow every day. As a long-time lover of writing and drawing, it's the perfect medium for me.
One of the biggest pros would have to be artistic freedom. While it is difficult, it is completely possible to write, draw, and even publish and print your comics yourself. I like to think of this analogy: when I lived in New York, I would often stumble upon film crews shooting a movie. The amount of equipment and manpower it require was boggling. I would always think to myself "I can do that all by myself, and all I need is some paper and ink."
One of the major cons of being a cartoonist is simply surviving. Like many artistic careers, it is difficult to make a living as a cartoonist. It's not impossible, but difficult. It usually takes years of making comics for little or no pay before one can support themselves on comics alone. That being said, the skills you gain as a cartoonist can be applied to a variety of professions: publishing, editing, graphic design and many more.

What are your duties on a daily basis?
Like many cartoonists working today, cartooning is not my primary source of income. I have a day job, and I have to structure my drawing schedule to fit.
Finding a balance between employment and cartooning is an artform in itself, and it's a challenge most cartoonists will have to face.
Strangely, a lot of the work I do as a cartoonist has nothing to do with drawing. I've co-edited two large comic anthologies. My daily tasks as an editor often include emailing publishers, printers, and artists. It also involves organizing book signing tours and release parties.
A lot of management skills are also involved in my personal comic work. Right now I'm working on a graphic novel, a comic submission for Penguin Books, several side projects, and I'm participating in a gallery show in January. All these projects have deadlines, and all of them require communicating with a variety of editors and art directors. Again, writing emails is a big part of my day.
Another daily task is research. My graphic novel takes place during a specific time and in a specific place. Authenticity is important to me, so I've been dedicating a lot of time to research. I often use the internet for this. I'll look for images to use as reference for background drawings, or I'll check out websites to find out what music was playing during that time period.
And finally, the drawing! These days, my daily tasks include drawing thumbnails (rough sketches of page layouts, a basic blueprint for my comic) penciling in my sketchbook, and inking.

What early influences did have that drove you to seek a career as a cartoonist?
Probably my earliest influence was Bill Waterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes. It was a really artful strip that caught my imagination.
The other influence was discovering alternative comics - comics that weren't about super heroes. When I discovered the publisher Fantagraphics Books, I knew I wanted to be cartoonist.

Who is your favorite cartoonist?
Daniel Clowes. He has created several excellent graphic novels, including Ghost World, David Boring and his new masterpiece, Ice Haven. His comic book is called Eightball.

How long does it usually take to create a comic?
This is really too difficult to answer, each comic is different. Right now I'm working on an 81 page graphic novel. It will most likely take one and a half to two years to complete.

Where do you get ideas for a comic?
Most of my comics are based somewhat, if not completely, on my life experience.
I feel compelled to write about things that have significance in my life.

What are your other interests besides cartooning?
I like the art of bookmaking. In addition to their content, I'm interested in books as artistic objects. I like to explore different types if printing, binding, and folding.

What are some skills and character traits you would need to become a cartoonist?
Probably the number one character trait required is a good work ethic. Making comics is hard, and it takes a long time. For this reason, patience is also important.
Being goal driven and dedicated is important too. It's really hard to make comics part-time. You really have to have a passion for it.


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