Syndicated cartoonist, illustrator, greeting card designer, and author, Maria Scrivan was nice enough to take the time out of her very busy schedule to provide her answers to my Cartoonist Survey.
She fell in love with drawing cartoons when she was just a young child and was greatly influenced by Jim Davis's Garfield strips. Becoming the cartoonist for both her high school and college newspapers, Maria studied drawing, painting and photography. She graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Clark University.
Her single panel comic strip, "Half Full" is syndicated by TMS (the Tribune Content Agency, LLC.) and appears daily on GoComics.com and in various newspapers across the U.S. and beyond. "Half Full" looks at the funny side of technology, animals, pop culture, social media and much more.
Maria's cartoons and humorous Illustrations have been published in books, magazines, newspapers and on national television. Some of those publications include, MAD Magazine, Parade Magazine, Funny Times, Prospect Magazine, Highlights, Macmillan Books, Mashable.com and Salon.com. She has also licensed her artwork for products such as greeting cards, gift bags, t-shirts and checks. Some of the companies has worked with are Recycled Paper Greetings, American Greetings, RSVP Greetings, Oatmeal Studios, Neato-Shop, NobleWorks Cards and CheckAdvantage.
She also created the illustrated children's book, "Dogi the Yogi."
A member of the National Cartoonists Society, Maria lives in Connecticut with her husband Andrew, and an assortment of furry pets. She is a two-time Ironman triathlon finisher, as well as an accomplished cyclist, runner and sailor. Maria also volunteers her time for the Ink Well Foundation, a wonderful organization that is near and dear to my heart.
Head over to Maria's website to see many more examples of her work. While there, be sure to visit her store where you can purchase prints, mugs and t-shirts. You can read her daily comic Half Full here. Follow her on Twitter (@mariascrivan), Instagram (mariascrivan) and her Facebook page.
What is your favorite pen to use?
For my watercolor work, I love the Hunt Imperial 101 with Dr. Martin’s Black Star High Carb ink. I’m constantly experimenting with new materials. I have tried all kinds of markers but I get disappointed that the blacks aren’t rich enough. I do use markers and pens in my sketchbooks.
Lately, I’ve been doing my daily comic almost entirely on the Wacom Cintiq. I do a blue layer of “pencil” which is so much looser than paper since I can erase so easily on the “ink” Layer. I realized when I was working traditionally I was essentially drawing each image 3 times—tight pencils, tight ink and then once it was scanned it I was redrawing whole sections on the Cintiq. It took me a while to get comfortable with the ink line but now I love how fast I can work. I mostly use Photoshop but have started playing with Clip Studio Paint.
The irony is that using the Cintiq has sped up my comic process so much it’s allowed me time to work on more projects in traditional media. I love the scratchy sound of the nib on the paper, the magic when watercolors take on a life of their own, the ink I don’t realize I have on my elbow (or my forehead) when I run errands. I’m happy to have both in my process. I’m always evolving and experimenting.
Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
It depends. When I’m hand-inking the comic, I like to draw in blue pencil to avoid erasing when I scan it in. If the end result will be in watercolor, I sometimes do tight pencil on sketch book paper and then ink on watercolor paper on an LCD light box. Sometimes I use really light graphite pencil only as a guide for proportion. I find that this allows for and more freedom and much looser ink lines on my watercolor work.
Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
All of my daily comic work is colored in Photoshop. My children’s book illustrations are usually colored by hand.
If you do your coloring by hand, what do you use?
I really like Sennelier watercolors. There is something about the colors, vibrancy and consistency of the paint is exactly what I was looking for. Everyone kept telling me how amazing Series 7 Sable brushes are and they were right.
What type of paper do you use?
For the comics, I use Strathmore 300 Series Bristol and Fabriano Hot Press for watercolor work.
What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
I don’t hate to draw anything. I wish I was better at drawing cars and my horses are awkward.
I love drawing thought bubbles, I could do that all day.
I have a local Jerry’s Artarama. I also order from Jetpens.com and Dickblick.com and sometimes find things on Amazon.com.
Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
I like to get out for a run or go to the gym before I start working. Sometimes I get up early and go straight to the drawing table and get out for a run later in the day, especially when it gets cold out. I make a French press of tea, read the newspaper, eat breakfast and pick up a pen.
Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
I do and I like most genres with the exception of country and heavy metal. I have playlists of mixed up genres that make no sense at all. I tend to gravitate toward things that are upbeat, happy, singable or danceable. I also like to listen to stand up comedy (Louis CK, Sebastian Maniscalco, John Mulaney). When I’m coloring, I like having favorite movies or TV shows running in the background.
What was the first job as a cartoonist/illustrator that you were paid for?
When I was teenager, I sold a cartoon about football to “Parents Together” newsletter.
Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
I loved the comics pages in the Daily News on Sundays. I have fond memories of reading them cover to cover at my grandmother’s house in Brooklyn.
What is or was your favorite comic strip?
As a kid, I loved Garfield, Peanuts, Far Side, Calvin and Hobbes and Bloom County. Currently, my favorites include Speed Bump and Jim Benton. I also love the work of Kliban, Sempé, Chuck Jones, Shel Silverstein, Sam Gross, Ed Koren… I couldn’t possibly list them all, there are too many!
What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
One of my favorite books as a child was “Lafcadio the Lion” by Shel Silverstein. It was about a lion who loved marshmallows. It was also about being true to yourself but as a kid I was mostly impressed that the lion had a suit entirely made of marshmallows. I still have the original copy I had from childhood.
Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
I have a BA in Fine Arts from Clark University. I had the opportunity to study many different things…drawing, painting, printmaking, graphic design, color theory. I recently spoke to art students there and was thrilled to see my painting, acting and graphic design teachers again.
One of the most amazing experiences I had was studying at Lacoste School of the Arts in Provence, France junior year. Studios were nestled in this tiny cobble stone village perched high on a hill, in the shadow of the ruins of the Marquis de Sade’s castle. I would hike into the Luberon Mountains with my easel strapped to my back and paint in plein air, sculpt in limestone in a rock quarry, write poetry and learn photography with a teacher who studied under Henri Cartier-Bresson. It was a magical place and one of my most memorable experiences. And the light! The impressionists were not exaggerating at all. The colors really are that colorful and delicious. So are the figs.
Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
I think it’s a little bit of both. Artists now have the opportunity to reach a tremendous audience, however they are also competing with a sea of other artists. It can be more difficult to get compensated for your work if it’s used without permission, but artists are now offered so many opportunities to self-publish and so much more content is needed.
I have conflicted feelings about social media but I’m doing my best to focus on the positive aspects. I don’t like how it can be addictive and the cascade of hate that can quickly well up in the comments. I think it’s important to post thoughtfully. 3 years from now do you really want to be reminded of your stomach flu? It’s strange to see people’s every waking thought online. It’s as if private journals have become public instead of stuffed in a sock drawer. By design, it’s far too easy to waste extraordinary amounts of time scrolling into eternity.
That said, I’ve sold prints and originals by posting them on Facebook and Instagram. I use Printful and Shopfiy for my online store. It’s a print-on-demand system with dramatically better profit margins than Café Press or Zazzle. Someone can ask for a specific cartoon as a print or mug and I can offer it for sale in minutes without being involved in the ordering, inventory or shipping process.
Did either of your parents draw?
My mother used to draw when I was growing up. I was an only child (still am) and some of my favorite memories were when we used to sit outside and draw together on a picnic bench in the summertime. My father inspired my love of photography. I grew up in a very resourceful and creative family.
Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
My parents have always been incredibly supportive of my art.
Do you keep a sketchbook?
Many! I can’t leave the house without one. I also keep notes in my iPhone, either by writing them down or telling Siri (who sometimes offers a very strange interpretation of what he thinks I said.) I have so many ideas for gags, books and greeting cards that I use Evernote to organize them all so I am able to access them from anywhere.
Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
I have and I loved the experience. I’m always amazed at the questions, some that I still have myself. One kid asked me, “What do you do if what you're drawing doesn’t come out the way you want it to?” and I’m thinking, “I don’t know, I go through that all the time!” I had to come up with something so I told him (and myself) to keep trying, to look at other artists to see how they would tackle the problem and that each drawing was a learning process and a stepping stone to the next one. I guess it’s true…“the best way to learn is to teach.”
Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
If I had to pick one, I’d say passion. Passion keeps you up until 3am having no idea how many hours have passed. Passion forces you to keep trying, no matter how many times it takes. Passion is drawing for the pure joy of it… the excitement of watching an image appear like a photo in a darkroom. Talent is pretty good, too.
Do you collect anything and if so what?
Looking around my studio, I clearly collect art supplies and books about artists. I also have a small collection of mugs (that usually all end up on my drawing table when I’m busy) and I have a tiny collection of heart shaped rocks that find me whenever I’m walking in the woods. Other than that, I try and keep things simple. I get rid of things often, books I no longer read, clothes I no longer wear. It’s interesting, every time I do that, something new and amazing shows up. I guess I’m energetically making space.
If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
Are you a righty or lefty?
Righty, 100%. When I try to go lefty I am an out of control mess. I draw like a child. Hmm…maybe I should try that…
If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do. I am so grateful to write and draw every day. It’s a childhood dream come true.
In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
While in focused creative mode: A disheveled hurricane flurry of ink, paint, paper, mugs, dishes, nibs, sketchbooks, notes.
After: a clean slate, everything put away. Ready to start again. I can create a chaotic disaster zone when I’m in creative mode (you should see the kitchen when I’m baking) but my brain needs order to think clearly. I can only be in that chaos for so long and then I have to declutter.
Do you play any musical instruments?
I played the flute in elementary school and junior high. I was just getting the hang of it by high school but I didn’t want to be in the band and wear a funny hat, so I let it go.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
Draw constantly. Experiment. Rejection is an important part of the process, get used to it and try not to take it personally. Read, and see as much art as you can.
Who is your favorite artist?
Oh, I couldn’t…there are so many. A few of my favorites, in no particular order… Matisse, Anais Nin, Dorothy Parker, The Beatles, Sempé, Searle, Steig, Steinberg, Hemingway, Picasso, Van Gogh, Stephen King, Chuck Jones. So many more…
Thank you again very much for taking the time to participate Maria!