Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Drew Dernavich - Cartoonist Survey #56

Cartoonist and illustrator Drew Dernavich was born in Massachusetts and received a Fine Arts degree from William and Mary. While living in Boston he started out drawing political cartoons for local papers such as the Arlington Advocate and the Belmont Citizen-Herald, winning numerous awards. He has done work for The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, TIME, the Harvard Business Review and in 2002 he had his first cartoon published in The New Yorker. Drew won the Reuben Award for Best Gag Cartoon in 2006.

He is still working for the New Yorker and was one of the originators of the New Yorker’s humor blog, The Cartoon Lounge. He is featured in both volumes of the New Yorker’s cartoon anthology The Rejection Collection. Drew has also been etching gravestones with a Dremel tool for almost 20 years. He has etched lettering and images onto about 1,000 gravestones, with images such as Red Sox, Celtics and Patriots logos, Snoopy, the Tasmanian Devil, cans of Budweiser beer and winning scratch tickets. Check out
Drew’s website and then head over to The Cartoon Lounge.

What is your favorite pen to use?
It's really what kind of ink, and I use regular old Higgins drawing ink.

Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
Standard pencil.

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
Mostly the computer, but I like to mix the two.

What type of paper do you use?
I use scratchboard, and not fancy scratchboard - the cheap, 12-pt. student grade stuff.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
I hate drawing feet (now, everybody, stop looking at the feet in my drawings). With the scratchboard, the line is very heavy, so it's good for drawing rough, angular things but not so good at smooth or curvy things. Clouds look like boulders, and it's difficult to draw a thin, attractive woman without her looking a little bit like a cyborg.

Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
I get my scratchboard straight from the manufacturer, and I mean that literally. They've been great, and I even drove up to the loading dock of the plant once and had them give me a trunk full of the stuff before it ever got cut up and packaged for retail. Other than that, I actually enjoy the experience of browsing through an art store, so even though I could place an order easily, I prefer to go there myself.

Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
Sleep. I can't think or focus well if I'm not well rested. Ideally, it would be good to also have a clean and organized desk, but that's never going to happen. When you're cleaning, you're missing out on sleep.

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
I listen to music and the radio and the sounds of the people above me taking a shower. In terms of music, I listen to both genres.

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
I did read comic books, and it was mostly the Bugs Bunny or the Fantastic Four type. In terms of strips, liked Peanuts and Herman and whatever else was in our Sunday paper. The first comics that entered my consciousness in a "hey, I want to do this for a living" way were The Far Side and Life in Hell. I suppose I liked Shoe also. Also, does anybody remember Ed Emberley?

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
Speaking of Ed Emberley, his "Make a World" book was something I copied from for hours on end. I don't think I own a copy anymore. I did read a lot of books, but I can't remember many of them that well. I can say that my most cherished books were a dinosaur picture book that my grandfather owned, a baseball card book by Bert Randolph Sugar, and a really stupid joke book called Games You Can't Lose. It had pages like "Word Search" with only one single word on the page, or crossword puzzles made up of one square, and I somehow thought it was hysterically funny, over and over again.

Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
I had great art training in high school, and I did get a Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of William & Mary, only to disappoint my professors by telling them that I really wanted to be a cartoonist.
Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
The idea of the Internet is a blessing. The actual Internet is something less than a blessing. As much as it has opened up opportunities and given exposure to a whole lot of wonderful things, it has cheapened the value of cartoons overall.

Did either of your parents draw?
My Dad can draw Donald Duck.

Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
Everybody has been supportive, from my parents and teachers and friends all the way down to my wife and the robot that I programmed to sit at the edge of my desk and repeat, "nice art."

Do you keep a sketchbook?
It's not a sketchbook, but more of a scratchbook. It's got cartoon ideas, ideas for whatever other projects are going on at the time, and lists of things I'd like to eat that evening for dinner.

Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
I did teach a week long cartoon class at Lexington Christian Academy, in Massachusetts. I did it for several years. It was a lot of work but definitely enjoyable, and what really made it fun was seeing the high school kids respond creatively to challenges and unleash their creativity in new ways. From my perspective, the only way you can teach a cartoon class is not "Here's how to draw a dog the right way," but "here's how to think about a dog in ways that will lead you to insights and funny ideas."

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
I'd rather look at the drawings of people who have a talent for art, as opposed to people who merely have passion for it.

Do you collect anything and if so what?
I collect thoughts, which I primarily keep to myself, and maybe someday I'll share them. I used to collect baseball cards and I used to be a completist in terms of collecting records and CDs. I had to have that gatefold record cover or the Japanese-only version of the CD single. However, living in a tiny apartment makes it difficult to house a collection of anything. It's not just that one person's collectible may be another person's crap - sometimes your very own collectible is your own crap. I've settled into this position where if I'm not truly enjoying something, if I'm collecting it just to collect it, then I'd prefer to get rid of it.

If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
I'd be that lost penguin in the old Bugs Bunny cartoon

Are you a righty or lefty?

If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
Ask me again in six months. It might come down to that.

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
Pencils, pens, tracing paper pads, a Chinese takeout menu, Sharpies, magazines from three months ago, loose papers of all kinds, eight post-it note pads with only two or three post-its still remaining in each one, scotch tape, some bills I should probably pay, scraps of paper with things on them that I should remember, receipts, a light board, assorted business cards, coffee stains, a mix CD that has a 35% chance of having Johnny Cash on it.

Do you play any musical instruments?
I'm a self-taught iPod master.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
Make sure both the lap belt and the shoulder belt are buckled in.

Who is your favorite artist?

I go through a new favorite artist every few years or so as my tastes change, but in general I never get tired of looking at a John Singer Sergeant, I think Marcel Duchamp is by far the most fascinating art figure of the last 100 years, and I think whoever invented the color orange is a genius.

Thank you very much Drew!

If you loved Wacky Packages growing up, then you will enjoy the next set of answers, from none other than Jay Lynch.

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