Saturday, January 30, 2010

Mack White - Cartoonist Survey #59

Mack White is a comic book artist and writer who lives in Austin, Texas. In the late 1980's he began creating and self-publishing comics. This lead to his first professionally published story which appeared in Rip Off Comix in 1990. During the 90's he continued to contribute comics to such publications as the comics anthology Buzz, Heavy Metal, Boing Boing and the Austin Chronicle. Mack has also had many books published including, The Mutant Book of the Dead, Villa of the Mysteries, The Last Renegade and Raw Deal. He has done illustrations for everything from magazine covers to board games with his artwork being featured in art shows across the country. Aside from this world-renowned interview with David Wasting Paper, Mack has also been interviewed by Rolling Stone and the Comics Journal. Be sure and checkout his website.

What is your favorite pen to use?
Micropen drafting pens, Faber Castell brush pens.

Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
Standard no. 2 pencil.

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
Computer these days, but years ago I colored by hand (acrylic animation paints on back of film positives).

What type of paper do you use?
Strathmore Bristol for final artwork. Canson tracing paper for preliminary work.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
I don't think there's anything in particular I hate to draw. Some things are more challenging, but the challenge is what keeps it interesting.

Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
I go to a local art store.

Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
I work out, meditate, and pray first thing in the morning before I do anything.

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
I listen to all kinds of music while drawing: every genre of rock, jazz, country, classical, from all parts of the globe. Sometimes, though, music is too distracting and silence is better.

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
I read a huge amount of comics as a kid and had a bunch of favorites: Al Capp, John Severin, Curt Swan, and Steve Ditko. Later as a teenager, I became a big underground fan: Crumb, Williams, Spain, Shelton, Moscoso, Wilson. Their work kept me interested in comics; otherwise, I probably wouldn't have continued to follow the medium to any significant degree.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?
Little Nemo in Slumberland.

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and yes, I still have the same old battered copy. In the summer of 1961 I read that book so many times I memorized entire chapters.

Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
I started drawing when I was three, watching my mother draw. I became obsessive about it from an early age, always drawing, creating my own cartoon characters and comics. My parents and teachers thought I was a prodigy. In '61 (the same wonderful summer I read Tom Sawyer) my parents enrolled me in an art class. Portraits, figure drawings, still life, landscapes-I did all that, but after that summer, I didn't take any more art classes.

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
Like everything in life, a bit of both. But the blessing is greater, I think. With the Internet, there's much more opportunity for artists and writers to get exposure, feedback, and so forth.

Did either of your parents draw?
My mother drew for a period of time in the 1950s and was good. She didn't keep it up, but later became a professional portrait photographer. My father didn't draw, but he was a journalist, therefore wrote a lot. So, apparently, I got the writing gene from him, and the drawing gene from my mother. Her father, incidentally, was an aspiring cartoonist. He never pursued it as a career though, because his old rancher father (my great-grandfather) discouraged him, said it wasn't man's work. So, he went into ranching and farming, but continued to cartoon on the side. Sometimes, he would even do chalk talks for the school kids. Finally, in his late 30s, he enrolled in an art school in Fort Worth, but died of cancer before he could attend. I never knew him, but of course feel a strong kinship.

Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
My parents and my wife.

Do you keep a sketchbook?
In the 70s and 80s, I kept sketchbooks. But later it evolved into scrapbooks: sketches, doodles on Post-Its and napkins, mixed in with story ideas, poems, dreams, collages of newspaper and magazine clippings, interesting pieces of paper I find, brochures, religious tracts, stickers, stuff I print off the Internet, and on and on. The scrapbooks are many things, a pastime, a creative tool, and a focal point for meditation and connecting with alternate realities. I've tried keeping separate sketchbooks (for art) and journals (for writing) and scrapbooks (for clippings, collages etc.), but eventually they all evolve into scrapbooks.

Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
About a year ago, I was invited to give a talk at a Sequential Art class at St. Edwards University in Austin. This was not teaching, exactly, but mostly question-and-answers. I enjoyed it and would like to do that sort of thing again some time.

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
To me, they're the same thing.

Do you collect anything and if so what?
Mostly I collect books. I have a large comics collection-still have all the old Silver Age DC and Marvel comics I bought as a kid, undergrounds I bought in the 60s and 70s, a complete run of National Lampoon, Heavy Metal, and much, much more up to the present. However, comics aren't the biggest part of my library. Mostly I collect all types of fiction and non-fiction, with certain areas of special collecting interest such as: ancient history, metaphysics, Texana and Old West history, the JFK assassination, and various writers, Mark Twain, Melville, Hemingway, Philip K. Dick, Beat Generation, and more.

If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
Popeye, only I'd smoke the spinach.

Are you a righty or lefty?

If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
I write as well as draw, so if I ever stopped drawing, I'd continue writing, or vice versa. But, if I stopped doing both, I'd do more talk radio. PsiOp Radio, the weekly show I host with SMiles Lewis on the American Freedom Network, gives me a break from the drawing board once a week and is a lot of fun. It's a creative outlet as well. I've played some of my audio dramatizations of dreams on the program.

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
Studio is a bright room with books and artwork with desk, computer table, file and supply cabinets, and drawing board in front of a large north window filled with Texas sky.

Do you play any musical instruments?
I played trumpet years ago.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
Persistence is the key: keep doing your art every day, keep improving, and keep showing your work every place you can.

Who is your favorite artist?
Cartoonists: Winsor McCay, Moebius, Crumb, Robert Williams.

Thanks again Mack.

Former President of the National Cartoonist Society, Steve McGarry is up next.

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