Sunday, January 31, 2010

Steve McGarry - Cartoonist Survey #60

Cartoonist and illustrator, Steve McGarry hails from Manchester, England and now lives in California. He started freelancing full-time as a cartoonist in 1971, with his first published work appearing in a British comic book for girls entitled ROMEO. In the early 80's Steve's career as a cartoonist took off as he made his national newspaper debut in the Daily Star. Starting in the 80's and continuing throughout the years he has been creating packages for the Wold Cup and European Championships soccer series. These packages contain wall-sized posters with brackets for the tourney, profiles of legendary players and retrospectives of the previous years.

When he moved his family to California in 1989 he started producing work for the UK's biggest soccer magazine, SHOOT! 1989 also saw the beginning of his 13-year run with THE SUN, writing and drawing his Badlands comic strip, which was a spoof on the Wild West genre. Pop Culture, Kid City and Biographic are other features that Steve has had success with. His cartoons and strips have been syndicated worldwide by both United Media and United Press.

Steve was the President of the National Cartoonist Society for two terms, 2001-2003 and 2003-2005. He has been nominated six times for National Cartoonist Society Illustration awards and, and received the National Cartoonist Society Newspaper Illustration Award in 2002 which is the same year he was named Illustrator of the Year (Stanley Award) by the Australian Cartoonists' Association. The apple didn't fall too far from the tree because Steve's twin sons, Joe and Luke, are quite talented themselves. They are the youngest recipients of the Silver T-Square Award (presented to persons who have demonstrated outstanding dedication or service to the Society or profession) from the National Cartoonist Society and they form the indie music duo Pop Noir. Make sure you visit Steve's website and see more of his wonderful illustrations.

What is your favorite pen to use?
For the last year or so, I've switched to creating everything on a Wacom Cintiq. Prior to that, I used Rapidographs and Microns to produce my photo realistic stipple illustrations ((as well as dip pens and brushes for hair, garments) and the cartoons were created using Rotring artpens (usually B or BB nibs), and dip pens. For simple cartoon illustrations, I usually went with a Sharpie.

Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
I'm a mechanical man.

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
As I say, everything is now done on a Cintiq. I create the art in a program called Sketchbook Pro – switching to Manga Studio EX4 for hair – then color everything in PhotoShop.

If you do your coloring by hand, what do you use?
I used to favor dyes and inks on CS2 illustration board. British newspapers began running daily strips in full color in the early 1990s but in those dial-up days, they were unable to take the files electronically. So, for a couple of years, I used to hand color photocopies of the art using Pantone markers and ship them by courier. By the mid-1990s, I was doing all my coloring in PhotoShop.

What type of paper do you use?
For the realistic stuff, I used to use CS10 illustration board for b&w and CS2 hard pressed illustration board for color. Letraset made a great illustration paper for years, and when that line was discontinued I switched to Borden & Riley #234 Bleedproof Paris paper. For cartoons, I always used Strathmore smooth finish bristol board.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?

Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
When I lived in England, my hometown of Manchester had a great art supply store, and I was frequently in London, so always used to call in at a big art store in Covent Garden. Here in Southern California, there are two really good specialty art stores within a 10-mile radius of my house. I have bought illustration boards via the Internet from time to time.

Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
Cups of tea. Endless cups of tea.

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
Frequently ... or the TV is on and tuned to either Fox Soccer Channel or MSNBC.

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
I used to read all the DC and Marvel titles and Mad magazine growing up, as well as all the British weeklies, from The Beano and Dandy, to The Hotspur, The Victor and The Eagle.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?
When I moved to the States and became a member of the NCS, I was struck by how revered Charles Schulz was by practically all of my peers. They'd all grown up on a daily diet of Peanuts! In the UK, we have national newspapers, so unless your family subscribed to the Daily Mail, you rarely saw Snoopy and the gang. My family were Daily Mirror readers, so as a kid my favorites were Andy Capp, The Perishers and Garth. In later years, I enjoyed a UK strip called Beau Peep in The Daily Star. I admired Waterson and Larson ... and I adore Segar's Popeye stuff. I also love the Asterix the Gaul books.

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
Being a British kid, I always loved The Eagle annuals and the Rupert the Bear books. Ronald Searle's St.Trinians stuff was a big favorite.

Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
No. I was going to go to art school but landed a summer job in a studio, so that was it.

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
The Internet has revolutionized my business. When I first moved to the US, I used to send my strips back to my UK clients by courier. My Fed Ex bills were horrendous. When I started creating digital color, I had to ship SyQuest disks to London, or to publishers in New York. Every four years, I create a big set of features on the Soccer World Cup and these are syndicated worldwide. We used to have to mail prints to every continent. These days, I create something and within seconds it’s delivered to every corner of the globe.

Did either of your parents draw?
My mum doodled.

Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
My wife, Debs.

Do you keep a sketchbook?

Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
Not really. I've given lots of talks to schools - that's always fun.

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
For cartooning, the writing is just as important as the art ... probably even more so. And who is to say who can and can't cartoon? Rudimentary art is no impediment in cartooning. The key is not whether or not someone can "draw" ... it's whether they can produce cartoon art to a professional standard on a regular basis. In illustration, the onus is obviously on the talent and ability. But you can't succeed in any walk of life without drive, ambition and passion.

Do you collect anything and if so what?
Not really.

If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
The older I get, the more Homer Simpson and I have in common, unfortunately.

Are you a righty or lefty?

If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
Not got a clue!

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Guitar, piano. I was in bands for years. My twin sons, Joe and Luke, have an indie rock band called Pop Noir -
- that has enjoyed a little bit of success. I've managed the band up to this point (although at some point soon I'll be looking to step back) but I do enjoy seeing them evolve as musicians. They are also very talented illustrators and designers in their own right. They are the youngest-ever recipients of Silver T-Squares from the NCS. Their art website is:

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
Whatever you want to do in life be prepared to really put the work in to pursue your goals.

Who is your favorite artist?
Frank Bellamy. Followed by E.C. Segar, Albert Udurzo, Ronald Searle and W. Heath Robinson.

Thanks again Steve!

Terri Libenson, creator of King Features syndicated strip Pajama Diaries, provides answers for the next Cartoonist Survey.

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