Monday, February 1, 2010

Terri Libenson - Cartoonist Survey #61

Graphic designer, artist and cartoonist Terri Libenson has been drawing ever since she was a little kid, growing up in Pennsylvania. While getting here degree at Washington University in St. Louis, MO she studied art history and illustration. Starting in 1993 she worked as a writer and illustrator for American Greetings after college and created a humorous line of greeting cards called “Skitch.” The “Skitch” line of cards was so successful that Terri had a seven year run with it. In 2000 she had her first child and her first strip, “Got A Life,” was syndicated by King Features.

When she had her second child in 2002 she stopped producing “Got A Life” to stay home and take care of her children. She used this time to also come up with new ideas for another strip. In 2006 she started her very successful strip, “The Pajama Diaries,” who’s main character is Jill Kaplan an artist and wife raising her two kids at home. “The Pajama Diaries” is syndicated by King Features and appears in hundreds of newspapers across the country. Terri, now living in Cleveland, OH, still works part-time as a writer for American Greetings, while producing her strip and taking care of her family. You can see more about Terri, with examples of her work on her website.

What is your favorite pen to use?
I like Microns, all sizes.

Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
I use a mechanical pencil. I have a billion broken-off pencil tips littering my desk, but I still can’t do without one.

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
Computer: PhotoShop.

What type of paper do you use?
I use “Plate/Smooth” Bristol (14” x 17”).

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
I can’t stand drawing backgrounds, but I do it anyway. I love drawing people, though -- women in particular.

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

Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
Stumbling groggily into the office in my jammies and spilling droplets of coffee and cereal on my laptop keyboard. It’s quite a routine (And irritates my techie husband).

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
I don’t. I either listen to the TV in the background or to NPR.

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
I loved reading comics. “Peanuts” was my all-time favorite.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?
I love so many now, I couldn’t pick one. My favs growing up were “Peanuts” and “Bloom County.”

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
My “Dr. Seuss” anthology (my kids have it now). And a great children’s biography about Paul Klee. I also liked my parents’ old World Book encyclopedias. I was a weird kid.

Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
Yes, lots. I grew up taking private art lessons from a wonderful local artist, Sue Hand. I also have a BFA in illustration and a minor in art history from Washington U in St. Louis. I also took summer art programs at different colleges while in high school. In other words, I was the quintessential art freak.

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
Both. It can be a great tool as well as a great distraction.

Did either of your parents draw?
My father had wonderful graphic design skills (although he was in a different profession) and my mother studied painting. Both were appreciators of all the arts.

Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
My husband helps me with so many aspects of the strip and is my emotional rock. So I think he wins. But the rest of my family (immediate and extended) has always believed in me.

Do you keep a sketchbook?
No. I tend to write down my thoughts as opposed to illustrating them. Go figure.

Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
I did once for a few months (cartooning). But I prefer the hands-on solitary experience of drawing. I love being an “art docent” at my kids’ school, though. I go into the classroom and teach the kids about specific artists and styles. That’s the extent of my teaching abilities.

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
To me, it’s about both…but you certainly can’t go far unless you have the drive.

Do you collect anything and if so what?
I have a huge collection of my own original comic strips!
Actually, I’m not a collector by nature, but I noticed my bookshelf of graphic novels is growing by the hour.

If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
Jessica Rabbit. No, just kidding. Probably just an animated version of my regular alter-ego character, Jill. There’d be no one closer.

Are you a righty or lefty?

If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
My first instinct would be to say, “I have no idea!” But then I realize, hey – I also write. So yes, I’d write.

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
I draw on a light box set up on my kitchen table. There’s a plethora of tracing paper, roughed-out strips, Microns, mechanical pencils, rulers and crumbs. Lots of crumbs.

Do you play any musical instruments?
I played violin for 8 years growing up. I gave it up for art. I probably couldn’t read a musical note now.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
Just make sure you thoroughly enjoy it. A little cliché but so true. Also, try to keep up those skills.

Who is your favorite artist?
I don’t have an actual favorite (too many to count), but I was heavily influenced by a few in the past. On the fine arts side: Klee, Chagall, and many of the pop artists. On the cartooning side: Charles Schulz, Berke Breathed and Lynda Barry.

Thank you very much Terri.

Cartoonist and writer P.S. Mueller is up next.

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