Sunday, February 14, 2010

Rick Tulka - Cartoonist Survey #73

Born in Brooklyn, New York and now living in Paris, France, Rick Tulka is an illustrator and caricaturist. First appearing in Mad magazine back in 1988, he has been a regular contributor ever since. His caricatures and humorous drawings have been printed in publications worldwide, including, the National Lampoon, Rolling Stone, Reader’s Digest, The Wall Street Journal, The Oldie, Le Soir and Le Monde. He worked with Michael Jackson while illustrating “Moonwalker the Coloring Book” and Rick also did all of the illustrations in Valerie Harper’s book, “Today I Am a Ma’am.” Now living in Paris with his wife Brenda, he goes to the famous café, Le Select everyday to draw caricatures of the clientele and staff. Le Select has been a regular hangout for such luminaries as Hemingway, Picasso, James Baldwin and George Plimpton. In 2007 he co-authored and illustrated “Paris Café: The Select Crowd” with writer, Noel Riley Fitch, “Paris Café: The Select Crowd” is a portrait, both written and drawn of the Parisian café life. You can see a video of Rick at Le Select being interviewed by CBS Sunday Morning here on YouTube. To see more of Rick’s Le Select drawings you can go to his flickr photostream. You can also see more of Rick’s other work at his website and his agent's website.

What is your favorite pen to use?
Basically, I only use Sanford Design Ebony pencils. I've been drawing with them for 37 years. I also "draw" with a brush and watercolor, I don't consider myself a painter. I very rarely use pen, but when I have, it is the old-fashioned quill pen and India ink.

Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
My illustration pencil work starts with a sketch in Ebony pencil. I also use them to sketch out the image if I am doing something in watercolor or ink. When I draw in my sketchbooks there is never a first sketch, I just draw.

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
I color by hand. For reproduction, I will do a little "cleaning up" on the images with PhotoShop. Some jobs I have done for MAD Magazine, and other places, have been colored on the computer, but not by me.

If you do your coloring by hand, what do you use?

What type of paper do you use?
Strathmore Bristol 4-ply for my finished illustrations and Strathmore hardbound sketchbooks.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
Computer keyboards.

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 Brooklyn, I would go directly to art stores to buy my supplies. In 1995, my wife and I moved to Paris. I found that I couldn't get any of my regular American supplies here (paper, pencils and sketchbooks), or anything close to them. So, when I go back to the States, I will order them from art stores and/or websites and bring them back with me. I have a lot of supplies in storage. I do go to local art stores, here in Paris, for my watercolors, erasers, brushes and general items.

Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
Make sure that all my pencils are sharpened.

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
When I am working on a job, I like to work early in the morning, around 5:30am. At that time, I work in silence. During the day, when working, I do listen to music. I'll listen to almost anything, from Beethoven to The Beatles - Miles Davis to Michael Jackson. Whatever suits my mood. I'll also listen to music on the radio if I don't put on CDs. And sometimes I will put on NBC News, over the Internet, and watch/listen to that.

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
Mad Magazine, Peanuts and Archie were my favorites as a kid.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?
Peanuts, Calvin & Hobbes, Little Nemo in Slumberland, Tin Tin.

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
In early high school I read The Chronicles of Narnia. I just loved them! I have reread them many times. I still have the original books I bought 40 years ago.

Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
In high school, I studied at the Brooklyn Museum Art School and the Art Students League of New York. I majored in Illustration at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
Both. I waste too much time on the Internet. But then, I can find almost anything I need for reference. YouTube has been a real blessing. When I have to do a caricature of someone I don't know I can surely find a clip of them on YouTube. It really helps me when I can see someone move and hear them talk.

Did either of your parents draw?
My father drew a little.

Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
My wife, my parents, my friends, my reps and a bunch of great teachers and mentors.

Do you keep a sketchbook?
I have been keeping sketchbooks since 1973. Hardbound - 8 1/2" X 11 1/2". As I write this, I am on sketchbook number 256. I feel that sketchbooks are extremely important. I always tell young artists to keep them. Not just for drawing from their head and from photos (which is fine), but to use the sketchbook to draw from life. That is the only way to improve as an artist. And no erasing either!!!

When I lived in New York, I would draw all the time, on the subway, at museums, at the beach and on the street. Here in Paris I have found "my" café, Le Sélect, and that is where I go to draw. I try and get there daily, during the week, and do at least one good drawing. After years of drawing at Le Sélect, I was able to work with a writer, Noël Riley Fitch, and we got a book published about the café with my drawings; Paris Café: The Sélect Crowd. A dream come true!

I feel the drawings that I do in my sketchbooks are truly my art, no art director telling me what to do. I have also been lucky to have been hired for jobs and draw in my sketchbooks - reportage. Some years ago, I was a courtroom artist in Belgium, for a major newspaper there. Last June, I drew for the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, in Tennessee. One time, here in Paris, I was sent by a magazine, with a reporter, to draw a major demonstration instead of them sending a photographer.

I love drawing in my sketchbooks and I am most content with this work.

Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
I have never taught cartooning/drawing formally. However, I have helped some young artists whom I have met, one on one. I did enjoy it very much.

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?

Do you collect anything and if so what?
I used to collect things from the 1939 New York World's Fair. In the 1980s and early 1990s I also used to collect autographs of famous people. I would do drawings of them and search them out to get them to sign my drawings. Some of the famous who signed my drawings (and some of them I actually met) were; Michael Jackson, Stephen Sondheim, Al Hirschfeld, Andy Warhol, Lucille Ball, Elizabeth Taylor, Spike Lee, David Levine, Malcolm Forbes, Jeremy Irons, Mikhail Baryshnikov, President Ronald Reagan and Nancy Reagan, Paloma Picasso, Liza Minnelli, Molly Ringwald, Studs Terkel, Helen Hayes, Bernadette Peters, Mandy Patinkin and Johnny Carson, to name a few. It was just for fun.

If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
Barney Rubble? Boo Boo Bear? Dopey?

Are you a righty or lefty?

If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
Tap dance.
In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
Flat and lit with a drawing lamp.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Many years ago I tried to teach myself the tenor saxophone. It wasn't a success. But, I was able to play (poorly) Summertime and Suicide is Painless (the theme from MASH).

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
Marry rich and/or go back to school and become a plumber. Everyone needs a plumber, nobody needs an artist.

Who is your favorite artist?

Al Hirschfeld, David Levine, George Woodbridge, Mort Drucker, Norman Rockwell, Lautrec, Van Gogh, Ingres, Daumier, Sargent, Degas, Holbein, this list could go on forever...

Thanks very much Rick!

Up next is Canadian cartoonist and multimedia designer, Mike Cope.


A Brush with Color said...

Wonderful! Great interview with Rick. Thanks for sharing this!

DaveMacDowell said...

Great interview-Rick is awesome!