Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dan Yaccarino - Cartoonist/Artist Survey #70

Dan Yaccarino has written and illustrated over three dozen children's books, including, The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau, Every Friday, Good Night, Mr. Night and Unlovable. He is the creator and producer of the animated series Oswald, about a blue octopus and he also designed the characters for the animated Nickelodeon series The Backyardigans. His newest animated series, Willa's Wild Life, is based on another of his popular children’s books, An Octopus Followed Me Home. His illustrations have been published in Business Week, The New York Times and New York Magazine. Dan’s has created images for such corporations as Sony, Target and AT &T. He is a recipient of many honors including the Parent’s Choice Award, Child Magazine Award, Parent’s Magazine Top Toy Award and he has also been to the White House where he shared his books and participated in the annual Easter festivities. Dan lives with his wife and kids in New York City and has a very nice studio equipped with vintage toys and robots. Be sure to visit Dan’s website.

What is your favorite pen to use?
I don't use a pen of any kind to do my illustrations. I usually use a Windsor Newton watercolor brush.

Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
Yes, I lay out the image in pencil first. I use a standard 2 or 3H, nothing fancy.

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
I mostly work "traditionally", unless "digitally" means using my digits.
If you do your coloring by hand, what do you use?
Windsor Newton gouache. Hey, I think they should be sending me free stuff for mentioning them so much.

What type of paper do you use?
120lb Arches cold press. Same goes for Arches. Free paper, man!
What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
Bicycles and horses, but mostly horses riding bicycles.

Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
I started going to Pearl Paint on Canal Street in New York City when I was attending Parsons School of Design back in the early '80's and continued up until a year ago. I really tried to support them, but since then I've found that they don't restock their shelves, so I've been ordering supplies online. It's a shame because I really enjoy going to art supply stores. I like the smell. Occasionally people will ask me questions. Maybe they think I work there. Perhaps it's due to the fact that I'm wearing an orange apron with the store logo on it.

Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
Yes! I dance around my drafting table with a voodoo doll I've made of someone I want to put a curse on.

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
Sometimes. I listen to the Beach Boys, the Polyphonic Spree and the Flaming Lips, which drives my family crazy. When I'm not listening to music, I'm usually listening to Coast to Coast AM with George Noory interviewing people about UFOs, time travel and aliens, all of which are real, so it's more like catching up on the news for me.

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
I did read comics, mostly Mad magazine. This may (or may not) upset your readers, but I was never that much into superheroes, except Plastic Man, but I'm not sure if he counts. Jack Cole's art was beautiful and his stories were perfect for a 10-year old mentality. He was a totally underrated artist and Plas never got his due.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?
I guess it would have to be The Far Side. Does that qualify as a strip? It's actually daily single panel gags.

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
I loved (and still love) a picture book called The Thing In Dolores's Piano. It was written and illustrated by an author/illustrator named Bob Tallon. After I started doing children's books of my own, I looked him up and since then, we've been good friends.

Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
Yes. I received a BFA from Parsons School of Design in NYC. I also attended the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles for a few semesters. I also got a masters from the School of Hard Knocks, if that counts for anything.

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
I love it! I can find practically any reference image or information of any kind in a matter of seconds. But then I hate it because now crazy people can easily find me. Thanks for contacting me, by the way.

Did either of your parents draw?
No, not really.

Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
Growing up, it was my parents. Now it's my wife and kids. I'm very lucky.

Do you keep a sketchbook?
Yes and have kept one since I was about 10. There are boxes of them stored in my mother's attic, also known as the Yaccarino Archive.

Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
I taught editorial classes for about 5 or 6 years at Parsons School of Design and School of Visual Arts, both in NYC. I enjoyed the experience when the students were enthusiastic. It was like babysitting when they weren't.

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
Passion! It'll get you where you need to go every time.

Do you collect anything and if so what?
Nothing anymore. However, I collected toys for several years, until I ran out of room. You wouldn't happen to be in the market for 500 Pez dispensers, would you? Now I just collect dust.

If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
I actually am one. I created and produced an animated series that currently airs on Noggin called Oswald. I'm Oswald's best friend, Henry, a persnickety penguin. I've also created/produced an animated series currently airing on NBC on Saturdays called Willa's Wild life. In that show I'm Gus the alligator.

Are you a righty or lefty?

If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
It may sound strange, but I really have no interest in any other career. This is what I was meant to do.

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
Small. Neat.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Nothing now, but I used to play the trumpet when I was a kid. My father was a musician who played the saxophone and clarinet. Much to his dismay, I was terrible. You should hear me sing. It makes my trumpet playing sound like I'm Harry James.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
Don't talk about it. Do it.

Who is your favorite artist?

That's a pretty impossible question for me to answer. It changes constantly. I like different aspects of different artists. Let me rephrase that, I steal different aspects of different artists.

Thanks again Dan!

Answers from the Reuben Award winning cartoonist, painter and illustrator, Drew Friedman are next.

1 comment:

Elio said...

I love Dan! His work has been a huge influence on mine!