Friday, February 26, 2010

Chris Houghton - Cartoonist Survey #84

Illustrator and cartoonist, Chris Houghton, lives in Detroit, Michigan. While studying for his Bachelors of Fine Art at The College of Creative Studies in Detroit, his gag cartoons and illustrations have graced the pages of the school’s student magazine. Chris is presently working as a freelance illustrator and cartoonist. He was the recipient of the 2009 Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship from the National Cartoonists Society. The Jay Kennedy Memorial Scholarship is an annual award established in memory of Jay Kennedy who is the late King Features comics editor. It includes a $5,000 scholarship and a trip to the National Cartoonists Society’s Reuben Award weekend. In addition to his cartooning work he has done T-Shirt and logo designs. Last year he illustrated a 130 page NASCAR coloring book for Hendrick Motor Sports. Chris has been publishing the comic book, Reed Gunther, with his brother Shane. Shane is the author and Chris does the illustrating. Reed Gunther is geared to all ages and is about the adventures of a cowboy and Sterling, his trusty bear. You can learn more about Reed Gunther here. To see more of his Chris’s work visit his website and his blog. He is also a frequent contributor to Heeby Jeeby Comix. (Credit for the photo of Chris goes to his mom.)

What is your favorite pen to use?
Lately, I've really been enjoying the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and have been using it for just about all of my inking. I also like using Microns and Uni-ball pens for details and touch-ups.

Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
I use Prisma Color Col-Erase Light Blue pencils for practically all my penciling. I even have those girly squishy grips on the ends of my pencils so that I can easily be made fun of. I like that the blue pencil doesn't smear as much as graphite and how it the scanner doesn't pick up the blue when I scan my inks. It saves me having to erase a bunch of pages at the end of the day!

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
Most of my coloring is done on the computer but I still like dabbling in acrylic and watercolors.

If you do your coloring by hand, what do you use?
Acrylics and watercolors and I'm definitely more of a "colorer" than a painter!

What type of paper do you use?
Strathmore 100 lb. Bristol Board.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
Hmm, I don't know if there is anything I hate drawing but I'm definitely not a big fan of drawing sleek cars or trying to capture someone's perfect likeness. That's tough stuff! But it's cool. This early into my career, I get a lot of jobs that demand work that I would never think of drawing or designing in my own time. Those types of jobs get me out of my comfort zone and always teach me something.

Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
Besides my Pentel brush supplies, I can pretty much get everything from our art school store. Hot dog! ...Except hot dogs, they don't sell those.

Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
Not really... Bummer! Maybe I should start with a good ol' fashioned flag burning or something.

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
Sometimes. If I'm doing any type of work that requires a lot of my brainpower (which is easily over-whelmed), I like to have the TV and music off. But once I get drawing or inking, I love listening to folk music, Steve Martin comedy routines, and NPR podcasts.

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
I read a lot of comics, mostly my brother's. I always liked a lot of the superhero comics but I also loved Uncle Scrooge, Airboy, and Sonic. I don't think I ever had a favorite really.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?
Calvin and Hobbes!

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
I loved "Go Dog. Go!' but my copy is still at my parent's house.

Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
I'm currently finishing up my last semester at The College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan. It's been a great program and I've been lucky enough to have some incredible teachers and mentors throughout my four years.

I've also had a second schooling through mentors like Guy Davis and Pascal Campion. These two have pushed me and in even some cases gotten me work. With Guy living so close to me, he's really been willing to "take me under his wing" and show me a thing or two (or twelve). He even allows me to ask him an unimaginable amount of stupid questions.

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
I think a little of both. There's no way I would've been able to meet so many artists and mentors without the Internet. The Internet has also allowed me to work freelance, which is great. However, since everyone's online, there's a lot of competition and at times it can be hard to stand out from the crowd.

Did either of your parents draw?
No, not too much. My Mom drew as a kid and has always been creative but mostly both my parents just nurtured my brother's and my interests.

Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
My entire family was never not supportive of my art while I was growing up and now I'm lucky enough to have a fiancée that is also constantly supportive of my work.

Do you keep a sketchbook?
I do but I don't draw in it as much as I should!

Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
This past Summer, I taught two cartooning classes for Elementary/Middle School students. It was great! I really lucked out and ended up with some hard-working talented kids that turned out some really wacky comics.

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
I think passion is more important. If you've got the passion, you'll develop the talent. I've seen classmates of mine flourish throughout school because they are so driven and I've also seen really talented kids become stagnant because they lose their passion.

Do you collect anything and if so what?
Not really, I'm a poor college student. I wish I could collect food stamps!

If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
Now that radio is coming back again in the form of Podcasts, I wish I was Gerald McBoing Boing. That way, I could make a killing in the foley biz!

Are you a righty or lefty?
Righty but my lady, Kassandra is a lefty so we have to be careful when choosing how to sit together if we're drawing or eating.

If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
An astronaut or a truck driver... or do something in between the two...

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
Messy and fun. Also crowded because I share a room with 3 other artists- yikes.

Do you play any musical instruments?
I play guitar, bass, and drums and I'm just getting back into playing my saxophone.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
Well, seeing how I'm just starting my career, I don't have much advice to give. However, I would point out that if someone is interested in comics and cartooning, they should contact their favorite artists. The cartooning community is extremely helpful and if the artists I've already met are a small glimpse of the industry, then we're in good shape!

Who is your favorite artist?
Too many to list but here are a few: Jack Davis, Alex Toth, Walt Kelly, Milton Caniff, Guy Davis, Bill Wray, Pascal Campion, Stephen DeStefano, Johnny Ryan, Pierre Alary, Stan Sakai, Stephen Silver, Bill Presing, and Kassandra Heller.

Thank you Chris.

Answers from MJ, the editorial cartoonist for the National Free Press, are next.

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