Sunday, February 28, 2010

MJ - Cartoonist Survey #85

Creating comics since 1979, MJ, is the editorial cartoonist for The National Free Press. His cartoons have also appeared in The Nashville Free Press, Newropeans Magazine, The Houston Chronicle, The Indianapolis Star and many other newspapers and magazines. In 1988 he started his syndicated cartoon strip, FIDDLESTIX, which reached 20 years of publication in 2008. The original FIDDLESTIX strips were single panel and evolved into a multi panel format. MJ’s comics including his Sunday, full-color strip, "Welcome to the Jungle", are syndicated through Newsblaze Publications. Visit his studio's website here and then checkout his page at The National Free Press.

What is your favorite pen to use?
I have currently switched over to an all digital process. I use HP and Wacom/Cintiq products. If I do switch over to the old school method though I don't use anything fancy. Pilot V5 Precise, and Pentel Micro.

Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
If I am going old school I do use pencils first. General No.555 Layout, General 2H and HB, General No.497 5B, Berol 3B, and Mechanical Pencils from Pentel / Bic both HB 0.7.

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
I do all the coloring digitally. With software from Illustrator/PhotoShop/Arcsoft.

If you do your coloring by hand, what do you use?
All coloring is always done digitally. If I was forced to color by hand I would use watercolors.

What type of paper do you use?
I have been using Canson paper for a while now. 70lb, and 111lb. By the way white paper is best for cartooning, black seems to mask the linework.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
I am not much for drawing trees, or feet. But I keep on trying.

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

Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
Not really, except for ensuring there is an ample supply of Pepsi available. Please feel free to send this to PepsiCo. I sure could use a couple extra pallets of the product laying around the studio.

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
No, I prefer to have features spinning on DVD for ambient background noise. If I had to listen to music, Rock genre.

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
I read as many different comics that I could acquire. Preference was Marvel titles though. I recall, Spider-Man, The Fly, Iron Fist, The Spirit, Mad, Cracked, Crazy.

What is or was your favorite comic strip?
My favorite always was and will always be Spider-Man. I have no Stan Lee autographed merchandise. Hello Stan! Please send me an autograph, there is no bigger Spider-Man fan walking the earth.

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
I actually do not recall a favorite book as a child. I would imagine it was a Winnie The Pooh title though. I do not have a Winnie The Pooh book on my shelf, but I do have a collection of them for my daughter.

Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
I have no formal art training, by the time I did reach my Senior year in High School every single class was an art related subject. Unless I was at lunch, which I went to every lunch group available. When the counselors found out I was attending every lunch group, I was told I couldn't do that. So I graduated early and set off into the world.

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
As it is right now you must have a presence available to the dedicated readers. It gives them a way to actually interact with the cartoonist. There seems to be a downside because everyone expects the material for free. I usually always give Editors/Publishers/and Syndicates first rights on publication so I'll post the material after publication. Occasionally though I'll beat the publications to the punch to give the readers a look at the freshest material first.

Did either of your parents draw?
Not that I'm aware of.

Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
My wife is the most immediate supporter of the artwork, followed by my Editors/Publishers/Syndicates, and of course the dedicated readers who may not always agree with my views on the editorial cartoons, but keep returning to read the daily funnies.

Do you keep a sketchbook?
Yes, I have sketchbooks. I use them for practice and keep them on hand for future references.

Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
I have been asked by Museums to teach some cartooning/illustration classes. But have not done it yet. I'm sure I will eventually as I find this as an interesting project to do. So we'll see how that pans out.

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
I feel the talent is a progressive process, but to progress you need a strong passion to be able to produce a continual product on a daily basis. Without the passion you may get into a "This is a job mindset" which I think would take the fun out of the entire creative process.

Do you collect anything and if so what?
I collect a myriad of items. Comics, Toys, Original Artwork. Alright I admit it I collect almost everything!

If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
Well that should already be a given, Spider-Man! How cool would that be.

Are you a righty or lefty?
I'm a dedicated conservative independent with no right or left preference. As for drawing by hand, Righty.

If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
I would most likely be touring with a musical group. Mr. Bonamassa, I'm available for touring.

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
Massive desktop areas, with massive Digital drawing screens. Various projects laid out amongst the studio.

Do you play any musical instruments?
Professional Drummer since the age of 5 years old. Right now though I no longer tour.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
Practice, Practice, Practice! Listen to Editors, they are the Powers that be in the print arena.

Who is your favorite artist?
Wow, that's a long list! I have no one favorite a few I really like though are Olivia De Berardinis, Sergio Aragon├ęs, Nick Anderson, Gary Varvel, David Reddick, Lucas Turnbloom, Mike Witmer.

Thank you for answering MJ!

Next time on David Wasting Paper is Frank Page, creator of Bob the Squirrel.


Unknown said...

It is really nice to get a little more insight of the magical MJ Keep rockin and thanks for the laughs

MJ said...

Thanks for asking to answer the questions. I had a great time taking a break from the drawing boards to answer them. Hope your readers find the interview amusing.

Giulia Giovanelli said...

Hi! Have you tried Canson Fanboy paper? They developed this paper especially for Comic and Manga artists. Check out the website at