Thursday, February 25, 2010

Piers Baker - Cartoonist Survey #83

British cartoonist and illustrator, Piers Baker, is the creator of the comic strip Ollie and Quentin. Syndicated worldwide by King Features, Ollie and Quentin is about the friendship between Ollie the seagull and Quentin the lugworm. Like most of the cartoonists I have questioned, Piers started drawing cartoons as a child. After completing his studies at boarding school, he did volunteer work in Egypt. He studied at the Epsom School of Art before getting a job in a small advertising agency. While doing work as a graphic designer one of his jobs was to create artwork for ice lolly wrappers (ice cream bars and popsicles). In 2000 he put it all on the line and went after his dream of becoming a cartoon illustrator. He illustrated a few children’s books and in 2002 he created Ollie and Quentin. Originally appearing in newspapers in England, Scotland and Ireland, Ollie and Quentin was launched internationally on January 7th 2008 and is still going strong. Piers lives just outside of London with his wife and their two children. Visit the official Ollie and Quentin website here. Piers also has his own website here and his blog here.

What is your favorite pen to use?
Rotring Isograph 0.5.

Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
I'm a recent convert to the mechanical pencil. I write and sketch my strip in coffee shops so couldn't use a pencil and scalpel for fear of being arrested for carrying an offensive weapon. The scalpel, that is.

Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
Computer. Best thing that happened to cartooning was the invention of the Apple Mac, PhotoShop and the Wacom Graphics Tablet. I hated marker pens and my brushwork was hopeless.

If you do your coloring by hand, what do you use?
My daughter.

What type of paper do you use?
Canson 250g/m2 Bristol Board when the ink flows smoothly. Sometimes a pad doesn't let my pen glide across it nicely and I have to dump it.

What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
Dinner Plates and spoons.

Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
Bit of both. If I buy in bulk I shop online otherwise it's a trip to the Art Shop in Guildford where the staff are creepily over-friendly but the place smells nice.

Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
I could prevaricate for Britain. I'll check emails, read blogs, make coffee, anything to put off working. Thing is, when I start I always love it so I don't know why I delay so much.

Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
I prefer BBC Radio 4 dramas, soaps and comedies.

Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
My grandmother bought me 'Sparky'. My brother had 'Dandy' and 'The Beano' so we'd swap. My cousin had 'Victor' which had the best character ever called Alf Tupper (The Tough of The Track).

What is or was your favorite comic strip?
A few years ago I was in Norway when a friend showed me a fantastic comic about a kid and his stuffed tiger called 'Calvin and Hobbes'. This comic isn't very big in the UK; do you have it in the States? It's really very good. Look it up.

What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
Winnie the Pooh and yes, I have a couple of copies. The Hundred Acre Wood illustrations by Ernest Shepard are based on the woods where I run.

Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
One almost useless year at Epsom Art College (not the college's fault). The only lesson I remember was running up and down a hall pretending to be colors.

Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
Blessing, definitely, although on my deathbed I'm sure I'll look back on all the hours I spent on it and think it was a curse.

Did either of your parents draw?
Yes, my father is a good cartoonist himself and my grandad was an incredible book illustrator and author.

Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
Definitely not my school as I was made to do Geography instead of Art. That said I had a great English teacher who loved my cartoons and asked me to illustrate the school magazine. Thanks Mr.Hindley. Of my friends it would be the Askins family. I always have to draw for their lovely kids and anything I do is promptly framed and hung on the walls.

Do you keep a sketchbook?
Yes, although I don't use it as much now that I'm syndicated. My doodles are nothing like my Ollie and Quentin artwork. You can see samples here.

Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
Yes. I have hosted both adult and kids cartoon workshops. I've also done a couple of school art days. It's fun, very rewarding and I always learn something myself, but boy is it hard work. Who'd be a teacher?

Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?, talent... hmmm... passion. No idea.

Do you collect anything and if so what?
There is no time to do something like that. I'm a slow cartoonist so tend to sleep, eat or run when I'm not drawing. I know someone who collects nuts and bolts, does that count?

If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?

Are you a righty or lefty?
In the UK this question belongs in the trouser department.

If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
I'm fascinated by sleep and dreams, not in an airy-fairy arty farty way. I just think it's incredible that we switch off like we do. On top of that I'd love to know what our dreams are really saying about what's going on in our heads. Is that a job? If not, it would be the man in charge of the Hubble Telescope.

In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
I've just moved house so my drawing space is temporary. It's a plain desk in our family room, which means I listen to the awful teenage TV that my daughter is watching. I know who America's, Canada's and the UK's next top models are.

Do you play any musical instruments?
I played the trombone when I was at school. All I remember is my friend falling off his chair laughing when I told the music teacher that's what I wanted to play.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
Do it because it's the best job in the world but prepare to be poor.

Who is your favorite artist?
Richard Thompson of Cul De Sac fame. Just gorgeous pen work.

Thanks a lot Piers.

Chris Houghton, cartoonist and illustrator of the comic book Reed Gunther is coming up next.

1 comment:

David said...

Seem like a next most likely profession might be as a psychiatrist or psychologist for astronauts while they are attending to affairs in orbit.