Tuesday, March 30, 2010
David Cowles - Cartoonist Survey #102
Caricature artist and illustrator, David Cowles, was born in November of 1961 in Rochester, N.Y. Art was definitely in his blood, with his dad being a Professor of Ceramics at Rochester Institute of Technology and his mom running a craft/gift shop in town. David graduated from Victor Central high school in 1979. He audited a few college classes and in 1983 he started working in the art department at Rochester’s Democrat and Chronicle newspaper. In 1985 he started freelancing on the side and in 1991 left the Democrat and Chronicle to freelance full-time. His work has been printed in numerous publications including, Playboy, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Time, and People, just to name a few.
Aside from being an illustrator and caricaturist, David also does work in animation, with his first animated short, “Superfunk & Freaky-Dee” winning the Grand Jury Prize for animation in the New York Independent Film & Video Festival in 2000. He has also directed, produced and designed multiple videos for the band, They Might Be Giants, which have gone on to win ASIFA-East awards.
David still lives in Rochester, NY and has two great children, Alison and Clayton. Check out David’s website for more examples of his work and follow him on his blog. You can also see his animation director’s reel here.
What is your favorite pen to use?
I'm generally digital these days, but when I do use a pen it's a Pigma Graphic 1.
Do you draw in pencil first and if so do you use a standard pencil or a mechanical one?
Yup, everything is sketched out (at least roughly) in pencil first. General, a standard Number 2.
Do you do your coloring by hand or on the computer?
Depends on the jobs, but I do 90% on the computer.
If you do your coloring by hand, what do you use?
When I do, usually gouache.
What type of paper do you use?
A pretty heavy cold pressed Archers watercolor.
What thing(s) do you hate to draw?
I don't hate them so much if I can stylize them, but in general, cars and buildings. Not crazy about horses, either.
Do you buy your supplies from big chain art store catalogues/websites or a local one that you physically go to?
Usually, it's at the local The Art Store, which I'm not sure is a chain or not. Lately, most of the supplies I've been buying is printer ink from Staples.
Are there any rituals that you do before starting to draw?
Depending in the job, and if it's conceptual, I tend to think up ideas walking the dog or in the shower. But in terms of warm up sketches or anything, I usually just jump right in to the actual job. These days I'm much more productive in the morning than at night.
Do you listen to music while you draw and if so what genre?
There has to always be some sort of noise while I'm drawing, either music or a movie I'm familiar with. For music genres, they're all over the place. Heavy on The Beatles, but a lot of Soul gets in there as well.
Did you read comics as a kid and if so what was your favorite?
Big comic reader. Started with MAD, then went into the Harvey stuff for a while, and finally heavily into Marvel comics. In the 70s I discovered John Buscema . The first comic book stores were starting to open here in Rochester, so every Saturday I'd get my dad to drive me and my friends down the street there to try to collect all of his stuff from the 60s that I could get my hands on. That's where all of my lawn mowing allowance went. A lot of The Avengers.
What is or was your favorite comic strip?
I was equally into Peanuts, Dennis the Menace and Pogo as a kid, mostly for the art. Especially since most of Pogo went over my head. In later years, I really dug Calvin and Hobbs and The Far Side. After working on the art staff of the local newspaper for several years, though, I stopped getting the paper.
What was your favorite book as a child and do you still own a copy of it?
I would say something probably like Where the Wild Things Are, and yup, I've got a copy. But not the same copy I had as a kid. I think I probably re-bought most of my childhood favorite books as my kids were growing up.
Did you have any formal art training and if so where did you receive it?
I didn't actually go to college, but I went to a one year Trade School type of place named Graphic Careers here in Rochester, that taught you the nuts and bolts stuff to get a job in Graphic Arts (mechanicals, specking type, sizing photos, etc.), all of which became obsolete when Macs showed up a few years later. But I would say my real education was my first few months as a staff artist at the newspaper.
Do you feel that the Internet is a blessing or a curse?
I'm leaning toward blessing. It's invaluable for reference. And it potentially opens up the entire world as a potential market for your work. On the curse side, it's certainly helping to bury magazines and newspapers, who were the majority of my clients. Plus, as a tool for getting misinformation out there, it's awfully potent. But it's not going away, so I lean toward working with it.
Did either of your parents draw?
Both of my parents could draw. My father was a Professor of Ceramics at the Rochester Institute of Technology, but also did a lot of painting when he was in college. I remember asking my mom to draw me TV's Batman when I was a little kid.
Who in your life is/was the most supportive of your art?
Both of my parents were pretty supportive. It was a pretty arty household, so it made sense that they would be into it. I had some teachers in High School who were quite supportive as well.
Do you keep a sketchbook?
Have you ever taught cartooning/drawing and if so did you enjoy the experience?
I've taught illustration at a few colleges around here, and at times I liked it and at times I didn't. It usually would depend on the quality of the students I had in the class. Sometimes it would be a nice exchange of ideas, sometimes it would be babysitting, basically.
Do you feel that talent or passion is more important in drawing?
I'd say both are needed, but passion is probably the key to success. I would add stubbornness, and a certain willful ignorance about what the odds against you really are. That might be true in a lot of things, though. I might throw caffeine in there as well.
Do you collect anything and if so what?
Too much. I've still got all of my old comics, a ton of art books, plus old toys and packaging. DVDs.
If you were an animated cartoon character who do you think you would be?
Are you a righty or lefty?
Politics, a lefty. Drawing hand, a righty.
If you weren't an artist what would you want to do for work?
Would love to have something to do with the movies.
In one or two sentences describe your drawing area.
Cluttered. Very cluttered. Does that count as two sentences?
Do you play any musical instruments?
If you could give one piece of advice to someone who wants to pursue drawing as a career what would it be?
I would say: See the question about passion, stubbornness and ignorance. You really have to love it to do it, because at first there will be a lot of rejections, so you have to be able to keep doing it just for yourself. Then, if you're lucky enough to hit it big, you'll have to still love it as you put in the hours doing the jobs. And get a web site.
Who is your favorite artist?
That's a tough one to narrow down, but the one who influenced me most was probably Mexican caricaturist Miguel Covarrubias. He ruled.
Thank you for your time David.
Up next is Scott Hilburn, creator of the single panel comic, The Argyle Sweater.